NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Torrence, Tasca, Kramer and Herrera take the lead on a fast Friday in Texas

Steve Torrence, Bob Tasca III, Deric Kramer, and Gaige Herrera earned the provisional low qualifier spots and a lot of bonus cash during an action-packed day of professional qualifying at the NHRA Texas FallNationals.
13 Oct 2023
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Steve Torrence

Steve Torrence, Bob Tasca III, Deric Kramer, and Gaige Herrera are the opening-day qualifying leaders after the opening day at the Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.

As part of Motorplex’s "Friday Night Live” program, the low qualifiers each earned bonus cash — $15,000 each in Top Fuel and Funny Car, $$7,500 Pro Stock, and $5,000 in Pro Stock Motorcycle — as well as a pair of custom-fit CorralBoots, courtesy of the Cuadra family that drivers hopefully can pair with the traditional cowboy hats awarded to each winner Sunday.

Torrence made the fifth-quickest pass in class history with a 3.636 to grab the No. 1 spot from first session leader Doug Kalitta, who had run 3.659 earlier in the day and would run 3.642 after Torrence, to allow the homestate hero to grab the big payday.

“I wasn’t happy with the first run today, but my guys, they put up with me and they went out there and showed out,” Torrence said. “I grew up coming to this track to have success in your home state, it means so much and I love it. My guys gave me a bad-to-the-bone hot rod and we’re right in the middle of this championship hunt.

“I have so much history here at this racetrack, I grew up racing here,. There are a a lot of expectations when you come here. You want to go out and do well in front of the hometown fans. I take pride of being from Texas and these fans are unbelievable. Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana, every one of those guys put so much blood, sweat and tears into what they're doing. It makes you be proud of the team and what's going on. 

"The track is unbelievable here, the whole Meyer family and everyone behind the scenes has done a great job. This is an event, this is more than just a race, and I'm really proud of everything that's gone on here. To go out, to go low E.T., to run a career-best speed and E.T., it's special. We need to carry that momentum into raceday, we need to keep the car running well, but this is definitely a great place to start."

A stunning 11 cars ran in the 3.6-second zone, with Torrence and Kalitta fronting a list that incudes Torrence father, Billy Torrence (3.660 in his season debut), Justin Ashley (3.670), Brittany Force (3.675), Mike Salinas (3.675), Antron Brown (3.679), Shawn Langdon (3.684), Clay Millican (3.687), Tony Schumacher (3.690), and Leah Pruett    3.694.

Ashley’s speed on his run was 338.40 mph, the fifth quickest in class history.

Jacob McNeal, at the wheel of the Scott Palmer-owned Poseidon Oilfield Services, sits on the bump with a 3.848 – the only 3.8-second pass in the quick 16 -- and. the field is just two cars away from the all-time quickest bump spot of 3.758.

Tasca has made a habit of leading the way, qualifying No. 1 at two of the three previous events including a jaw-dropping 3.83 in Charlotte, but he bettered that at the Motorplex with a career-best 3.822 that is the best run in the class in more than five years. His speed of 335.55 mph is also a career-best and the best speed ever by a Ford. If the e.t.  holds, it will be Tasca’s seventh No. 1.

"The hardest part of that run is it hiked the front end up probably around 800 feet and it got a little bit to the inside. And I had like a half a steering wheel turning it to the outside, and I'm like, 'Please just hang on,' and it put the nose down and I was able to bring it back in. That's an exciting run., but you're playing hardball against the best of the best in the world."

Tasca had the quickest of Q1 as well with a 3.874. Matt Hagan bettered that early in Q2 with a 3.848 that Tasca then superseded, dropping Hagan back to No. 2.

"It was unbelievable.," Tasca added. "What's so impressive in the first run, you know, Aaron [Brooks, crew chief] said it would run 3.87, and it ran .87, and then we saw Hagan run an .84 and Aaron stuck his head into the car and I said, 'What do you have in it?' and he said it should run an .82, and I smiled because when those guys say it, they're trying to run .82. We ran an .83 in Charlotte with a cylinder out, and it was pretty safe. so we knew that if we keep the fuel curve right, keep all the holes lit, and just I think they leaned on a little bit, we could run .82"

Seven drivers ran in the 3.80s. with Tasca and Hagan joined by Ron Capps (3.851), John Force (3.871), Robert Hight (3.879), Tim Wilkerson (3.884), and Cruz Pedregon (3.886). Blake Alexander’s 3.912 holds down the last spot in the quick half of the field.

A scary moment took place in the first Funny Car qualifying session when Dale Creasy Jr. crossed the centerline in front of Dave Richards, who then ran into the back of him, Both cars were heavily damaged but neither driver was injured.

Troy Coughlin Jr., who remains a contender for the Camping World Pro Stock title, picked up three valuable qualifying points in Q1 after driving his JEGS.com/White Castle Camaro to a 6.500. As much as he valued the points, Coughlin was smart enough to know that his run likely wouldn’t hold for the top spot during Friday’s second under-the-lights qualifying session and he was right.

In the second session, three drivers found the 6.4-second zone including Deric Kramer who put his Get BioFuel Camaro in the provisional pole with a career-best 6.486. the quickest Pro Stock run of the 2023 season. Kramer also earned a $7,500 bonus and a pair of custom Corral Boots as the quickest Pro Stock driver on Friday.

"I left and the car sat back, and I was looking straight up and the shift light came on fast, so I knew it was on a good run and kept grabbing gears," said Kramer. "It felt great the whole way. I knew we could run better than our first run [6.561], and we picked up so we figured other people would be able to pick up a little bit, so I did not think that it was going to hold. Conditions are supposed to be better tomorrow, so i don't think it will hold, so maybe I just hope it will rain all day.

"It's huge to run this good. This is the last race where if you're not in the last in the hunt after this race, you don't have a chance the rest of the year [to win the championship]."

Erica Enders, the low qualifier at the first three Countdown events and the incoming points leader, tried hard to overtake Kramer but her 6.498 came up short. Enders’ teammate, Aaron Stanfield, also ran 6.498, but with a slightly slower speed to claim the third spot.

With 22 cars on the grounds, it was a given that the bump spot would be quick and the field would be close. With two sessions remaining, it takes a 6.568 to make the show, and the top half of the field is separated by just .021-second with title contender Matt Hartford holding town the No. 8 spot. The rest of the championship leaders include Greg Anderson, who is sixth with a 6.503 in his Hendrick Cars.com Camaro.

Gaige Herrera continues to put a hammerlock on the top qualifying position in Pro Stock Motorcycle with the two quickest runs of the day. Herrera rode his Vance &Hines Mission Foods Suzuki to a 6.716 in Q1 and then returned to take advantage of the cooler nighttime conditions with a track record 6.689 to take the provisional pole and earn the $5,000 bonus and a pair of custom boots from Corral Boots.

Herrera has now made eight of the ten quickest runs in the history of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class in his first season as a member of the Vance & Hines Suzuki team.

"Overall, the day went really good for us," said Herrera. "To get the extra cash, it's cool and some little bragging rights. We've kind of a had bragging rights all season, so to get the cash on top of that, it's good for the whole team. And to go 1-2 with Ed, that's awesome for all of us."

Herrera’s got a sizable lead over the rest of the field including his teammate, Eddie Krawiec, who is second with a 6.727. Hector Arana Jr. wheeled his GETTRX Buell to a 6.756, 20120 to keep the Vance & Hines team within striking distance.

"It feels really good. Ed's not far behind mE," added Herrera. "In St. Louis, we had the all-Vance & Hines final, and that was very cool. He's basically been one of my teachers and to be 1 and 2, It just means a lot, He's BEEN kind of struggling a bit all season and he's getting a good handle on his motorcycle and I think Sunday's gonna be good. He's still searching for that 50th [career win]."

John Hall made the best run of his career with a 6.788 while Chris Bostick did likewise with a 6.818. Matt Smith hired Joey Gladstone to ride his Denso Buell after Smith’s wife Angie was injured in a top-end incident at the most recent event in St. Louis. Smith made no bones about the fact that he wanted Gladstone to qualify in the bottom half of the field in order to draw Herrera in round one and right now, he’s 14th after shutting off to a 7.14 at just 149-mph.