MADISON, Ill – For the fourth straight year, a capacity crowd was on hand at the World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis to witness a thrilling AAA Midwest Nationals. Those Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing fans were treated to a dramatic day of final eliminations on a picture perfect western Illinois afternoon.
In both Nitro classes, it was a day filled with upsets in terms of the Countdown drivers. For Top Fuel, four of the top five drivers in the standings heading into this weekend didn’t last past the second round.
For the sixth time in the last nine races, Points leader Doug Kalitta wasn’t around to see the semifinals. Kalitta, was defeated by Billy Torrence in the second round.
Second in the points coming into the weekend, Brittany Force, lost in the first round to No. 13 Pat Dakin. Force, was 6-2 vs. Dakin in the past but has now failed to make the semifinals for the fifth time in the last six races.
Both Antron Brown and Austin Prock lost to Leah Pritchett in the first and second rounds respectively. Brown, has now failed to make the semis in four of the last five races and eight of the last 10. This was the first time though since Sonoma that Prock didn’t make it to the semifinals.
So, who did?
Top qualifier Mike Salinas marched past his first two opponents but was topped in the final four by Steve Torrence. Billy Torrence defeated Pritchett to set up a father/son final round in the AAA Midwest Nationals in Top Fuel competition.
Father Billy Torrence defeated his son Steve Torrence to become the second No. 2 qualifier to win a race this season. Steve Torrence won from that position in Atlanta earlier this year.
For Billy, this was his third win of the season and fourth of his career. He’s also made just six final round appearances winning four of them.
For the defending Top Fuel champion Steve, this was his fourth final of the season and 18th of his career. Bot he and his dad lost in the first round in the last race weekend and made the finals this weekend.
In terms of the Funny Car action, like Top Fuel, we saw a ton of upsets. Five of the top six in the points standings heading into this weekend failed to get out of the first or second round. That set up a final of No. 8 JR Todd vs. No. 10 Shawn Langdon.
Todd, had the toughest march to the finals out of anyone. He had to defeat the top three in the points standings on his route.
Todd, beat points leader Jack Beckman in Round 1, second in the points John Force in Round 2 and third in points Robert Hight in the semifinals. It was the third straight race that he made it to at least the semifinals.
Beckman and Force reached the finals in each of the last two races while Hight was the points leader all season with the exception of leaving the last race in Reading. Combined, Beckman, Force and Hight had won four of the last five races.
Force had three final round appearances in the last four races. Beckman had two straight. Todd, had other thoughts in his mind as he eliminated all on his march to his fourth final round appearance of the season.
For Langdon, this was his third final round shot as his route was much easier than Todd’s. He defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. in Round 1, Jim Campbell in Round 2 and Bob Tasca III in the semis.
Johnson, has three straight first round losses now and four in the last five races. Campbell, won his first matchup all season in an upset over No. 2 qualifier Matt Hagan. Tasca, had five straight first or second round losses heading into Sunday.
In that final round matchup, it was Langdon who topped Todd en route to his second win of the season and 16th of his NHRA career. Langdon, entered this weekend with five defeats in the first or second round in the last six races. On Sunday, he’s victorious for the first time since Charlotte.