Blown engine ends Steve Torrance’s otherwise perfect weekend

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MORRISON — Late Saturday night after producing the fourth consecutive quickest time in top fuel qualifying at Bandimere Speedway, defending event champion Steve Torrance was concerned about letting his self-owned team down in Sunday’s eliminations. He didn’t want the dominant car not to win because of driver error.

But in the end, it was a blown motor that prevented Torrence from winning at the 37th Mopar Mile-High Nationals. Against Tony Schumacher in the quarterfinals, Torrence lost a cylinder off the start line and his engine blew halfway through the run. The driver was not to blame.

Ramifications. On the heels of her extraordinary fourth qualifying run late Saturday night, funny Alexis DeJoria qualified No. 4 in funny car. But after recording that 3.975-second pass (318.69 mph) she had a parachute problem, missed the turn-off area and ran into the sand trap. The damage to her car was felt Sunday, when she was knocked out in the first round by No. 13 John Hale. Both drivers shut off midway through the run but Hale coasted to the finish line first, reaching a top speed of just 240.64 mph.

“We have a pan pressure switch that shuts off when it reaches a certain pan pressure, and that’s what happened,” DeJoria said.

Tim Wilkerson was the second funny car driver to crash late Saturday night, and the damage to his car prevented him from running Sunday. He qualified 10th but didn’t stage his car against No. 7 Matt Hagan, who won the uncontested race by making a clean pass. Wilkerson’s crash Saturday came immediately off the starting line, when his car took a sharp right turn across the center lane and collided with the right wall.

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Footnotes. The lone “upset” in top fuel’s first round was a mild one at best. Ninth-seeded Tony Schumacher (3.836) nosed out No. 8 Doug Kalitta (3.835), with Schumacher winning on a slight hole shot (superior start). … Only 15 cars qualified for pro stock, giving No. 1 qualifier Alex Laughlin an uncontested first-round pass. But Laughlin red-lighted in the second round against No. 9 seed Vincent Nobile, coming off the start line .117 of a second too quick. … Pro stock used to be the NHRA’s most competitive class because of its large amount of participants. … Pro stock motorcycle No. 5 qualifier Matt Smith defeated his wife, No. 12 Angie Smith, in the first round. … Riders Hector Arana and son Hector Arana Jr. were both disqualified for false-starts in their first-round pro bike races.

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