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Torrence, Worsham, Nobile lead qualifying at Northwest Nationals

Steve Torrence makes a qualifying run in Top Fuel at the Protect the Harvest NHRA Nationals auto races Friday in Kent. Torrence took the Top Fuel lead with 3.701-seconds at 328.54 mph.
Steve Torrence makes a qualifying run in Top Fuel at the Protect the Harvest NHRA Nationals auto races Friday in Kent. Torrence took the Top Fuel lead with 3.701-seconds at 328.54 mph. NHRA

In the strange world of 2016 Pro Stock racing — usually the deepest and most competitive drag racing on the National Hot Rod Association circuit — two drivers have pulled way out in front.

They are Summit Racing teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line.

With each winning seven national events, the two close friends have combined to win 14 of the 15 races.

Their success has been set up primarily with what they’ve done in qualifying. Anderson and Line had nabbed the No. 1 spot in 11 of the 15 races.

So what does the rest of the Pro Stock racing world think of how things have developed?

“They fell onto something, and they earned it,” Vincent Nobile said. “Other teams are catching up.”

This weekend’s 29th NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent would be a good place to start denting their success.

Nobile, of Dix Hills, New York, fired the first shot Friday, running a day-best 6.549-second time to grab No. 1 in Pro Stock qualifying. He won on this track at the 2013 Northwest Nationals.

Steve Torrence, of Kilgore, Texas, sits in the top spot in Top Fuel (track-record 3.701 ET), and Del Worsham, of Villa Park, California, is tops in Funny Car (track record 3.886 ET).

Professional qualifying resumes at 1 p.m. Saturday in Kent.

After Anderson, a four-time NHRA Pro Stock points champion, finished the first qualifying session in the top spot, Nobile eclipsed that early in the second session.

And he watched the rest of the heavy hitters fire up and come up short.

“(Being) No. 1 qualifier is great … but more importantly is that I have a really fast, consistent race car,” Nobile said. “In my head as a driver, I have a really good top-five car, and that is what really wins races.”

Nobile’s showing might give the top two points leaders something to mull over.

“It is extremely important,” Nobile said. “We all come out here to win. We are not racing for second place.”

Last season, Worsham made a frantic late-season comeback to clinch the Funny Car points title, winning four of six races in the “Countdown to the Championship” playoffs.

He has not won a Funny Car event this season, but feels his Toyota Camry is in better shape now than it was a year ago at this time.

Chad Head set the track record early in the second session with a 3.894 ET. In the last pairing, Worsham roared past that in the right lane, setting the track record for speed (327.98 mph).

“We saw last year what it took to win the Mellow Yellow Funny Car championship — not that that’s a model. But we know when you have to get hot,” Worsham said. “We saw (points leader Ron) Capps get hot early in the year, then we saw Courtney (Force), and then we saw Matt Hagan, and now John Force.

“I am hoping everyone is peaking their way out of this, and we’ll slither right in there and pull this off again.”

In the third-to-last pairing, Torrence rumbled his way to a 3.701 ET to nudge past Brittany Force, who had gone 3.729 a few minutes earlier.

If Torrence can hold on to the No. 1 slot Saturday, it would be his ninth top qualifying race mark of the season. Tony Schumacher holds the season-best mark for Top Fuel with 13, set in 2006.

“We hit the nail on the head again today,” Torrence said. “I feel like right now we have the car to win the race or lose the race. The ball is in our court right now with the way this (dragster) is running.”

PIT STOPS

A couple of in-state products are racing in the professional categories this weekend — Kapowsin’s Ron Smith (Top Fuel) and Auburn’s Aaron Strong (Pro Stock). … The Seattle-area stop not only caps the grueling “western swing,” it is the third consecutive race that will have its elimination-round racing televised live on Fox. And the Sunday ratings are up 41 percent over last year on ESPN. Last week’s live race in Sonoma, California, drew approximately 998,000 viewers. … Fuel driver Leah Pritchett unveiled a new prized sponsor for Seattle — Papa John’s Pizza. Her racing future had been murky after Josh Comstack, CEO of primary sponsor C&J Energy Services, died suddenly in March. But two weeks ago with Schumacher Racing, she landed a deal with Mopar — and now the popular pizza chain. … Former Northwest motor sports promoting great Bill Doner (hydros, drag racing) will be at Pacific Raceways all weekend.

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