NORWALK — The fields are set and the drivers and fans are ready for today’s 6th annual Summit Racing Equipment Nationals.
Actually, the brackets could probably have been printed after Friday night’s qualifying as another blistering day at Summit Motorsports Park didn’t allow for much movement. The provisional pole winners in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock won poles with their Friday times, while Andrew Hines won the Pro Stock Motorcycle pole by bettering Hector Arana’s time by one-thousandth of a second.
“Today’s conditions were hard on the crew chief, hard on the driver and hard on the whole team,” Top Fuel pole winner Steve Torrence said.
So what did Torrence get out of Saturday’s two qualifying rounds?
“A lot of sweaty clothes?” Torrence said.
Also maintaining their top qualifying spots were Johnny Gray in Funny Car and Allen Johnson in Pro Stock.
Hines was the atypical performer over the two days of qualifying. He bettered his time every run, but only improved one-thousandth of a second between Rounds 1 and 2 — when most drivers made huge improvements due to a temperature drop — and was able to significantly improve Saturday when nobody else could keep their tires straight on the track. He won the pole with an elapsed time of 6.961.
“We’re picking away at it — we’re steadily getting better every race,” said Hines, who earned his first pole of the year and 31st of his career. “It was a hot, greasy, 145-degree track. It was the hottest we’ve seen it all year.
“But being No. 1 is huge for me … really satisfying. It gives me a lot of confidence in my motorcycle and my team.”
Johnson won his sixth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season — five in the last six races — and the 24th of his career with an ET of 6.663.
“I hope we can do something better than today, because we stunk up the place,” Johnson said. “We’ll make some adjustments to the car and we’ll come out swinging tomorrow.”
Johnson’s problem in the third round — the K&N Horsepower Challenge quarterfinals — wasn’t due to car issues. He lined up wrong and “messed up the tires” when Roy Johnson, his crew chief and father, told him to go left but meant for the driver to go right.
“I almost ran over the starter,” Johnson said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. He’s been my crew chief for 12 years and I’ve been his driver for that long, and we’ve never made that mistake before.
“You figure out a way to lose every now and then.”
Gray captured his second pole of the season and third of his career with an ET of 4.094. He, like Johnson, was less than thrilled with his Saturday results.
“I hope tomorrow’s not like today, because obviously we weren’t stellar,” he said. “But I think we’re good. We know what we did wrong. It should still be a good day.”
Saturday was a good day for Torrence, who picked up just his second pole of the season and his career with an ET of 3.829.
Torrence said he expects the weather will be much cooler today and wasn’t sure that the data they collected during Saturday’s runs will be of much use.
“We’ll be able to look back through our (past) data and see if we can find a track with similar conditions,” Torrence said. “That will help us figure out what we need to do with the car if it’s not as hot as it’s been the last two days.
“For me, I’m hoping that it’s not boiling hot again.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
• WHAT: 6th Summit Racing Equipment Nationals
• WHERE: Summit Motorsports Park, Norwalk
• TICKETS: $55 for grandstand seating and $45 for standing room only
• SCHEDULE: Gates open, 8 a.m.; pre-race ceremony, 10; final eliminations, 11.
• TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.