With incredible atmospheric conditions, a solid racing surface, and monetary incentives to run fast, it didn’t take much for the superstars of the NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series to throw down solid performances during the first day of the NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex outside of Dallas. 

Nobody threw down more than one of the Lone Star state’s finest Top Fuel drivers, as four-time Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence emerged at the top of the qualifying list in posting the fifth-quickest run in drag racing history. 

The stellar performances were not limited to Torrence, as Bob Tasca (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all set the first-day pace in their respective categories with track records. 

Not only was the Torrence run the fifth-quickest run in NHRA history, but also the quickest run in the last four years. He powered his Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster down the track in 3.636 seconds at 336.62 mph, securing the provisional No. 1 position. If the run holds, it will be his third No. 1 qualifier of the season.

“I have so much history here at this racetrack; I grew up racing here,” said Torrence, who also picked up a $15,000 “Friday Night Live” low qualifier bonus. “There are 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 in 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 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.”

Torrence needed the remarkable performance as points leader Doug Kalitta put up a 3.642 at 334.70 to sit in the second spot, while Torrence’s father, Billy, is third after going 3.660 at 334.57. Justin Ashley sent the track speed record with a blast of 338.40, which is also the third-fastest run in Top Fuel history. In all, 11 cars went in the 3.60s during an epic nitro qualifying session.

Tasca has consistently put himself in the championship conversation this year and only provided more of the same with a 3.822, 335.55 mph pass in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. His run marks the quickest in the category in the last five years and puts him in contention for his seventh No. 1 qualifier of the season.

“It was unbelievable. The car was dead smooth,” said Tasca, who, like Torrence, picked up a $15,000 bonus Friday. “When we got back to the pit, I said, ‘Fellas, when you look at that run, you’re going to say there’s more in it.’ The hardest part of that run was it hiked the front end up around 700 or 800 feet. It got a little bit to the inside, and I had half a steering wheel turning it to the outside. It put the nose down, and I was able to bring it back in. That was an exciting run.

“You’re playing hardball against the best of the best in the world with Robert, Hagan, and Capps running .80s left and right. That’s what it’s going to take if you’re going to win a championship. You’re going to go toe-to-toe with them, not one or two races but every race in the Countdown. To this point, we’ve done that. But you’re going to have to run hard out here to win this race. We’ve just got a lot of momentum going into this weekend.”

Matt Hagan, who entered the weekend 13 points behind Tasca, ran a 3.848 at 319.24, good enough for second, while defending world champion Ron Capps had a 3.851 at 333.95 that put him third.

Kramer set the Pro Stock pace with a stellar run of 6.486 at 209.50 mph in his Get Biofuel Chevrolet Camaro, making it the quickest run of the year in the category. His impressive performance positions him as a strong contender for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season.

“I just kept grabbing gears, and it felt good the whole way,” Kramer said. “I knew we had more to pick up from our first run, and I thought other people would be able to pick up a little bit, so I didn’t think it would hold, to be perfectly honest. But I’m super happy – everything turned out really well, and night runs are my favorite.

“If you’re not in the hunt this race, you don’t have a chance the rest of the year. This is to still stay in it, and I think we all knew that coming into this week. We knew we wanted to make some headway up this weekend. We want to try to finish the season strong and have a great year.”

Points leader, defending world champion, and defending event winner Erica Enders went to second with a 6.498 at 211.79. She’s after her fourth straight No. 1 spot in the playoffs. Aaron Stanfield is currently third after going 6.498 at 210.62.

Herrera continued to dominate the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, setting a new track E.T. record at Texas Motorplex with a standout run of 6.689 at 203.41 mph. His performance not only earned him the provisional No. 1 spot but also put him on track for his 12th No. 1 qualifier in 13 races.

“It would mean a lot to pass up Matt Hines, who had that record before. If I’m able to do that, it’s going to mean a lot to me and to everyone at the shop. We’re happy to keep it under the same roof. That alone is very cool, but I have to give up all the credit to Andrew (Hines, crew chief) and all the guys at the shop at Vance & Hines. They work their butt off day and night, and it shows on the racetrack.”

Herrera’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, took the second spot with a 6.727 at 202.35 as he looks for his 50th career win this weekend. Hector Arana Jr. is third, thanks to a 6.756 at 201.20.

Qualifying continues at 1:00 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex.