First-round matchups for the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout special race took place Friday at Gainesville Raceway, as racing action for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals was canceled due to weather.
Top seed Steve Torrence, the four-time defending world champion, chose Leah Pruett, who drives for the freshman Tony Stewart Racing team, to compete in the first round of the eight-car special event on Saturday that features a total purse . of $130,000.
“We met as a team and I met with my crew chiefs,” Torrence said. “I thought about it, they thought about it, the fans thought about it. LP has been one of our fiercest competitors for years, and we’ve gone toe-to-toe with them, so to put on a show for all these fans, that’s amazing. We will have a good time with each other and put on a good show for you, and it will be a lot of fun.”
Pruett, who drives the Dodge Power Brokers dragster, is eager for the opportunity.
“When I heard about (the call), my first emotion was excitement,” Pruett said. “That’s what this platform is for, and I feel like it’s a sign of respect from Tony Stewart Racing to Neal Strausbaugh, my crew chief. We have something to prove, and I would love to do it against anyone other than Steve. I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
With the second pick, former world champion Brittany Force, driver of the Monster Energy dragster, chose three-time world champion Antron Brown and his dragster Matco Tools as her first-round opponent.
“There are no easy guys,” Force said, “so I guess we take them in order, and AB is at the top of the list.”
Said Brown: “When you get here and race these competitors, I like this. This is like when a child grows up on the basketball court. You get to talk a little bit and have a little fun.”
Making the third pick, Mike Salinas, who won the most recent event in Phoenix in his Scrappers Racing dragster, selected Shawn Langdon in the first round. Langdon is the pilot of the DHL dragster.
“I think Shawn is one of the best to ever leave the game, and I always try to rise to the occasion,” Salinas said. “I want to go for the best guys. I think Shawn is one of the best drivers here and we can take him down. That is saying something.
Said Langdon: “Obviously he’s coming off a win in Phoenix and he did an exceptional job but, when we’re going pound for pound, I expect my reaction time to win, and if we get into a pedaling scenario, we’re going to try to take advantage of that.” .”
The first three pairings set up Justin Ashley, who won at Pomona in his Phillips Connect dragster and was the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year, and 49-time winner Doug Kalitta, who drives the Mac Tools dragster, as the final matchup of the first round. .
“I had all the situations in my head, and I’m the last one back there, so it’s just me against Dougie. It’s going to be a good show. It will be fun for the fans,” Ashley said.
The first round of the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout takes place at 11:45 am ET on Saturday. The semifinals follow at 1:30 pm and the final round is scheduled for 3:15 pm The FOX broadcast network will have coverage beginning at 2 pm ET.
Qualifying for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am Saturday at Gainesville Raceway.
TOP FUEL ALL-STAR CALLOUT FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Steve Torrence vs. Leah Pruett
Brittany Force vs. Antron Brown
Mike Salinas vs. Shawn Langdon
Justin Ashley vs. Doug Kalitta