Tensions were high headed into the final day of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and after a first-round matchup in Top Fuel, tempers flared.
Usually, the No. 1 versus No. 16 qualifier doesn’t create much controversy, but on Sunday at the AAA NHRA Finals, the action got physical in the shutdown area between defending series champion Steve Torrence and Cameron Ferre.
At issue was the starting line when the two appeared to take a lengthy time staging, with Torrence staging first and Ferre appearing to come in second about two-to-three seconds later.
The two appeared to come together at the top end to shake hands and talk afterward, but the moment turned physical between Torrence and Ferre. Torrence quickly pushed Ferre with an open palm to the face.
That kid right there ain’t got a chance,” Torrence said. “And tries to play games. It’s all good. You want to act like a little kid, you get treated like a little kid.”
Clearly, the race fans at the track were not pleased as Torrence’s team was met with a chorus of boos as they came down the return road.
Ferre was interviewed after the incident on NHRA.tv, and was not pleased with what transpired.
“There you go, NHRA. I hope you’re happy with your potential NHRA Mello Yello Champion to come out and punch somebody chasing the dream. I used to be like him. I used to be a huge fan of his. I just lost all respect for him. Just because I went in [and staged] deep. We are undergunned.”
Ferre thanked his sponsors before the conversation turned back to the issue at hand.
“We are out here doing our thing, and just because I went in deep [and stage], you gotta punch me? Like I told him, we are the same size, let’s rattle.”
Veteran driver Cory McClenathan, who is racing in his last Top Fuel race this weekend, summed up the situation based on his personal experiences. He once deep-staged against Don Prudhomme, drawing the ire of NHRA’s iconic starter Buster Couch.
He stopped me here and said, ‘I don’t ever want to see you do that again,” McClenathan said. “So don’t be too quick to judge when you are in the race car … three or four seconds can be an eternity.”