A health issue has forced Top Fuel championship contender Steve Torrence to withdraw from this weekend’s 10th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
Torrence, who has qualified on-pole in six of the season’s first 11 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races, made the decision to sit-out at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park after an undisclosed medical issue arose on Wednesday.
“I was feeling bad coming out of the gym and drove myself to the hospital,” said Torrence, a 33-year-old resident of Kilgore, Texas. “I had a procedure (Wednesday) night and today I’m good-to-go except for maybe driving a 10,000-horsepower race car. The doc didn’t think that was such a great idea but I’ll be back at Chicago.” Torrence was referring to the 19th annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill., set for July 8-10.
A two-time winner this season and seven times in his Top Fuel career, Torrence (846 points) is third in the championship standings led by Doug Kalitta (926 points) in the Mac Tools dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports. Two-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown (873 points) is second in the Matco Tools dragster fielded by Don Schumacher Racing.
While Torrence’s absence from the season’s 12th national event likely won’t cost him a spot in the standings, it will widen the point gap from himself to Kalitta and Brown. Torrence leads fourth-place Brittany Force (754 points) and her Monster Energy dragster fielded by John Force Racing by almost 100 points. She would have to win the race to pick up third position.
For the record, Torrence’s drag racing career was put on hold in 2000 after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer most commonly found in males aged 17-25. After months in the hospital undergoing both chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Steve was able beat the disease and return to racing in 2001.
Working this season with nitro tuning guru Alan Johnson, Torrence and his Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition Top Fuel dragster began the 2016 schedule with a victory in the prestigious 56th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., on Feb. 14. Torrence also prevailed in the 47th annual Summernationals at Englishtown, N.J., on June 12.
Torrence’s consistency has continued, as he has compiled the second-best overall record (8-2) over the last three weeks behind only Tony Schumacher (9-2), the eight-time world champion and driver of the U.S. Army dragster. Torrence defeated DSR’s Schumacher in the final round at Englishtown two weeks ago.
The graduate of Kilgore College has turned things around this season with the help of a new chassis built at the fabrication shop of Top Fuel rival Morgan Lucas and with the addition of Johnson as tuning consultant to crew chief Richard Hogan and car chief Bobby Lagana Jr. Since Johnson began his latest collaboration with Hogan _ with whom he has enjoyed a long friendship as well as a lengthy working relationship _ Torrence has emerged as the new “face of fast.”
“The car has been exceptional,” Torrence said in advance of this weekend’s event. “My guys have given me the best car I’ve had since 2005 (when he won the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster championship). When you get in the seat, you know the thing is capable of outrunning anybody that you come up against and that’s a huge confidence boost for me as a driver and a testament to how hard these guys have worked.
“We’ve made 22 laps in the last three weeks. That’s enough to wear down anybody but they’re still ready to go. That’s what happens when you know you have a chance to win every week. And that’s how we feel.”
Kalitta (Top Fuel), 2012 world champion Jack Beckman (Funny Car), four-time world champion Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer are defending class champions at the track located just west of Cleveland. The event is the fifth of 16 for riders competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
The race will be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. The network will air one hour of qualifying coverage Friday at 8 p.m. (EDT). On Saturday, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (EDT).
On Sunday, FS1 will televise two-and-a-half hours of live finals coverage beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT). The additional coverage marks the first time this season FS1 has televised live the first two rounds of the finals. In addition, fans will be able to watch the full three-hour broadcast of Sunday’s racing later that evening, first on FOX Sports 2 at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) and then at midnight Sunday on FS1.
Fans can catch encore showings of qualifying highlights Sunday morning at 7 and 8 a.m. on FS2. Encore showings of Sunday’s finals will air Monday at 3:30 a.m. on FS1 and 7 p.m. on FS2; Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. on FS1, and June 30 at 9 a.m. on FS2.
In addition, NHRA through its partnership with Greenlight International Limited, has reached an agreement for Fox Sports Australia Pty Limited to televise Mello Yello Drag Racing Series programming. FOX Sports Australia will televise one-hour-shows of coverage originally airing on FOX Sports 1. FOX Sports Australia also will have access to all previous events from the 2016 season.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS FAST FACTS
Andrew Hines, 4, Pro Stock Motorcycle; Greg Anderson, 3, Pro Stock; Jack Beckman, 2, Funny Car; Larry Dixon, 2, Top Fuel; Mike Neff, 2, Funny Car; Vincent Nobile, 2, Pro Stock; Matt Smith, 2, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel _ 3.731-seconds by Doug Kalitta, July ’15; 332.51 mph by Larry Dixon, July ’15.
Funny Car _ 4.000-seconds and 322.96 mph by Matt Hagan, July ’15.
Pro Stock _ 6.523-seconds and 212.63 mph by Erica Enders, July ’14.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.844-seconds by Eddie Krawiec, July ’14; 196.93 mph by Hector Arana, July ’14.
Top Fuel _ 3.676-seconds by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car _ 3.862-seconds and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock _ 6.455-seconds by Jason Line, March ’15, Concord, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown, N.J.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.728-seconds by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Concord, N.C.
Top-10 in points following the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel _ 1. Doug Kalitta, 926; 2. Antron Brown, 873; 3. Steve Torrence, 846; 4. Brittany Force, 754; 5. Tony Schumacher, 675; 6. Shawn Langdon, 595; 7. J.R. Todd, 562; 8. Clay Millican, 540; 9. Richie Crampton, 535; 10. Leah Pritchett, 412.
Funny Car _1. Ron Capps, 841; 2. Jack Beckman, 786; 3. Courtney Force, 741; 4. Matt Hagan, 710; 5. Del Worsham, 701; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 691; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 675; 8. Robert Hight, 643; 9. John Force, 615; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 588.
Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, 1,263; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,170; 3. Bo Butner, 758; 4. Allen Johnson, 668; 5. Drew Skillman, 625; 6. Vincent Nobile, 535; 7. Chris McGaha, 524; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 496; 9. Shane Gray, 458; 10. Alex Laughlin, 445.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, 436; 2. Jerry Savoie, 310; 3. Angelle Sampey, 297; 4. Andrew Hines, 290; 5. Chip Ellis, 269; 6. Hector Arana, 239; 7. LE Tonglet, 196; 8. Karen Stoffer, 150; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 149; 10. Steve Johnson, 147.