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Torrence Heads To Countdown At Full Speed

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 14 2018

Steve Torrence is powering his way into the NHRA playoffs this weekend.
(RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

His once-imposing lead whittled to 20 points after NHRA’s playoff adjustment of the driver standings, Top Fuel contender Steve Torrence is determined to transform his regular-season dominance into the postseason success that eluded him one year ago.

Torrence will open NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship looking to end a career-long victory drought at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., beginning with qualifying Friday for the 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals.

“We only know one way to race,” said Torrence, driver of the Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing Top Fuel dragster. “We’re not going to change for the Countdown.”  

The 35-year-old resident of Kilgore, Texas, has won 13 of the last 42 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour events, twice as many as any Top Fuel competitor. But a crash at Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex in Ennis during Round 4 of the 2017 playoffs last October forced Torrence into his backup car for the final two events, opening the door for Brittany Force to claim her first title for John Force Racing.

“Last year, Brittany had a great run but I still think we could have held her off if we hadn’t crashed our car at Dallas,” said Torrence, who works with father/racer Billy in his family-owned pipeline contractor business. “Things happen. It’s just racing. You play the hand you’re dealt and we’re OK with that. When you get that close, though, so close you can taste it, it just makes you that much hungrier. It just makes you want it that much more. We’ve been waiting all year to get another shot and I think these Capco boys are up for it.”

In addition to Torrence, Courtney Force (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) completed the regular season as No. 1 seeds in their respective categories.

Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Krawiec (Pro Stock Bike) emerged as winners last year of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FS2, including final eliminations coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday on FS1.

Before NHRA’s aforementioned “point adjustment,” Torrence led closest rival Clay Millican by 197 points _ almost 10 rounds of racing.  Now, however, the top-10 in points are thinking championship.

“Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr. have a good handle on the tune-up,” Torrence said of the crew chiefs who have kept him atop the standings since the second race of the season and after 27 of the last 32 events overall. “So, if I just do my job, we’re gonna have a good chance to win every week.”

The 2005 Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion, Torrence’s pro career began with formation of his team in 2012.  Since then, Torrence has hoisted 21 Wally trophies and finished ninth, 10th, sixth, eighth, third and second in Mello Yello points.

After winning eight races in 2017, Torrence added five more this year to become the first driver in Top Fuel history, and just the fifth overall, to secure back-to-back regular-season championships. He also is trying to become the first driver in NHRA history to win titles in both the Fuel and Alcohol divisions.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds of professional qualifying at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. (EDT) on Friday, with the final two rounds of time trials set for Saturday at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled to launch at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

FOX Sports 1 will air 90 minutes of qualifying Friday beginning at 7 p.m. (EDT) with a repeat at 5 a.m. Saturday. FOX Sports 2 will air 2-hours, 30-minutes of “NHRA Saturday Nitro” beginning at 4 p.m. FS1 will pick up its coverage with “NHRA Sunday Live” at 2 p.m. for one hour, followed by three hours of eliminations beginning at 7:30 p.m.

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FINAL PROFESSIONAL REGULAR-SEASON POINT STANDINGS

Top-10  drivers following the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, the 17th and final event of the NHRA regular season. Each driver, with regular-season wins in parenthesis, is championship-eligible for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs:

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence (5), 1,422; 2. Clay Millican (2), 1,234; 3. Tony Schumacher (1), 1,195; 4. Leah Pritchett (2), 1,170; 5. Doug Kalitta (1), 1,166; 6. Antron Brown (1), 1,112; 7. Terry McMillen, 959; 8. Brittany Force (1), 839; 9. Mike Salinas, 768; 10. Scott Palmer, 755.

Funny Car _1. Courtney Force (4), 1,457; 2. Matt Hagan (3), 1,247; 3. Robert Hight (2), 1,231; 4. Ron Capps (2), 1,227; 5. J.R. Todd (3), 1,174; 6. Jack Beckman (2), 1,161; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,107; 8. Shawn Langdon, 907; 9.John Force (1), 904; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 831.

Pro Stock _1. Tanner Gray (5), 1,432; 2. Greg Anderson (1), 1,355; 3. Erica Enders (1), 1,230; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (3), 1,198; 5. Vincent Nobile (2), 1,135; 6. Deric Kramer (2), 1,099; 7. Drew Skillman, 1,068; 8. Jason Line, 1,067; 9. Bo Butner, 1,050; 10. Chris McGaha (2), 1,042.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Eddie Krawiec (4), 930; 2. Andrew Hines, 867; 3. LE Tonglet (3), 815; 4. Hector Arana Jr. (1), 770; 5. Jerry Savoie (1), 636; 6. Matt Smith (1), 604; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 528; 8. Steve Johnson, 443; 9.Angie Smith, 424; 10. (tie) Angelle Sampey, 421; Jim Underdahl, 421.

REMAINING COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

Sept. 21-23 _ Seventh annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Ill.

Oct. 4-7 _ 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Texas Motorplex, Ennis

Oct. 12-14 _ 11th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C.

Oct. 25-28 _ 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Nov. 8-11 _ 54th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 14 2018
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