Reigning Champion Beats 2017 Champ, No. 1 Qualifier in Top Fuel Final — Photos by Mark Rebilas
ATLANTA, Ga. – Steve Torrence won a showdown between the top two qualifiers and the two most recent Mello Yello World Champions Sunday, driving his streaking Capco Contractors entry past the dragster of Brittany Force in the final round of the 39th annual Arby’s Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
The victory, the second in as many weeks for the 36-year-old Texan, enabled him to extend his lead to almost 100 points seven races into the 18-event regular season that determines eligibility for the NHRA playoffs.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t a typically overpowering win for the sport’s dominant driver and team.
Although he qualified No. 2, Torrence misfired on two of his three qualifying runs and needed every bit of his driving skill to ease past Shawn Reed in Sunday’s semifinals. Reed actually was quicker on the race track at 3.864 seconds (to Torrence’s 3.876) but succumbed to the reigning champion’s .026 of a second starting line advantage.
“Not a lot of people have heard of Shawn Reed but he’s a teammate of Jordan Vandergriff,” Torrence said. “Those cars are front runners so I knew I had to go up there and get focused. It was a close race all the way but to win it on a hole shot, those are the most gratifying (victories) for a driver.”
In the final, Torrence forged a narrow starting line advantage against Force and pulled away when her car slowed from its 3.720 second qualifying pace to only 3.989 seconds at 274 miles per hour.
It was Torrence’s third win at Atlanta, the track on which he earned his first tour victory in 2012, and it was the third time he has won the race from the No. 2 starting position. He now has won 21 of the last 50 NHRA tour events and has been the Top Fuel point leader after 36 of the last 45 races dating back to 2017.
“Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana. I can’t say enough about all these Capco boys,” Torrence said. “I know you hear the same thing from me every time, but it’s true. When you have a group of guys like we have who stick together and maintain continuity, that’s a huge advantage. This is a very special time and I’m just lucky to be the guy mashing the pedal on the baddest hot rod out here.
CAPCO CONTRACTORS race summary:
39th annual Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals:
Qualify – Steve Torrence, No. 2 at 3.727 seconds, 328.45 miles per hour.
Round 1 – S. Torrence, 3.782 seconds, 319.50 mph, def. Luigi Novelli, 3.940, 274.66 mph.
Round 2 – S. Torrence, 4.043 seconds, 263.41 mph, def. Scott Palmer, 8.919, 86.97 mph.
Semifinals – S. Torrence, 3.876 seconds, 318.17 mph, def. Shawn Reed, 3.864, 315.78 mph.
FINAL – Steve Torrence, 3.863 seconds, 320.20 mph, def. Brittany Force, 3.989, 274.00 mph.
2019 NHRA MELLO YELLO POINTS
(After 7 of 18 races leading into the Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship)
- Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 579
- Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Advance Auto Parts dragster 483
- Doug Kalitta, Saline, Mich., Mac Tools dragster 464
- Leah Pritchett, Danville, Ind., Mopar Dodge dragster 433
- Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster 427
- Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Scrappers Racing dragster 384
- Antron Brown, Pittsboro, Ind., Matco Tools dragster 373
- Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., DHL/Kalitta Air dragster 329
- Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Intimigator dragster 319
- Austin Prock, Indianapolis, Ind., Rocky Mountain Twist dragster 288
- Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 265
12th annual NHRA Virginia Nationals
May 17-19, 2019
Virginia Motorsports Park