Reigning Champion Stops Salinas to Claim Route 66 Nationals Crown
CHICAGO, Ill. – Surging Steve Torrence won for the 10th time in the last 15 Mello Yello tour events Sunday, driving his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster past No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas in the final round to win the NHRA Route 66 Nationals for the second time in three years.
It was the fourth straight win for the 36-year-old reigning series champion who will move on to Topeka, Kansas, for this week’s 31st annual Menard’s Heartland Nationals leading second place Doug Kalitta by 256 points, Salinas by 257 and Brittany Force by 258.
The No. 3 qualifier, Torrence didn’t have a close race all day long thanks to his considerable driving skills and a 10,000 horsepower dragster that performed almost flawlessly in hot and humid conditions that frustrated so many others.
“These are the kind of conditions that we really do well in,” he said. “Richard and Bobby (crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr.), they excel on tracks that are not the best.
“This place (Route 66 Raceway) is great, but it was hot, it was humid, it was a little tricky to navigate and they did an exceptional job,” Torrence beamed. “I was told we’re 22-4 in final rounds (the last three seasons), that’s pretty surreal. But, if you had told me seven years ago that I’d have 31 race wins how, I’d say you were full of crap. When I started out, I just wanted one.”
The talented Texan beat reigning U.S. Nationals champion Terry McMillen in round one, Aussie expatriate Richie Crampton in round two and close friend and three-time series champ Antron Brown in the semifinals.
Against Salinas, who had qualified No. 1 at 3.693 seconds, the race was over early as it was against everyone else. Torrence held a .040-.112 advantage at the start and then powered through the 1,000 foot course in 3.763 seconds at 326.32 miles per hour while Salinas was slowing to 4.102at only 213 mph.
“I’ve got a really good team; a really good group of guys,” Torrence reiterated. “I know I say it time and time again but they are the reason for the success that we have. When you see teams that go out and do well and continually win, it’s guys that have been together for years and they just work well together and that’s what we have.
“It’s an exceptional group,” he continued. “I’m very thankful for the team that I have. It’s been an awesome ride even if we were to quit today.”