Reigning Champion Wins Summit Nationals for Second Time
NORWALK, Ohio – Steve Torrence celebrated his nomination for a “Best Driver” ESPY by winning Sunday’s 13th annual Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park and extending his streak of final round appearances to a personal best seven straight.
Although he admitted he wasn’t fully on his game as a driver, Torrence still managed to get his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster into the winners’ circle for the 12th time in the last 18 Mello Yello tour events and for the sixth time this season.
The 36-year-old Texan beat Ohio native Pat Dakin in a final round that was closer than anyone expected. Torrence won in 3.832 seconds at 323.27 miles per hour. Dakin, making his first NHRA final round appearance since losing to Shirley Muldowney at Montreal, Canada, in 1977, trailed in 3.909 seconds.
It was Torrence’s 33rd victory since turning pro, moving him to within one win of tying Cory McClenathan for eighth all-time. Significantly, the victory enabled the former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005) to extend his point lead over second place Doug Kalitta to 404.
That’s a 20-round lead with only six races remaining before the points are adjusted for the Countdown to the Championship.
Mathematically, there may be a scenario in which Torrence doesn’t qualify for the playoffs but, realistically, it’s unfathomable to think that the cancer survivor won’t start the Countdown as the No. 1 seed for the third consecutive year.
With Sunday’s success, Torrence now has led the Top Fuel point standings after 41 of the last 50 events, one of the factors in his ESPY nomination along with his unprecedented sweep of last year’s Countdown.
Asked about his reaction to the crowd’s partisan support for the 73-year-old Dakin, Torrence said “heck, I was rooting for Pat Dakin. Not only is he a legend (a former IHRA World Champion and runner-up to Muldowney for the NHRA title in 1977), but he’s just a cool dude.
“We’ve been able to become friends over the last four, five or six years. He’s a genuinely good guy and a lot of fun,” he continued. “We share a lot of the same thoughts and philosophies. I give him crap; he gives me crap. He comes over and has a beer with us sometimes.”