Reigning Champion Regains Point Lead as Countdown Moves to Texas
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Not even Mother Nature could slow down Steve Torrence at zMAX Dragway where the reigning NHRA Top Fuel Champion won for the fourth time in two years in Monday’s rain-delayed 12th annual NTK Carolina Nationals.
Torrence and his Capco Contractors dragster showed no ill effects from a 24-hour delay in the start of final eliminations brought on by torrential rains that persisted throughout Sunday despite the best efforts of NHRA’s Safety Safari to maintain the integrity of the all-cconcrete racing surface.
In running his winning streak to 14-straight rounds and improving his record at zMAX over the last three years to 18-1, Torrence put just a sliver of distance between himself and veteran Doug Kalitta, whom he defeated in the final when he coupled a sensational .031 reaction time to a track time of 3.772 seconds.
The win was the ninth of the year for the 36-year-old Texan, his 20th in the last two seasons and his 28th over three years, all of them in Capco-backed dragsters tuned by Richard Hogan and prepared by a crew led by Bobby Lagana Jr.
When racing begins this Friday in the 34th annual AAA Texas Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex, Torrence will lead Kalitta by 30 points. He entered the Carolina Nationals two points behind but made up that difference with his fourth No. 1 qualifying effort of the season. En route, he picked up eight qualifying bonus points, running his total for the season to a category leading 105.
Meanwhile, Billy Torrence, whom the media continues to characterize as the sport’s “best part-time pro,” moved from ninth to sixth in points despite a narrow second round loss Brittany Force. He’ll start this week 150 points off his son’s lead.
“To race Doug Kalitta (in the final), that’s always special,” Torrence said. “That guy is a legend, the winningest guy to never win a championship. I have a whole lot of respect for him. I really look up to him as a driver (because) he’s always consistent, whether his car’s running good or running bad.
“A few years ago, I’d a probably went up there and choked just thinking about who was in the other lane,” he admitted. “I would have let that really affect me and get into my head, but with the success we’ve had, you build confidence in yourself, you trust in the team and the good Lord and you just go out and do the best you can.
“I knew we had a car that would run with them and if I did my job, we could be right with him on the Tree (the NHRA’s iconic Christmas Tree starting system).
“You just gotta kinda block out who that guy is (in the other lane) whether its Doug Kalitta or Tony Schumacher or Antron Brown, whoever. You can’t let what or who is in the other lane influence you and that was what I was able to do (today even knowing you have) one of the best ever right there beside you.”
Despite another spectacular season, Torrence knows that there still is work to be done if he and his team are to lock up a second straight title.
“I think we need to win two more races to be pretty solid to win this thing again,” he said. “The points-and-a-half at Pomona is really gonna make it interesting. We’ve got some momentum, but we know that this is drag racing and you’re only as good as your last run.”
2019 NHRA MELLO YELLO POINTS
(After the third of six races comprising the NHRA Countdown to the Championship)
- Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 2356
- Doug Kalitta, Saline, Mich., Mac Tools dragster 2326
- Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Advance Auto Parts dragster 2264
- Leah Pritchett, Danville, Ind., Mopar Dodge dragster 2231
- Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Scrappers Racing dragster 2227
- Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 2206
- Austin Prock, Indianapolis, Ind., Montana Brand dragster 2204
- Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., DHL/Kalitta Air dragster 2196
- Antron Brown, Pittsboro, Ind., Matco Tools dragster 2194
- Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster 2178
34th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals
Oct. 18-20, 2019
CAPCO CONTRACTORS race summary:
12th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals
Qualify – Steve Torrence, No. 1 at 3.711 seconds, 326.16 miles per hour.
Round 1 – S. Torrence, 3.741 seconds, 327.82 mph, def. Lex Joon, no time
Round 2 – S. Torrence, 3.742 seconds, 329.37 mph, def. Clay Millican, 4.170, 216.58 mph.
Semifinals – S. Torrence, 3.788 seconds, 324.12 mph, def. Justin Ashley, 4.088, 210.77 mph.
FINAL – Steve Torrence, 3.772 seconds, 323.19 mph, def. Doug Kalitta, 4.090, 274.27 mph.
Qualify – Billy Torrence, No 6 at 3.755 seconds, 325.92 miles per hour.
Round 2 – B. Torrence, 3.780 seconds, 327.03 mph, def. Pat Dakin, 14.784, 34.62 mph.
Round 2 – B. Torrence, 3.737 seconds, 326.48 mph, lost to Brittany Force, 3.747, 328.78 mph.