At this point, Steve Torrence might as well be playing a video game.
After putting up video game-like numbers in 2018 with 11 total wins – including six-straight to close the season – en route to his first championship, Torrence is back at it in 2019 and it appears he hasn’t missed a beat.
“I feel like a kid out here just trying to get the high score in a video game,” Torrence said. “The way this thing panned out last year in winning 11 races and continuing that momentum, you do wonder when this is going to end. Eventually it is going to. It could be tomorrow or Sunday or five years from now, who knows. I just hope it doesn’t end anytime soon.”
Just three months removed from sweeping the Countdown to the Championship and earning the Top Fuel title, Torrence was once again the man to beat on Friday, driving the Capco Contractors Top Fuel machine to the provisional top spot at the 59th annual Lucas Oil Winternationals presented by ProtecttheHarvest.com at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Torrence’s 3.716-second pass at 330.07 mph was good enough to hold off Doug Kalitta for the top spot as Kalitta crossed the stripe with an identical 3.716 at 326.87 mph. Scott Palmer was third after two rounds on Friday with a 3.720 at 328.38 mph, while Mike Salinas (3.729) and Billy Torrence (3.738) rounded out the top five.
“It was a really good run to come out of the trailer and go down the track with. I saw my dad go 73 earlier and jokingly I told my guys in the tow vehicle that if he went 73, we could go 71. I didn’t really believe it, but the car ran really well on that last run,” Torrence said. “The track here is super tight and a lot of cars went out and shook (the tires). I don’t think it was because they were overpowering the track, I think we underpowered the track. Those tires went from round to square real quick and that isn’t any fun to drive. I held on as long as I could.”
After what Torrence called, “the shortest offseason of his life,” he credits a good test session last week in Phoenix and the continuity of having his entire team back together for the quick start to the new year.
“We had a really good test session out in Phoenix and to come here and pick up where we left off last year was the plan. Actually being able to do it is a different thing and so far we are doing well,” Torrence said. “Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana, Justin Crosslin, those guys are all back. We’ve moved Justin up as another car chief on my car and he’s done an exceptional job. The entire team is back and we are just trying to keep the ball rolling.”
Despite owning 19 wins in the last two seasons, Torrence hasn’t won the Winternationals since 2016, something he hopes to change this weekend as he tries to both extend his overall win streak to seven-straight while starting the new season off on a high note.
“We didn’t do that well here last year, but we won it a couple years ago and it is always good to set the pace and do well here at the first race of the season,” Torrence said. “When you can get some momentum going early, it makes the season a little happier. At least to start the year. Whatever comes after that you never know.
“We just need to try and be as aggressive as we were last year and continue to move forward. Now we’ve got a big bullseye on our back and we need to keep our guard up and go out and defend that championship, which is pretty fun to say.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019