Don’t look now, Top Fuel competitors, but Steve Torrence has heated up.
Torrence didn’t win in the first five races of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, which is news only because he swept ALL six races of the 2018 Countdown to the Championship to win his first title.
Torrence has been plenty fast in 2019, though, qualifying No. 1 once and No. 2 twice in those winless races. And then he broke through with a victory in the Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte last weekend to end the “drought.”
And now’s he’s won again, becoming the first Top Fuel driver to win twice in 2019. The two-race winning streak came after the Texan said he needed to find some motivation.
“I found motivation,” Torrence said. “It’s not directed at anybody, but I have to have that mindset, that attitude to go out here and be in the right zone. … I’m not Antron (Brown). Antron’s the happiest guy all the time; I’m not. I’m happy when I get out but when I get in I want to kill that guy or girl beside me. I want to chop that Tree off and leave just a little stub smoking and go down there and crush them.
“I’m not here for fun, I’m here to win. You can take that however you want, but it’s not malicious toward anybody.”
Torrence capped off his 29th career victory in a final-round matchup of the last two Top Fuel champions, as 2017 title-winner Brittany Force, the No. 1 qualifier in Atlanta, lined up in the right lane against Torrence.
“She and I battled it out in 2017 for the championship, and (Force’s current crew chief) Grubby (David Grubnic) and (Torrence crew chief Richard) Hogan battled it out all year last year with (driver Clay) Millican,” Torrence said. “Going up in the final round, I had confidence because we did have lane choice. Throughout the day, the right lane had trended to not being able to go down it as quickly, and (it was) a little more difficult to maneuver.”
Force, though, inched ahead early in the run until fading, slowing to a run of 3.989 seconds at 274.00 mph. Torrence surged ahead at half-track and pulled away to a winning pass of 3.863 at 320.20 mph.
The victory was Torrence’s 29th in Top Fuel and came at the venue where he won his first pro race in 2012. Of those 29 wins, 21 have come since the start of the 2017 season. All the credit, Torrence said, goes to his race team, led by Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr.
“It’s like you hear the same interview from me every time,” Torrence said, “but those are the guys who are the reason for this success. That’s the kind of team it takes to do this.”
Torrence started race day with his best pass, 3.782 at 319.60 mph to beat Luigi Novelli. Torrence, though, said he was nervous racing the No. 15 qualifier.
“I clearly remember racing Luigi in Chicago last year or the year before and going out and smoking the tires,” Torrence said. “It’s hard not to get nervous because you want to go out there and do your job and not screw up.”
He raced No. 7 qualifier Scott Palmer in the second round, pedaling to a 4.043-second run at 263.41 mph to take out Palmer, who smoked the tires at the hit.
Torrence said he’s been trying to help Palmer on the starting line, as Palmer has tended to be his own worst enemy there, thinking of too many things instead of focusing on the Christmas Tree.
“I just told him, ‘When you get in this car, you’re not racing me, you’re not racing anybody but yourself,'” Torrence said. “He was .044 first round, so I was like, ‘OK, don’t do that again.'”
Shawn Reed was the next opponent, as he’d taken out No. 3 qualifier Doug Kalitta and No. 6 qualifier Dom Lagana in earlier rounds. Torrence was clearly ready, using a .055 light to score a holeshot victory. The numbers: Torrence ran 3.876 at 318.17 mph, while Reed was .081 on the Tree and ran 3.864 at 315.78 mph.
“I knew the car could run well, and I looked through some of the qualifying and first round, and Reed had been on the Tree pretty solid,” Torrence said. “I went up there and got my head right and focused. … (Holeshot wins) are the most gratifying as a driver, those or winning a pedalfest, because that’s when the ball’s in your court.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019