After Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence defeated Mike Salinas in the final round of the NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, Ill., he served notice – not to the rest of the class but rather to the media.
“Brian Lohnes, you’re talkin’ trash and trying to stir the pot. But it ain’t nothin’, man. That guy right there, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his family. They come out here and race like us, as a family,” Torrence said at the top end of the Route 66 Raceway dragstrip Sunday.
Then during his press conference in the media center, Torrence set announcer Joe Castello straight when he used the “R word” in asking the Kilgore, Texas, native about the rising star from San Martin, Calif.: “Let me shut you down right there. There is no rivalry. They’re out here, racing no differently than my family and myself are. He’s made his own way. He has a very, very successful couple of companies, juts like my father [part-time Top Fuel driver Billy Torrence] has and I’m getting the benefit from it. He’s out here racing with his family, doing just exactly what we’re doing.
“There is no rivalry. There isn’t going to be any rivalry,” Torrence said. If we go head to head, we’re going to go at it. We’ll definitely race [each other] more than not. There’s no rivalry, but it’ll be fun racing him.”
After scoring his fourth consecutive victory of the year, he said, “Sometimes you’ve just got to call a spade a spade. Sometimes people try to create drama when there’s not.”
Just to let Salinas know, Torrence spoke with him before eliminations began and told him, “Hey, look – there ain’t no trash talk going on between you and me. We’ll let them stir the pot all they want to, but me and you are good.”
Now that that’s out of the way . . . For the record, Torrence won with a 3.763-second elapsed time at 326.32 mph in his Capco / Torrence Family Dragster on the 1,00-foot course. Salinas, the No. 1 qualifier, countered with a 4.102-second elapsed time at 213.74 mph in the Scrappers Racing Dragster.
That gave Torrence a 246-point advantage over Mac Tools Dragster driver Doug Kalitta in the standings as the series moves this weekend to Topeka for the Menard’s Heartland Nationals presented by Minties. Lurking back in third and fourth places are – in order – Salinas and Brittany Force. And Kalitta, Salinas, and Force are separated by only two points.
Moreover, Torrence’s 31st Top Fuel victory and 35th overall (counting his Top Alcohol Dragster success) moved his final-round record to a sparkling 22-4 since 2017.
“If you had asked me seven or eight years ago if I’d have 31 race wins, I would have said you were full of crap, that I just want to get one,” he said.
Torrence shared the winners circle with Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
On the final day of a weekend marked by hot, humid conditions, Torrence and Team were in their element.
“These are the kind of conditions we do really well in. Richard and Bobby, they excel in tracks that are not in tracks that are not the best. This place is great, but it was hot. It was humid. It was tricky to navigate. And they did an exceptional job,” Torrence said, referring to crew chief Richard Hogan and car chief Bobby Lagana of the “Capco Boys” crew.
“I’ve got a really good team, a really good group of guys. I know I say it time and time again, but they’re the reason but they are the reason for this success that we have,” he said. “We have an exceptional group. If one guy were to fall out, that’d probably be the missing piece of the puzzle that we need. I’m very thankful for the team that I have. It’s been an awesome ride if it were to quit today.”
He said he wants “to keep this momentum going. Hat’s off to those Capco boys and those bad-to-the-bone pipeliners [back in East Texas]. Thank you for working day and night to keep us out here. We appreciate it.”
One of Torrence’s first remarks was to acknowledge Salinas’ daughter Jianna and express thanks that she was uninjured after her second-round accident that ended with her falling from her Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“I’m glad his daughter’s all right after that spill on a Pro Stock Motorcycle,” he said after jumping from his car to accept the Wally trophy. Later he said, “I told her she needs to drive one of these things [a dragster]. You can’t fall off of them, at least.”
Salinas advanced past Scott Palmer, T.J. Zizzo, and Doug Kalitta as he sought his second victory in as many final rounds this season so far. Torrence, the No. 3 starter, beat Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton, Antron Brown along the way to a 22-5 elimination-round record.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019