Texas is Steve Torrence’s home. The drag strips are too.
On Saturday afternoon, the two-time NHRA champion made a qualifying clean sweep of the Texas races securing the top spot at the pandemic-delayed NHRA Springnationals at Houston Raceway Park, a week after dominating the Texas Motorplex outside of Dallas.
Torrence covered the 1000-foot course in 3.672-seconds at 327.98 mph to secure his second straight No. 1 qualifier and his third top spot this year and 27th of his career.
“The car ran really well and was able to go out there and drive well, so I mean that gives us a lot of confidence going into Sunday, and I think that with that confidence puts a little bit of pressure on the competition,” Torrence said. “So we have to go out and do the best we can, and who knows what the conditions will be. I mean, we have an early start in the morning. So we’ll go out and fortunately we were able to grab that top spot and get the bye and I think that will definitely give us a little bit of a push in the right direction. We just need to maintain that consistency.”
Because there are only 15 Top Fuelers in competition this weekend, the No. 1 qualifier affords Torrence a first-round bye run. With only two qualifying sessions, the freebie serves as a huge advantage for Torrence headed into the rest of eliminations.
“It gives you the liberty to go out and have one run where you can kind of catch your breath and say, ‘Okay, this is going to be a start for us and this will be something that we can learn from to move forward and what we can get away with second round or third round or whatever round it is,” Torrence said. “Anytime you can go out there and have a free shot at the racetrack to get prepared for the next round, it’s a big benefit.”
However, Torrence’s most significant benefit was the weekend’s best atmospheric conditions during the Q-2 session. Crew chief Richard Hogan, as Torrence describes it, is always good about giving sage advice at the last moment.
“He tells me to, ‘Hold on and drive, and don’t worry about any of the rest. That’s my job,” Torrence explained. “It resonates in your mind to say, ‘Okay, we’ve slowly become one of the cars that runs really quick when the conditions are good,’ and we haven’t been that guy in the years past.
“This year, you don’t have Grubnic that’s like a swing for the fence kind of guy. But also, you got to say it’s more difficult right now because we don’t have four qualifying runs; you got two. So you go out there and anybody that knows Richard and knows his tuning style, if that guy thought we could go .62 today, he would do it .005 at a time. He wouldn’t just go up there and swing for it.
“So we’ve slowly but surely gotten to the point where we’re confident to go out there and run really hard. We were going to try to run harder than what we did in Q2, but we saw that we weren’t going to get bumped out of the number one spot. So you back it up to make sure that you go down through there and try to get those three bonus points because that’s what we’re fighting for, every point possible.”
Multi-time NHRA champion Tony Schumacher was second, the only other driver to reach the 3.60s with a 3.685 at 330.07. Torrence’s father Billy, was third with a 3.701 at 327.74 while Doug Kalitta, who is second in points, qualified fifth with a 3.764 at 269.78.
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