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Four-time Champ Steve Torrence Rides Momentum into Phoenix Finale

An NHRA miscalculation that led to a point deduction for opening race winner Mike Salinas sends Steve Torrence into this week’s 38th NHRA Arizona Nationals as the Camping World point leader, extending to a Top Fuel record-setting eight the number of consecutive seasons the four-time champ has ascended to No. 1 at the wheel of his Capco Contractors dragster.

 For Torrence, though, it is an inconsequential milestone.  

“The only time it’s important to be the point leader is November,” said the 53-time Camping World tour winner.  “Until then, all we’re interested in is winning rounds, winning races and getting better.”

Except for an agonizingly close final decided by a scant .002 of a second, Torrence was extremely pleased with his team’s performance in a very non-traditional season-opening Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. 

“We’ve been trying to match speeds with Brittany (Force, the reigning series champion) and, at Gainesville, we were seeing progress, for sure.

“She still had top speed (at 336.99 mph), but we ran our fastest ever (334.42 mph) along with a couple of 333s.  Plus, we were consistent.  That’s what we were missing most last year (when he finished sixth in points after four straight championships).  Hoagie (crew chief Richard Hogan) and Bobby (Lagana Jr.) made some big changes and it effected our consistency a lot more than we expected.”

At Gainesville, though, Torrence went down the track under full power on all seven of his 1,000-foot sprints during both qualifying and eliminations, averaging 3.742 seconds with a best of 3.689.

“It was a good start, but conditions will be different this week (at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, which is hosting its final NHRA event),” said the 39-year-old Texan.  “With Top Fuel as competitive as it is, I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to dominate like we did a couple years ago, but I expect us to be in the mix and obviously, it’s hard not to be confident when you’ve got these Capco Boys behind you.”

The Phoenix winner in both 2018 and 2020, Torrence will begin his quest for a third victory in a single nitro qualifying session at 7 p.m., Texas time, on Friday.  Saturday’s 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. sessions will include the first running of the Mission Foods 2Fast/2Tasty Challenge between Torrence and the three other semifinalists from the Gatornationals.

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At stake in the “race-within-the-race,” contested at 12 of the next 14 events in the series (excluding the two four-wides), is a $10,000 winner’s purse and bonus points applied to Countdown eligibility – three to the winner, two to the runner-up and one to the quickest losing semifinalist. 

This story was originally published on March 23, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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