So far this season, Steve Torrence isn’t winning races at the torrid pace he did in 2020 and 2021 when he hoisted the trophy after every other race on the Camping World tour, but that doesn’t mean the Texan’s bid for a fifth consecutive NHRA Top Fuel championship has gone off the rails.
Although he left Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park Sunday without the hardware at the 37th running of the NHRA Arizona Nationals, he and his Capco Contractors team will move on to the upcoming 53rd Amailie Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., in third place in points and brimming with confidence.
“We’ve been a little bit off our game,” Torrence said after his semifinal loss to eventual race winner and new point leader Mike Salinas, “but we’re still winning rounds, so it’s not all bad. We’ll just keep on grinding. It’s a long season. You’re not going to win a championship in the first couple races.
“Our strategy hasn’t changed at all,” he said. “We still just try to put ourselves in position to win. If you keep doing that, the trophies eventually will come.”
Meanwhile, Torrence had nothing but praise for Salinas, who is off to the best start of his pro career.
“Mike has made himself one of the best leavers out there,” said the 51-time Top Fuel winner, “plus he’s assembled a really good team patterned after our own Capco bunch. I expect them to be in the hunt right to the end.”
The No. 3 qualifier, Torrence used a big starting line advantage to forge a holeshot victory over Brittany Force in round two. That sent him to the semis against Salinas, who got a virtual free pass when the usually reliable Capco dragster lost traction shortly after Torrence grabbed the early lead.
The 38-year-old cancer survivor will be one of eight drivers with a chance to double-up at Gainesville where he is the No. 1 qualifier for the inaugural Pep Boys All Star Callout, a unique bonus race in which the higher qualified drivers will pick their own opponents.