A dropped cylinder in the semifinals ended Steve Torrence’s bid for a fifth Top Fuel World Championship Sunday at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, opening the door for veteran Doug Kalitta to win the 58th In-N-Out Finals and, in so doing, earn a breakthrough first series championship after a half dozen runner-up finishes.
Torrence finished second in his CAPCO Contractors Toyota dragster, 48 points behind Kalitta and nine ahead of Leah Pruett, who would have been champion had she been able to reverse the order of finish in the final round.
“I like Leah and that team did a great job this year,” Torrence said, “but I gotta admit that after we lost, I was rooting for Doug. He’s been out here chasing a championship for a lot of years and he’s just a good guy.
“We didn’t get the championship,” acknowledged the 54-time tour winner, “but I’m so proud of these CAPCO boys and what they were able to do this year.
“We’ve made big changes to our program the last two years, but we finished the season with one badass race car,” Torrence said. “A little disappointed, sure, but I’m excited about next season with the Mission Foods people coming on board in a big way. Camping World. Pep Boys. The PRO Superstar Shootout. It’s all good.”
The No. 2 qualifier at 3.641 seconds, his second quickest time ever, Torrence seemed to be on cruise control after beating Canadian rookie Spencer Hyde in round one and his dad, Billy, in the quarterfinals, with times of 3.723 and 3.731 seconds, respectively.
However, against Pruett, the raw fuel indicative of a dropped cylinder began to manifest itself at about 330 feet. That little glitch was all Pruett needed to power to victory in 3.717 seconds and set up a winner-take-all final with Kalitta.