Leah Pruett and Doug Kalitta sit atop the Camping World point standings this week as the Countdown to the Championship moves to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the season’s next-to-last event, but the odds still favor four-time World Champion Steve Torrence and his CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel Toyota.
Entering Friday’s initial qualifying session for the 23rd annual NHRA Nevada Nationals, Torrence trails Pruett by 13 points and Kalitta by nine on a track on which he has reached the final round in seven of his last nine starts.
“The bottom line is all three of us control our own destiny,” Torrence said of the points race. “We’re separated by less than one round so it comes down to whoever does best in these last two races.
“I feel really good about where we are right now,” said the 54-time NHRA tour winner. “These CAPCO boys have worked their butts off to give me the best car possible and I think we’re peaking at absolutely the right time. Coming off what we did at Dallas (in the 38th Texas Fall Nationals), it’s hard not to be confident.”
Two weeks ago, Torrence qualified No. 1, posted quick time of eliminations, recorded career best time and speed numbers (3.636 seconds, 336.62 miles per hour), set a Texas Motorplex track record and reached the finals of the Texas Fall Nationals – where he lost to Pruett by an agonizingly close .005 of a second.
“That was on me,” Torrence said. “We had the car to win, but it takes everybody doing everything exactly right in one of these races, especially in the Countdown.”
Although he thus far is winless in the 2023 Countdown and even though he won just once in the regular season (the Flav-R-Pac Northwest Nationals at Seattle, Wash.), the 40-year-old cancer survivor never has been worse than third in driver points, testimony to his team’s remarkable consistency and adaptability.
A finalist in five of his last seven appearances in the Nevada Nationals with wins in 2016, 2018 and 2021, Torrence has a 30-7 record in his last 12 starts at LVMS.
A victory this week not only would propel the Texas rancher and businessman into the point lead heading into the climactic In-N-Out Burger Finals in California (Nov. 10-12), it also would enable him to extend to eight the number of consecutive years in which he has won a race in October and to seven the number of consecutive Countdowns in which he has won at least one time (there was no Countdown in 2020 due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic).
The only driver to have won NHRA series championships in both the Top Fuel and the Top Alcohol categories (he was the Top Alcohol Dragster champion in 2005), Torrence also is the only driver in any pro category to have won more than four times in a single Countdown.
After losing the 2017 Top Fuel championship on the final day of the season, he and his CAPCO crewmates won the regular season championship and all six Countdown races the following year en route to their first championship.
Nitro qualifying sessions at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Texas time, on both Friday and Saturday will determine the lineup for single elimination finals at LVMS beginning at 1 p.m., Texas time, on Sunday.