In control of his own destiny in the season-ending 58th In-N-Out Finals, Steve Torrence will send his CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel Toyota to the starting line for Friday’s first qualifying session as the point leader in a Countdown to the Championship in which he has yet to hoist a winner’s trophy.
Bidding for his fifth series title in the last six years, Torrence leads Doug Kalitta by 15 points and Leah Pruett by 34 with Mike Salinas and Justin Ashley only 76 and 82 behind, respectively, entering an event that awards one-and-a-half times as many points as any other in the playoffs.
“Thanks to these bad-to-the-bone CAPCO boys, we’ve got the best car,” said the 40-year-old Texas businessman and rancher, “but if we’re gonna win this thing, I’ve got to get back on my game.”
That reference was to the 54-time tour winner’s semifinal loss to Ashley two weeks ago in the NHRA Nevada Nationals at Las Vegas that was determined by driver reaction at the starting line. Torrence’s Red Line Oil-backed hot rod was quicker on the track but Ashley’s narrow starting line advantage gave him the win by an excruciatingly small .011 of a second.
Nevertheless, Torrence remains confident in the knowledge that he and his CAPCO crewmates have won the season finale two of the last four times it has been contested at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip (2018 and 2021). The only other of the five contenders to celebrate a season-ending win during that span was Kalitta (2019).
Adding to his level of confidence is the fact that he is the only driver in any category to have swept all the races in the Countdown (2018), is the only one of the contenders to previously have won a series championship and to the fact that he started the two most recent tour events from either the No. 1 or No. 2 qualifying position.
Throw in the career-best numbers he recorded during last month’s Texas Fall Nationals (3.636 seconds and 336.62 miles per hour) and it’s pretty clear why the former Top Alcohol Dragster world champion (2005) is the driver to beat.
“It’s going right down to the wire,” Torrence said, “but it’s all about who executes the best this week. It doesn’t matter what’s happened the rest of the year. It’s about who can get it done in this one race.”
Qualifying sessions at 3 and 6 p.m., Texas time, on both Friday and Saturday will set the fields for Sunday eliminations starting at 1 p.m., Texas time.