Steve Torrence and his CAPCO Contractors crewmates got behind in qualifying and never caught up at the 15th Betway Carolina Nationals at ZMax Dragway where a loss to Doug Kalitta in Sunday’s first round sent them tumbling out of the Top Fuel point lead after the first two of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.
An aggressive tune-up that led to a loss of traction in the critical Friday night qualifying session that usually yields the quickest times and fastest speeds put the team in a hole from which it was unable to extricate itself.
A second attempt to put a competitive number on the board in Saturday’s final session was similarly unsuccessful, leaving Torrence in the No. 12 qualifying position, his worst starting spot in 92 events dating back to 2019 at Phoenix, Ariz.
Without the lane choice option and facing the No. 2 qualifier, Torrence forged a narrow advantage at the start and made his quickest and fastest run of the weekend only to come up an almost indiscernible .001 of a second short at the finish line.
“We missed the tune-up and overpowered the track on Friday and then we tried to rotate the earth on Saturday, and I guess the earth didn’t get the message,” Torrence said, “but that’s racing. These CAPCO boys had us back in the game on Sunday. That was a helluva close drag race; it just didn’t go our way.
“We’re not out of this championship though,” said the 54-time Camping World tour winner. “It was a missed opportunity on a track that’s been good to us. Fortunately, we’re back racing this week at St. Louis (in the 27th NHRA Midwest Nationals) and that’s another opportunity.”
Despite the qualifying issues, Sunday’s early exit was surprising considering that Torrence had won six times in his last 11 starts at ZMax.
When qualifying begins Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway, Torrence will trail Kalitta by 63 points.