With his bid for an unprecedented fifth NHRA regular season championship in jeopardy, Steve Torrence sends his CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel dragster back to work this week in the 41st Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
As the two-time defending event champion, the 40-year-old Texan will share top billing with point leader Justin Ashley, whom he currently trails by 83 points.
“I dug us a hole,” Torrence said of his narrow second round loss last week at Topeka, Kan., “but we can still dig out of it. We’ve got a really good race car and ‘Hoagie’ (crew chief Richard Hogan) and Bobby (Lagana Jr.) have a good handle on this track. If the driver can pick up his game a little, we should be good to go.”
Because of his early exit in the last race at Topeka, the 54-time Camping World tour winner won’t be a part of Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge which features semifinalists from the previous event.
That means he won’t have an opportunity to extend his three-race win streak in the series of companion events he has dubbed “the tortilla challenge,” but it also means he and his team can focus solely on Sunday’s eliminations and putting a CAPCO car in the winners’ circle for the fourth time (dad Billy Torrence got the first of his eight career Top Fuel wins in the 2018 Lucas Oil Nationals).
The only driver to have won NHRA championships in both the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol divisions and the only driver in any category to have swept the races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship (2018), Torrence won three of his four Top Fuel titles after first winning the regular season crown. He was regular season champion in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. No regular season champ was recognized in the abbreviated 2020 campaign because there was no Countdown.
Qualifying sessions at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m., Texas time, Friday will set the stage for final qualifying sessions at 1:30 and 4:15 p.m., Texas time, Saturday. Sunday eliminations are set for an 11 a.m., Texas time, start.