Doug Kalitta denied him a victory in Monday’s rain-delayed wrap-up to the 38th Pep Boys Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, but Steve Torrence will begin qualifying for this week’s 15th Betway Carolina Nationals at ZMax Dragway as the Top Fuel point leader.
The 40-year-old Texan surged past regular season champion and No. 1 seed Justin Ashley, who was upset in the second round by former champion Tony Schumacher.
Torrence subsequently took out Schumacher but, in the final, couldn’t get his CAPCO Contractors dragster past Kalitta’s MAC Tools entry despite a stellar 3.695 elapsed time.
In winning for the first time in more than two years, Kalitta put up the two quickest times of the race including a 3.662 in that crucial final.
The No. 4 qualifier at 3.698 seconds, Torrence ran 3.701 to beat Mike Salinas in round one, 3.701 a second time to dispatch close friend Antron Brown (to whom he lost in the final round of the Labor Day U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.) and 3.685 to turn back Schumacher.
“We didn’t get the ‘W,’ but it was still a good weekend,” Torrence said. “These CAPCO boys gave us a chance, but we just ran up against a Kalitta buzzsaw in the final. Doug and A.J. (tuner Alan Johnson) and that team deserve all the credit. They’ve had some issues, but they didn’t have many this week.
“Now it’s ‘game on’ for the championship with Doug up to third (in points) and only three rounds separating six of us going to Charlotte,” Torrence said, “but, like I’ve said before, the only time it matters if you’re on top in points is late Sunday afternoon at Pomona (at the conclusion of the season-ending In-N-Out Finals, the concluding event in the six-race Countdown).”
With a car that averaged 3.697 seconds during Maple Grove eliminations (second only to Kalitta’s 3.674), Torrence is anxious to throw down on an all-concrete surface at ZMax on which he has won six times over the last seven seasons.