Steve Torrence’s bid to successfully scale the mountain for the third time in his last five tries ended just shy of the summit Sunday when the four-time Top Fuel World Champion was upended by Doug Kalitta in the semifinals of the 43rd and final Dodge Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
Although he was understandably disappointed with the overall result, the 53-time Camping World tour winner did manage to beat point leader Justin Ashley in a first round race with championship implications.
He won in a best-of-eliminations 3.817 seconds at 325.64 miles per hour; Ashley trailed in a tire-smoking 4.431 seconds at only 244 mph. After dispatching close friend Antron Brown in round two, the 40-year-old Texan forged a .023 of a second starting line advantage against Kalitta but couldn’t make it pay off, losing by .018 of a second when the 11,000 horsepower engine in his CAPCO hybrid suffered a malfunction just before the finish line.
Although he remains winless on the season, Torrence will move on to Seattle, Washington, for this week’s 34th Flav-R-Pac Northwest Nationals, the second leg of the grueling Western Swing, still in second place in Top Fuel points. When qualifying begins this Friday, he will trail Ashley by 54 points with just five races remaining before totals are adjusted for the start of the NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship.
As a semifinalist in a Mile-High Nationals event he had won in two of his last three starts, Torrence earned a rematch with Kalitta in this week’s Mission Foods #2Fast/2Tasty Challenge portion of the Flav-R-Pac Nationals.
“These bad-to-the-bone CAPCO boys gave me an awesome car, and I was able to do my job a little bit,” Torrence said, referencing his .046 of a second reaction time against Kalitta. “That was a great drag race. We just wound up on the wrong end. It was a real boost to get past Justin and Antron. We’ll try to build on that at Seattle.”