BRAINERD, Minn. – Kilgore’s Billy Torrence defied the odds, avenged his son and wrote a storybook ending to one of the most unlikely stories in drag racing history Sunday as the Top Fuel winner of the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
The 60-year-old founder of Capco Contractors, Inc., applied an exclamation point to an already spectacular weekend with a final round victory over three-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown.
Racing against the veteran Brown, who the previous round had taken out point leader Steve Torrence and deep-sixed the possibility of an all-Torrence, all-Capco final round, he turned the tables and won the race not with superior performance, but with his starting line skills.
It was the elder Torrence’s .037 of-a-second reaction time that got his 10,000 horsepower hot rod to the finish line .003 of a second ahead of Brown.
The Capco Contractors dragster covered the 1,000 foot course in 3. 756 seconds at almost 300 miles per hour (329.99 mph). Brown, who is one of Steve Torrence’s closest friends as well as one of his biggest rivals, was slightly quicker at 3.751 but Simply couldn’t quite make up the starting line deficit.
The result immediately sent the self proclaimed “outlaws” who comprises Team Capco into a frenzy of celebration.
For Steve Torrence, who most certainly will begin the NHRA playoffs as the No. 1 seed, the joy of victory was tempered by the realization of what might have been.
“You don’t get that many opportunities to race you old man in a Top Fuel final,” he said after losing his semifinal heat. “Plus, I hate to lose to Antron. He’s one of my best friends but I still don’t like to lose to him. I pull for him all the time but when we line up against each other, all bets are off. He’s beat me in the semifinals at the last two races so, going to Indy (and the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals), I figure I owe him at least one.”
The younger Torrence will begin qualifying for the U.S. Nationals 187 points ahead of his closest rival. He need only qualify to secure the No. 1 seeding for the second consecutive year.
“I love racing with my dad,” he said. “I’d like to do it more but it seems like business gets in the way. Now that he’s had a experience like this, though, maybe we can get him out there a few more times.”
Before becoming the 106th different driver to win an NHRA Top Fuel race, Billy Torrence became the 111th different driver to qualify No. 1 in the sport’s premier category. On Saturday, he and Steve became the first father and son to qualify 1-2 in Top Fuel.
Before running up against Brown, to whom he had lost in all five previous meetings, Billy beat Terry Totten, Scott Palmer and Mike Salinas to become the 160th different Top Fuel finalst.
Meanwhile, the point leader went to the semifinals for the 11th time in 17 races this year. He has led the points since winning the Arizona Nationals at Phoenix in February and will start he playoffs with a 20-point lead over whomever emerges from a three-way battle for position between eight-time series champ Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican and Leah Pritchett.
Although he’s only made slightly more than two dozen starts in Top Fuel, Billy Torrence is an accomplished sportsman racer with a pair of national event victories to his credit in the Super Comp class, one in Las Vegas and the other two years ago in Atlanta, Ga.