HOUSTON – Off the drag strip, Reigning Mello Yello Champion Steve Torrence and three-time former champion Antron Brown are best friends.
Together, they host a bible study group at races like Sunday’s 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Spring Nationals, they compete as Chocolate-and-Crème Racing teammates in off-road events like the Mint 400 and, without a doubt, they are each other’s biggest fan.
However, when they line up against one another, as they did in Sunday’s semifinals at Houston Raceway Park, all bets are off.
“There’s nobody I’d rather beat more than Antron and nobody I hate losing to more,” Torrence said after dropping another narrow decision to his racing nemesis, this one by a razor-thin .005 of a second. It was a doubly painful exit because the outcome was decided at the starting line where Brown’s .063 reaction time was ever-so-slightly better than the champ’s .070.
“We’ve been trying to win this race for awhile, but it seems like Antron is always in the way,” said the driver of the Capco Contractors dragster. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he’s back on his game. They’ve been struggling and I’ve been pulling for him, but I really wish he’d gotten healthy against someone else.”
Although he is winless through the season’s first five events, Torrence will move on to Charlotte, N.C., for the April 26-28 NGK 4Wide Nationals in third place in the Top Fuel driver standings, just 30 points out of the lead.
Meanwhile, Billy Torrence, the Top Fuel winner earlier this year at Phoenix, was victimized by a rare crew error that took the second Capco Contractors entry out in the very first round.
The throttle stop device utilized by most professional teams during the burnout to prevent the driver from over-revving the engine proved to be his undoing. Usually deactivated after the burnout, that step somehow was missed on Sunday and when the elder Torrence mashed the throttle, the car barely moved.
As a result, the sport’s best part-time pro driver, who three races ago was No. 1 in points, slipped to No. 8 in the standings.