DENVER – Racing without crew chief Richard Hogan in his pit for the first time in over four years, point leader Steve Torrence fell to Blake Alexander Sunday in the second round of the 39th annual Dodge Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
Despite the loss, the 35-year-old Texan will carry a 133-point lead over Clay Millican into this week’s 31st annual Toyota Sonoma Nationals, the second of three races in a grueling Western Swing that sets the table for the Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship.
The veteran Hogan, who has come into his own as tuner of the Capco Contractors dragster, was confined to his hotel room at Denver after reacting adversely to the heat and thin air at Bandimere’s 5,800 foot altitude.
“He was a little under the weather,” Torrence said of Hogan, who has directed him to 13 wins over the last two seasons. “We were sending data back to him at the hotel but Bob Lagana was making the decisions here at the track and I’ve got all the faith in the world in him and this Capco team. We ran good, but in that second round, they just ran better. No excuses.”
Indeed, after qualifying third in the field at a solid 3.811, Torrence dispatched first time opponent Bill Litton in round one. He was out first against Alexander in the second round but couldn’t hold on as his 10,000 horsepower hybrid slowed to 3.803 while Alexander was streaking through in 3.847 seconds.
“We’ll just put this one behind us and get ready to defend our championship at Sonoma (California),” said the Kilgore native, who is trying to become the first to win NHRA championships in both the Alcohol and Fuel categories.
“With a big lead like we’ve got you might think that losing focus would be a problem,” he said, “but not for us. After getting burned last year, we know better than anyone that nothing’s for sure. You just have to keep bringing it every race. That’s our mindset.”
“Saturday Nitro Live,” a show covering the NHRA’s Sonoma Nationals, will air Saturday night at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), and then the finals at Sonoma will go live on “big” Fox Network on Sunday, starting at 3 p.m.