INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Promise turned to pain Monday for Texan Steve Torrence whose bid to repeat as Top Fuel champion at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals evaporated in a puff of second round tire smoke at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Torrence, who posted the quickest time in Sunday’s final two qualifying sessions and easily dispatched Pat Dakin in round one, was driving away from Terry McMillen in round two when his Capco Contractors entry uncharacteristically lost traction and slowed from its 3.797 second qualifying pace to 4.097 seconds.
Despite the disappointment of an early exit from the world’s biggest drag race, the 35-year-old Texan will move into the Countdown to the Championship as the No. 1 seed and the title favorite after winning a category-best four times during the regular season and 12 times over the last two seasons.
The second of the Capco dragsters, the one driven intermittently by Torrence family patriarch Billy Torrence, got the better of eight-time World Champ Tony Schumacher in the first round and took care of Clay Millican in round two to run its winning streak to six consecutive rounds.
In the semifinals, though, veteran Doug Kalitta used a narrow starting line advantage to eke out a .012 of a second victory that denied the elder Torrence a shot at a second straight Mello Yello tour victory.
“It was pretty disappointing because we had two really good race cars,” said the point leader. “We didn’t expect that, that’s for sure. But that’s why we race. Anything can happen and sometimes what happens is a little hard to swallow.
“But (crew chief) Richard Hogan and these Capco boys have got a good handle on things going into the Countdown. Hot track or not so hot track, I know they’re going to give me a car that can compete and you can’t ask for more than that,” said the 21-time NHRA tour winner and former Top Alcohol Dragster world champion (2005).
“We just don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” he continued. “One round at a time; one race at a time and if we all do our jobs, there’s gonna be one helluva party by the time we get the California (for the season-ending Auto Club Finals).”
The NHRA circuit is off this weekend, and will be back in action the weekend of Sept. 14-16 in Reading, Penn., for the 34th annual Dodge Nationals.