READING, Pa. – Kilgore’s Billy Torrence took out track record holder Brittany Force in a semifinal match with championship implications Sunday before dispatching second year pro Justin Ashley in the final round to win the 36th Mopar Express Lane Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
In narrowly defeating Force, who was the No. 1 qualifier for the seventh straight Camping World tour event, the 63-year-old founder and CEO of Capco Contractors, Inc., assured that his son, three-time reigning NHRA Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence, will start this weekend’s 13th Dewalt Carolina Nationals as the Top Fuel point leader.
The younger Torrence lost a pedal-fest to Ashley in his semifinal match and would have fallen out of the Camping World point lead for the first time since March had his dad not beaten Force. When qualifying begins this Friday at ZMax Dragway, a track on which he has won five straight races, Steve Torrence will lead Force by 12 points.
Although Billy Torrence gave all the Sunday credit to his crew while insisting that he is “just trying not to be the weak link,” Sunday’s performance vaulted him from the No. 7 spot he occupied at the start of the Countdown, to No. 3, the position in which he finished a year ago.
It was the 10th win in 14 races this season for Team Capco, the second for Billy and a team anchored by crew chief Jason McCulloch that missed four races during the regular season.
“Now I’m gonna be looking over both shoulders,” said the point leader, “over one for Brittany and Grubby (Force’s crew chief, David Grubnic) and over the other for my old man. I thought the two of us might get to duke it out again in an all-Capco final, but Justin did a great job in the semis. Can’t wait to get started in Charlotte.”
It was a sweep of the Northeast for Billy Torrence, whose other victory this season came three months ago at Epping, N.H., where he beat Mike Salinas in the final round. Until Sunday, he hadn’t won a single round of racing in two previous appearances at Maple Grove Raceway.