CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kilgore’s Steve Torrence extended his mastery of four wide racing Sunday, guiding his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster across the finish line ahead of No. 1 qualifier and track record holder Brittany Force, close friend Antron Brown and rookie Josh Hart to win the NGK/NTK 4Wide Nationals for the fourth consecutive time.
It was the 38-year-old Texan’s fifth consecutive win on the all-concrete surface at ZMax Dragway, where this fall he will try to win the NHRA Carolina Nationals, contested in the more traditional two-car elimination format, for the third consecutive time.
Sunday’s win enabled him to pad his point lead on an NHRA Camping World tour that moves this week to Houston Raceway Park for the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane Spring Nationals.
Torrence will lead Brown by 76 points and Force by 134 when qualifying begins with a single session at 7 p.m. last Friday.
Although it was his sixth overall victory in a four-wide format that originated at ZMax in 2010, Torrence faced serious challenges in every quad but the first in which he posted quick time of eliminations at 3.707 seconds. In the second, he trailed Brown across the finish line but advanced, nevertheless.
In the final, he used a .034 reaction time and a 3.716 second track time to hold off Force, the last driver other than Torrence to win a Top Fuel world championship (2017). She was clocked in 3.723 seconds, slightly off the 3.662 track record she rang up during qualifying.
Torrence, who won for the 42nd time in his pro career, for the 33rd time in his last 81 tour starts, is hard pressed to explain his success in the four-wide format which was expanded in 2018 to include the spring race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“At first, admittedly, I was not a fan of the four-wide,” he said, “but I got more comfortable the more we ran it and now we do really well. I don’t know why but I’d like to keep doing it. I love it here.
“(Racing four across) makes us drivers step up a little more, I think,” Torrence said. “It takes us drivers out of our comfort zone. You have to concentrate and focus a lot more be.cause I can tell you that all of us have been confused out there. There are a lot of distractions.”
In running his record in the last seven four-wide events to 19-1, Torrence won for the second time from Lane 3, one of the two inside lanes he considers most troublesome. Despite his affinity for lanes 1 and 4, he has won four-wide races from all four, two each from 3 and 4.
While the younger Torrence continued his remarkable run, dad Billy struggled in his first four-wide appearance at ZMax. Although he qualified a solid fifth, the founder and CEO of Capco Contractors failed to survive the opening quad, trailing Hart and veteran Doug Kalitta across the stripe.
Nevertheless, the six-time Top Fuel winner will move on to Houston in sixth place in points. Torrence and the NHRA will head to Houston next weekend for the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.