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Point Leader Seeks Second Straight Win, Third Overall in Southern Nationals

ATLANTA, Ga. – When Steve Torrence upended eight-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher to win the 2012 Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, he was a relative unknown in professional drag racing, a young Texan who in 54 previous appearances in the NHRA Mello Yello Series never before had raced in a final round.

When qualifying begins in this week’s 38th renewal of the southern classic, he won’t enjoy the luxury of such anonymity.

Little more than six years after forming his own team with the seemingly audacious goal of winning the Mello Yello Championship, Torrence has become the most celebrated driver in the world’s most extreme motorsport.

He returns to Atlanta Dragway not only as the defending event champion (after beating Schumacher in last year’s final round) but as the Top Fuel point leader and the favorite to win a championship that just eluded him the last two seasons.

Third in the 2016 driver standings and second last year, Torrence is determined to complete the natural progression – from third to second to first – and his performance at the wheel of the Richard Hogan-tuned Capco Contractors dragster thus far this season suggests that he’s well on his way.

Winner of three of the six races contested thus far including last week’s NGK 4Wide Nationals at Charlotte, N.C., Torrence currently leads Schumacher by 77 points in a 16-event regular season competition that will determined the 10 drivers who race for the $500,000 championship.

Nevertheless, it is the outspoken cancer survivor’s body of work that has established him as one of the sport’s rising young stars.

Consider, for instance, that he has won 12 of the last 32 races in the series and has led the driver standings after 15 of the last 21 races. Or that his No. 9 start two weeks ago at Houston marked the first time in category-best 59 races that he hadn’t begun eliminations with the lane choice option.

Most telling, though, may be the fact that over the last 21 events, he has won as many Top Fuel races as the drivers from Don Schumacher Racing, John Force Racing and Kalitta Racing, combined. That’s nine for Torrence; nine total for DSR, JFR and Kalitta.

“It’s not a secret,” Torrence said. “This team is a family. We argue and fight but when it comes down to it, it’s all for one and one for all. They’re my brothers. We work hard; we play hard. And all we’re committed to the same goal and that’s not just winning the championship; it’s crushing these guys every week.”

So far, so good.

(NHRA Mello Yello points after six of 24 events)

1. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster503
2. Tony Schumacher, Lakeway, Texas, U.S. Army dragster426
3. Doug Kalitta, Saline, Mich., Mac Tools dragster401
4. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster384
5. Antron Brown, Pittsboro, Ind., Matco Tools dragster362
6T. Leah Pritchett, Danville, Ind., Mopar Dodge dragster315
6T. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Oil dragster315
8. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Monster Energy dragster311
9. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., DHL/Kalitta Air dragster278
10. Scott Palmer, Cassville, Mo., CatSpot Litter dragster249

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May 20, 201830th Menard’s Heartland NationalsTopeka, Kan.
June 3, 201821st Fallen Patriots Route 66 NationalsChicago, Ill.
June 10, 2018Inaugural Virginia NationalsRichmond, Va.
June 17, 201818th NHRA Thunder Valley NationalsBristol, Tenn.
June 24, 201812th Summit Racing NationalsNorwalk, Ohio

STEVE at Atlanta Dragway

Last year: The No. 2 qualifier behind Tony Schumacher, Steve beat Smax Smith, Shawn Langdon and Leah Pritchett before dispatching Schumacher in the final.
Starts/Final Rounds/Wins/No. 1 Qualifier: 7/2/2/0
Steve’s quickest time at Atlanta Dragway: 3.738 seconds, May 6, 2017
Steve’s fastest speed at Atlanta Dragway: 325.69 mph, May 13, 2016
Steve’s won-lost record at Atlanta Dragway: 11-5
Steve’s best moment(s) at Atlanta Dragway: In 2012, after qualifying second, Steve beat J.R. Todd, Bob Vandergriff Jr., Brandon Bernstein and, finally, Tony Schumacher to earn his first victory as a pro. He beat Schumacher to win again in 2017 (see “Last year” above)
Track records: 3.699 seconds by Leah Pritchett, May 7, 2017; 328.86 mph by Doug Kalitta, May 18, 2014.

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DateSiteQualifying position and race detailPoints

Feb. 11Pomona, CA2. Beat Steve Faria; lost to Antron Brown5th
Feb. 25Phoenix, AZ2. Beat Steve Chrisman, Blake Alexander,
Billy Torrence and Scott Palmer1st
March 19Gainesville, FL2. Lost to Mike Salinas1st
April 9Las Vegas, NV5. 4Wide WINNER over Tony Schumacher,
Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown1st
April 22Houston, TX9. Beat Scott Palmer; lost to Leah Pritchett1st
April 29Charlotte, NC4. 4Wide WINNER over Doug Kalitta, Terry
McMillen and Clay Millican.1st


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