‘Modified’ Sweep Still Possible

SEATTLE, Wash. – Briefly stripped of his aura of invincibility, reigning Mello Yello champion Steve Torrence aims to reclaim it this week when he sends his Capco Contractors dragster after the Top Fuel championship at the 31st annual Cat Spot NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceway.

After winning eight times, forging a lead of more than 500 points and becoming the first driver to clinch a berth in the NHRA playoffs, Torrence saw his streak of consecutive final round appearances come to an end last week at Sonoma Raceway when he dropped a narrow semifinal decision not to Clay Millican or Antron Brown or Doug Kalitta or any of the other usual suspects, but to his dad, Billy.

The elder Torrence, who will miss this week’s race because of the demands of business, went on to win the race, keeping alive his hopes of joining his son as one of the 10 drivers eligible to compete for the championship in the six-race Countdown.

“That was a helluva drag race,” the younger Torrence said of a showdown decided by .041 of second that delivered his dad’s first win in seven head-to-head meetings. “I got a little at the start, but he was right with me and he just had a little more car at the finish.

“We’re both really competitive,” acknowledged the 35-time tour winner and only driver ever to sweep the Countdown. “He wants to beat me; I want to beat him but, at the end of the day, we’re both blessed just to be able to race as family and compete at the very top level of this sport.”

In addition to halting his son’s streak of final round appearances at nine straight, Billy Torrence also ended the 36-year-old’s bid to become just the eighth driver to sweep the Western Swing, the arduous three races-in-three weeks stretch that for the last 20 years has separated the championship contenders from the pretenders.

“That stung a little bit,” Torrence said, “but the deal is, I won one race in the ‘Swing (Denver), he won one (Sonoma) and if we win here at Seattle, it’s still a sweep for the family.”

Torrence has won all three races in the ‘Swing, just not in the same season. In fact, it’s been six years since he last won at Seattle, a drought he hopes to end this week in the absence of his father.

(After 15 of 18 races leading into the Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship)

1. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 1486
2T. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster 914
2T. Antron Brown, Pittsboro, Ind., Matco Tools dragster 914
4. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Advance Auto Parts dragster 894
5. Doug Kalitta, Saline, Mich., Mac Tools dragster 887
6. Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Scrappers Racing dragster 802
7. Leah Pritchett, Danville, Ind., Mopar Dodge dragster 749
8. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., DHL/Kalitta Air dragster 719
9T. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Intimigator dragster 641
9T. Austin Prock, Indianapolis, Ind., Rocky Mountain Twist dragster 641

12. Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 610

So far, so good…. (A season summary)

Date Site Qualifying position and race detail Points

Feb. 10 Pomona, CA 1. Beat Steve Faria, bye, Mike Salinas; lost to Doug Kalitta. 2nd
Feb. 24 Phoenix, AZ 14. Lost to Antron Brown 4th
March 10 Gainesville, FL 3. Beat Dom Lagana; lost to Doug Kalitta 3rd
April 7 Las Vegas, NV 2. Lost in 2nd Quad 3rd
April 14 Houston, TX 2. Beat Kebin Kinsley, Austin Prock; lost to Antron Brown 3rd
April 28 Charlotte, NC 6. WINNER over Clay Millican (Terry McMillen, Leah Pritchett) 1st
May 5 Atlanta, GA 2. Beat Luigi Novelli, Scott Palmer, Shawn Reed 1st
and Brittany Force
May 19 Richmond, VA 4. Beat Todd Paton, Scott Palmer, Billy Torrence 1st
and Antron Brown
June 2 Chicago, IL 3. Beat Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton, Antron Brown 1st
and Mike Salinas
June 9 Topeka, KS 1. Beat Terry Totten, bye, Antron Brown and Billy Torrence 1st
June 16 Bristol, TN 3. Beat Pat Dakin, Clay Millican, Don Lagana; lost to Mike Salinas 1st
June 23 Norwalk, OH 5. Beat Jordan Vandergriff, Doug Kalitta, Brittany Force 1st
and Pat Dakin
July 7 Epping, NH 9. Beat Austin Prock, Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton 1st
and Scott Palmer
July 21 Denver, CO 1. Bye, beat Richie Crampton, Brittany Force and Clay Millican 1st
July 28 Sonoma, CA 2. Beat Steve Chrisman, Richie Crampton; lost to Billy Torrence 1st

The Champ at Pacific Raceways:

Last year at the Cat Spot Northwest Nationals: As the No. 1 qualifier, Steve beat Washington native Ron Smith and Aussie expatriate Richie Crampton before falling to Antron Brown in the semis.
Starts/Final Rounds/Wins/No. 1 Qualifier: 9/2/1/1
Steve’s quickest time at Pacific Raceways: 3.695 seconds, Aug. 7, 2016
Steve’s fastest speed at at Pacific Raceways:331.61 mph, Aug. 3, 2018
Steve’s won-lost record at at Pacific Raceways: 12-8
Steve’s best moment(s) at at Pacific Raceways: In 2012, after qualifying third, Steve beat Steve Chrisman, Khalid alBalooshi, Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon for the win.
Track records: 3.685 seconds by Antron Brown, Aug. 7, 2016; 331.61 mph by Steve Torrence, Aug. 3, 2018.

Looking Ahead

August 18 38th Lucas Oil Nationals Brainerd, Minn.
Sept. 2 65th Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals Indianapolis, Ind.
Sept. 15 +35th Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Reading, Pa.
Sept. 29 +22nd AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals St. Louis, Mo.
Oct. 13 +12th NHRA Carolina Nationals Charlotte, N.C.

+Indicates events won by Steve Torrence in 2018
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