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After 27 Straight Round Wins, World Champ Loses in Top Fuel Final

POMONA, Calif. – Reigning World Champion Steve Torrence ran his Top Fuel winning streak to 27 straight rounds Monday before running afoul of veteran Doug Kalitta in the final round of the rain-postponed 59th annual Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Torrence, who won the last six races of the 2018 season, appeared fully capable of extending that streak after driving his Capco Contractors dragster to the No. 1 qualifying position at 3.657 seconds, just .002 of a second off his personal best, and breezing through the first three rounds.

In the final, though, his usually flawless Capco Contractors entry suffered a loss of traction that led to an engine failure that provided an opening for Kalitta, who slip through to win the season-opener for the second straight year. Kalitta won in 4.014 seconds at 269.29 miles per hour. Torrence was a tick better on the track at 4.008 but gave up a little at the starting line and that made the difference.

As a result, the 36-year-old Texas will move on to Phoenix in two weeks second in Mello Yello driver points, the first time he has not been No. 1 since last year’s Winternationals.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” said Torrence. “No excuses, we just got in a pedalfest with Doug and he won on a holeshot. Great race, but I’m already looking forward to going to Phoenix (for the Feb. 22-24 Magic Dry Arizona Nationals). We know we’ve got a good car, we ran good at Phoenix during testing and we’ll just try to get back in the winners’ circle when we get there.

“I’m so proud of these bad-to-the-bone Capco boys. Their blood, sweat and tears go into this team every day and that’s what makes the difference.”

The team’s focus now will shift from trying to tie Tony Schumacher’s record for consecutive Top Fuel victories to eclipsing the former champion’s record for victories over three consecutive seasons. Schumacher won 26 races over the course of the 2007, 2008 and 2009 campaigns. Torrence has 19 tour victories since the start of the 2017 season.

The other Capco Contractors dragster, the one driven by Steve’s dad, Billy, also fell to Kalitta in round two.

59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals:

Qualify – Steve Torrence, No. 1 at 3.657 seconds, 331.61 mph.
Round 1 – S. Torrence, 3.688 seconds, 330.96 mph, Steve Faria, 4.626 seconds, 263.18 mph.
Round 2 – S. Torrence, 3.678 seconds, 331.36 mph, advanced on a bye.
Semifinals – S. Torrence, 3.688 seconds, 329.50 mph, def. Mike Salinas, 3.687, 318.47 mph.
FINAL – Steve Torrence, 4.008 seconds, 240.25 mph, lost to Doug Kalitta, 4.014, 269.29 mph.

Qualify – Billy Torrence, No. 2 at 3.662, 326.79 mph.
Round 1 – B. Torrence, 4.103 seconds, 266.92 mph, def. Cameron Ferre, 7.368, 88.02 mph..
Round 2 – B. Torrence, 3.670 seconds, 331.04 mph, lost to Doug Kalitta, 3.716 seconds, 325.69
mph (margin of victory, .000 of a second).

* * * *

(After 1 of 18 races leading into the Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship)

1. Doug Kalitta, Saline, Mich., Mac Tools dragster 117
2. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 106
3. Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Scrappers Racing dragster 75
4. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Oil Intimigator dragster 72
5. Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 61
6. Austin Prock, Indianapolis, Ind., Rocky Mountain Twist dragster 52
6. Leah Pritchett, Danville, Ind., Sparkling Ice dragster 52
8. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Advance Auto Parts dragster 38
9. Antron Brown, Pittsboro, Ind., Matco Tools dragster 37
10. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., DHL/Kalitta Air dragster 35
10. Scott Palmer, Cassville, Mo., Magic Dry Organic dragster 35

* * * *

35th annual Magic Dry NHRA Arizona Nationals
Feb. 22-24, 2019
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park
Phoenix, Ariz.


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