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Joins Schumacher and Amato as Winner of Three Straight NHRA Top Fuel Titles

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Steve Torrence did what was necessary Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but fell just short of winning for the 41st time in his professional drag racing career.

The 37-year-old Texan drove his Capco Contractors dragster into the final round at the season-ending 20th annual Dodge Finals but couldn’t add the icing to the championship he celebrated with family and crew including injured teammate Dom Lagana, who texted congratulations from his hospital bed in Indianapolis.

Torrence clinched the very first Camping World championship in somewhat anticlimactic fashion when his principal rival for the title, veteran Doug Kalitta, lost a heartbreaking first round race to Rookie-of-the-Year Justin Ashley.

That rendered moot the myriad other possible title scenarios and made Torrence just the third driver in NHRA history (after Joe Amato and Tony Schumacher) to win as many as three consecutive championships in the sport’s signature category.

Nevertheless, this was an emotional milestone for the only driver ever to sweep the six races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship, the playoff system that, ironically, was waived this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am excited to win our third championship” he acknowledged, “(but) I’m a big Doug Kalitta fan. I know what it takes to get here, what it takes to be in this position and how hard every one of those guys over there (at Kalitta Racing) work and how hard Doug’s worked.

“The amount of time that he’s spent out here, to come up short, not just one time, but so many times, it’s a mixed emotion for me,” he said. “I know where his head’s at right now. I know how he feels. I’m happy for my team and myself, but I was saddened for Doug and that whole Mac Tools team. They fought so hard. They had a great car.”

Congratulated at the end of the racetrack after winning his first round race against fellow Texan Kebin Kinsley, Torrence was told that the TV crew had received a text message from Lagana, a revelation that promptly re-ignited a roller coaster of emotions for the 40-time pro tour winner.

“You’re gonna be emotional when you get down there and they tell you that you’re a three-time world champion,” he said, “but then they tell you that Dom just texted and said he loved you. It pulls at your heart.”

Lagana was injured in a car crash in Brownsburg, Ind., following a Torrence victory last August in the Dodge Indy Nationals. The accident and aftermath were difficult for the entire Capco team, but Torrence hit an personal low two weeks later when, while he was trying “to win one for Dom,” lost in the semifinals of the sport’s biggest single event, the Labor Day U.S. Nationals.

“These (Capco boys) spend countless hours and days and weeks working on this race car and then they give it to me with the hopes that I’m going to go do my job,” Torrence said. “(The Nationals), after Dom’s accident, was extremely difficult. I never found myself in an emotionally motivated situation where you’re trying to do it for your brother (who’s) fighting for his life.

“You want nothing more than to win that race for him (but) I went up there and lost on a holeshot (to Leah Pruett). I didn’t take it well,” he admitted. “I didn’t do my job that race but, fortunately, we were able to redirect our focus.

“(Through) nothing short of a miracle and the grace of the Good Lord, Dom is recovering,” he said of the younger brother of car chief Bobby Lagana Jr. “He’s gonna be banged up, in bad shape, but we’re gonna do whatever we have to do to get him back out here with us”

A cancer survivor who now advocates on behalf of those facing similar challenges, Torrence said he doesn’t necessarily believe that because he’s won three championships, he is a better driver today than he was when he turned pro. He does believe, however, that he is a better “racer” than he was when he lost the title on the last day of the 2017 season to Brittany Force.

“It’s not my driving (that has improved), it’s my outlook on everything else,” he said of three dominating seasons. “You grow as a person. You can be mature in business and you can be mature in your everyday life, but competition brings out a different side of you (and) you have to be able to harness those emotions.

“I’ve gotten a lot better. (I know) I’ve dug myself a hole with a lot of people,” he continued. “You only get one chance to make a first impression and I screwed that up with a lot of folks. We try to do the best we can. We do this as a family. Yes, it’s a job, but it’s what we do as a family for fun with every one of these guys. You go out there, put your best foot forward and maybe try to change people’s perceptions.

“That’s what I’ve really worked on the last couple seasons,” he said, “not so much wearing my heart on my sleeve but trying (instead) to control my emotions better in competition situations.”

Even though he contested only 10 of the 11 events in the abbreviated Camping World Series, Torrence went to seven finals, won four times and finished 193 points ahead of Kalitta, whom he beat by a mere three points in 2019. Billy Torrence, Billy Torrence, the No. 1 qualifier as driver of the second Capco Contractors entry, finished third in points.

Dodge Finals

Qualify – Steve Torrence, No. 2 at 3.731 seconds at 330.39 miles per hour.
Qualifying bonus points – 3 for second quick time in Q2.
Round 1 – S.Torrence, 3.735 seconds, 325.45 mph, def. Kebin Kinsley, 3.937, 285.95 mph.
Round 2 – S. Torrence, 3.808 seconds, 323.881 mph, def. Troy Buff, 4.117, 215.07 mph.
Semifinals – S. Torrence, 3.752 seconds, 326.24 mph, def. Justin Ashley, 3.728, 325.77 mph.
FINAL – Steve Torrence, 3.740, 322.19 mph, lost to Antron Brown, 3.759, 315.34 mph.

Qualify – Billy Torrence, No. 1 at 3.728 seconds at 325.30 miles per hour.
Qualifying bonus points: 8, 4 for quick time in Q1, 4 for quick time in Q2
Round 1 – B. Torrence, 3.777 seconds, 325.22 mph, def. Cameron Ferre, 4.073, 294.95 mph.
Round 2 – B. Torrence, 3.796 seconds, 324.67 mph, was unopposed.
Semifinals – B. Torrence, 6.742 seconds, 87.52 mph, lost to Antron Brown, 4.041, 232.27 mph.

* * * *


1. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster1015
2. Doug Kalitta, Saline, Mich., Mac Tools dragster 822
3. Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 798
4. Leah Pruett, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Dodge SRT dragster 754
5. Antron Brown, Pittsboro, Ind., Matco Tools dragster 709
6. Shawn Langdon, Danville, Ind., Global Electronic Technology dragster 595
7. Justin Ashley, Plainview, N.Y., Strutmasters dragster 594
8. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster 493
9. Tony Schumacher, Austin, Texas, Okuma/Sandvik dragster 464

10. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Intimigator dragster 436

Chasing History (Best four-year runs)
Steve Torrence -Tony Schumacher-Joe Amato
(Steve Torrence’s 2020 Top Fuel championship was his third in succession. He joins Tony Schumacher and Joe Amato as the only Top Fuel drivers to win as many as three straight NHRA titles. Below is a comparison of each driver’s four best consecutive seasons.

Tony Schumacher (2006-2009)

Races Finals Wins No. 1* Low ET W-L Standing

2006 23 8 5 13 13 41-18 CHAMPION
2007 23 6 6 12 3 32-17 CHAMPION
2008 24 18 15 9 3 76-9 CHAMPION
2009 24 7 5 2 2 47-19 CHAMPION

TOTALS 94 39 31 36 21 1 96-63(75.6%)
*Indicates quickest elapsed time during eliminations

Schumacher was 36 when he started his four-year run and 39 when it ended
Schumacher went to the final round every 2.41 races from 2006-2009
Schumacher won every 3.0 races from 2006-2009

Steve Torrence (2016-2019)

Races Finals Wins No. 1* Low ET W-L Standing

2017 24 11 8 30 56-16 2nd
2018 24 11 11 3 4 58-13 CHAMPION
2019 24 14 9 5 6 60-15 CHAMPION
2020 10 7 4 3 2 29-6 CHAMPION

TOTALS 82 43 33 14 12 203-60 (77.2%)
*Indicates quickest elapsed time during eliminations

Torrence was 34 when he finished second in 2017. He now is 37.

Torrence has gone to the final round every 1.93 races from 2017 to the present
Torrence has won every 2.44 races from 2017 to the present

Joe Amato (1989-1992)

Races Finals Wins No. 1* Low ET W-L Standing

1989 19 7 4 4 4 39-15 2nd
1990 19 10 6 6 7 47-13 CHAMPIION
1991 18 8 4 5 6 39-14 CHAMPION
1992 18 5 3 11 32-15 CHAMPION

TOTALS7430171618157-57 (73.3%)
*Indicates quickest elapsed time during eliminations

Amato was 45 when he started his four-year run and 49 when it ended
Amato went to the final round every 2.48 races from 1989-1992
Amato won every 4.35 races from 1989-1992

* * * *
52nd Amalie Gatornationals
March 12-14, 2021
Gainesville Raceway
Gainesville, Fla.


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