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TORRENCE EYES SECOND STRAIGHT TITLE
But Mello Yello Champ Under Seige at Auto Club Finals

November 8, 2019 -- Through the polarized lenses of his new Freebyrds model BEX sunglasses, Steve Torrence can see clearly the path to the Top Fuel championship that would make him just the eighth driver in NHRA history to win back-to-back titles in drag racing’s signature category.

For the 36-year-old Texan, it simply is a matter of turning on four win-lights this week at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in a Capco Contractors dragster in which he has won nine times this year and in which he has appeared in more than half the final rounds contested over the last three seasons (36 of 71)..

“There are lots of different scenarios (that could send him back to the podium as Mello Yello Champion),” said the 36-time pro tour winner, “but if we just go out and win the race, everything else will take care of itself.”

The race in question is the 55th annual Auto Club Finals, the wrap-up to the NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship and an event in which Torrence is the defending champion.  He comes in with a narrow 16-point advantage over Brittany Force, but she isn’t the only one trying to spoil what thus far has been another fairy tale season for the cancer and heart attack survivor.

Hard luck veteran Doug Kalitta is just 55 points off the lead and Torrence’s Capco teammate, dad Billy, is only 76 behind.  Nevertheless, even though the season finale pays points-and-a-half, another ploy used by the NHRA to try to keep as many drivers in contention as possible, few would bet against the Texas terror.

“Look, we know from experience what can happen out here,” Torrence said in reference to a 2017 season in which he lost the title on the final day, “but if we execute our game plan, it’ll be hard to beat us.  I know these Capco Boys are gonna give me a good race car and my job is to bring it home.”

After making history a year ago by becoming the first driver in playoff history, regardless of category, to sweep all six races in the Countdown, Torrence has been all-or-nothing this time around, mixing three final round playoff appearances with a pair of uncharacteristic first round losses.

“We get everybody’s best shot,” he admitted, “and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s just a privilege and a blessing to be able to compete at this level with a family race team but we know how easy it is to go from hero to zero and vice versa. 

“Racin’ with my dad in the playoffs has been unbelievable,” Torrence said.  “He’s done a great job winning two races.  I’m really proud of him and I’m proud of this Capco team no matter what happens.  I wouldn’t trade a single one of our guys for anyone else.”

There was a time when Torrence didn’t look forward to either of the NHRA events at Auto Club Raceway and especially not the Finals.  In his first 10 starts in the season finale, he never advanced beyond the second round and exited in the opening stanza six times.

However, he followed up last year’s win in the Auto Club finals with a No. 1 qualifying effort and a runner-up finish in last February’s season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals.

“Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana (Jr.) have got a good handle on things wherever we go,” he said.  “I know when I go up there that I’m gonna have shot – and that’s all you can ask for.”




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