Next Two Events Crucial in Bid for Mello Yello Title

September 28, 2016 -- Steve Torrence’s slow playoff start has dropped the Texan and his Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition Top Fuel dragster from third to sixth in points as the pro tour moves this week to Maple Grove Raceway for the 32nd annual Dodge Nationals, halfway point in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.

Although this is the first time this season that the 33-year-old Mello Yello title contender will start an event from outside the Top 5, when you’ve stared down Hodgkins lymphoma, as he did as a teenager, and when you’ve rallied from a heart attack, as he did earlier this season, the immediate challenge doesn’t seem all that formidable.

“You can’t win anything without overcoming some adversity,” he said.  “The next two races are critical (this week’s event followed Oct. 13-16 by the 26th annual AAA Texas Fall Nationals at Dallas, Texas, a race in which Torrence was runner-up a year ago).  We need to go rounds.  It’s as simple as that.” 

While he has lost ground in the standings, the 2005 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster champion hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

“We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em now,” he joked as he prepared for his return to a Maple Grove track that has not been kind in the past.  “When we started the playoffs, they were back there behind us in the shadows.  Now they’re all out in the open where we can see them.  All we’ve gotta do is start picking ‘em off and I think we’ve got the ammunition to do it.”

Among those on whom the seven-time pro winner will focus special attention this week are pseudo-teammate Brittany Force, driver of the Monster Energy dragster on which Alan Johnson is a consultant -- just as he is on Torrence’s car, and former series champions Shawn Langdon and Tony Schumacher.  All three of those drivers capitalized last week when Torrence bowed out in the first round at St. Louis.

Despite his uncharacteristic inconsistency in the first two playoffs races, Torrence brings some impressive performance credentials into Maple Grove where he will try to extend to 20 the number of consecutive races in which he has earned at least one qualifying bonus point.  That’s the longest active streak in either of the two fuel categories. 

In the 74 qualifying sessions in which he has participated this year, Torrence has been quickest in 29.  In three different events (Las Vegas, Denver and Sonoma, Calif.) he was quickest in EVERY qualifying session and his total of 124 of what the drivers call “little points” (qualifying bonus points) means that he has earned an average of little less than seven of the maximum 12 points at every race he’s run.

Still, he knows qualifying is just for position and bragging rights.  The championship is all about what happens on Sunday. 

“I’ve got a great race car and a great team,” he said.  “We set the national record with this car (3.671 seconds) and we’ve gone to six final rounds with big wins in two of the NHRA majors.  We know what we can do.  We just need to go out and get back after ‘em this weekend.”


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