Engine Misfire Puts Texan Out in Second Round at Phoenix

February 26, 2017 -- There are no sure things in drag racing, a reality to which Top Fuel title contender Steve Torrence can attest after exiting in the second round of the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals Sunday at Wildhorse Pass Motorsports Park.

Torrence, who finished third in last year’s Mello Yello Championship chase and who this week was the highest-qualified driver not employed by Don Schumacher Racing, appeared headed for a semifinal showdown with point leader and new national record holder Leah Pritchett until the 10,000 horsepower engine in his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster inexplicably began to drop cylinders.

That misfire condition slowed the talented Texan from his 3.684 second qualifying pace and from a strong 3.717 in the first round to only 4.516 seconds at just 180 miles per hour in round two which opened the door for unheralded Shawn Reed, who took advantage and earned the biggest round win of his brief pro career.  

The result kept Torrence winless in Arizona and left him in sixth place in Mello Yello points after the first two of the 18 events that will determine the 10 drivers eligible to compete for the $500,000 Mello Yello Championship.

“That one hurt,” Torrence admitted.  “We were struggling a little bit in qualifying.  We were running mid-70s and it seemed like everyone else was running mid-60s.  But you know my guys, they’re not going to be behind for long.  Hogan (crew chief Richard Hogan), Bobby (car chief Bobby Lagana) and A.J. (tuning consultant Alan Johnson) got their heads together and figured it out.

“After we ran that 3.68, I thought we were looking good.  The last thing I expected was for our hot rod to do what it did.  I know it’s good to see new people have success.  I just wish it didn’t have to be against us.

“Credit those guys, though, they made their best run (3.822) and even if the motor in our car had cleaned up, there was gonna be no catching ‘em,” Torrence said.

The fact that the 33-year-old Texan ran to a category-best 34 straight the number of races in which he has enjoyed the lane choice option in the first round proved to be small consolation after he watched Pritchett open up a lead of almost 100 points after the season’s first two races.

“We’ve kinda put ourselves in a hole,” said the cancer survivor and eight-time NHRA tour winner.  “The good thing is we’ve got a lot of time to dig out.  We’ll look at the data, see what we have and try to get after ‘em again in Gainesville (Fla., at the 48th annual Amalie Gatornationals, March 17-19).”



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