Texan Falls to No. 1 Qualifier and Eight-Time Champion

March 19, 2017 -- Texan Steve Torrence avenged an early-season loss to Shawn Reed and beat defending champion Brittany Force Sunday but he couldn’t overcome Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army at the 48th annual Amalie Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

“The Army car was just bad ass this week,” Torrence said of the dragster driven by the eight-time series champion, No. 1 qualifier and race winner.  “Our car almost made it but when I felt the tires starting to come loose, I just shut it off.  I knew there was no way we were going to catch him.  

“The DSR (Don Schumacher Racing) cars have been kicking our butts so far,” admitted the driver of the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster that carried him to a third place points finish a year ago.  “Maybe we can start giving them some payback at Vegas (which in two weeks plays host to the 17th annual Denso Spark Plug Nationals).”

After qualifying No. 5 and extending his streak of top eight starts to a category-best 35 spanning three seasons, Torrence turned back Reed in round one with a solid 3.740 and 325.22 miles per hour and then stopped pseudo-teammate Force with a 1,000 foot time of 3.759 at 325.77 mph to reach the semis for the first time since last October. 

Against Schumacher, whom he has beaten in the final round for three of his eight Mello Yello tour victories, the 33-year-old cancer survivor left first with a solid .070-.098 reaction time advantage but he just wasn’t able to sustain forward momentum beyond 330 feet. 

Despite the disappointing result, Torrence equaled his best finish ever in the Gatornationals and moved to within 17 points of Force for fifth place after the third of 18 races leading into the NHRA’s Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship.

“There’s a lot of racing left,” Torrence said.  “We’re a little behind right now but we’re catching up.  My guys are pretty pumped and I am, too.”

Torrence, who was concerned that his driving would be a little rusty after the three week layoff between events, was solid on race day with reaction times of .067, .073 and .070, each good enough to get him the early lead.

“We won at Vegas last fall (in the Toyota Nationals) so we’re anxious to get back there and see if we can put a little streak together,” said the 2005 NHRA world champion in Top Alcohol Dragster.


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