Reigning Champ Antron Brown Wins 2nd Round Duel, Race

April 2, 2017 -- Off the track, Steve Torrence doesn’t have a better friend than three-time and reigning NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel driving Champion Antron Brown.  On the track, though, it’s a different story.

Squaring off for the 22nd time as Top Fuel rivals during the second round of Sunday’s 18th annual Denso Spark Plug Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Torrence grabbed a substantial starting line advantage (.050-.065) at the wheel of his Capco Contractors entry but, at the finish, it was Brown with the win for the 21st time.

“I love Antron like a brother,” Torrence said, “but losing to him is still pretty frustrating.  You tell yourself you’re losing to the best but it’s still a loss.  I thought we had the better car today.  We ran really well in qualifying (grabbing the No. 1 spot for the second straight year and earned a category-best eight qualifying bonus points) but if you can’t make it all work on race day, qualifying doesn’t matter.”

The 33-year-old Torrence, who qualified No. 1 for the 14th time in his pro career at 3.720 seconds, slowed to 4.035 against Brown whose 3.822, while not world-beating, was enough to take him to the semifinals and eventually to his first win of the year.

If there was a silver lining for Torrence, who finished third in last year’s Mello Yello driver standings, it was that the tour next moves to Royal Purple Raceway in Houston, the only track on which the former Top Alcohol World Champion has reached the finish line ahead of Brown.

“We got him in the semis (at last year’s NHRA Spring Nationals),” Torrence recalled, “but then we couldn’t close the deal (losing the final to Doug Kalitta).  Maybe we can get it done this time.  We always have lots of support in Houston.  It’s a home race.  We’ll have a lot of Capco people there, a lot of friends.” 

Despite his early departure on Sunday, Torrence remains solidly positioned in the middle of the Top 10 after four of the 18 races that determine the 10 drivers eligible to compete in the NHRA’s  Countdown to the Championship.

“A lot can still happen,” he said, “but right now the DSR (Don Schumacher Racing) cars are kinda having their way with it.  They’ve won the first four races and they’re 1-2-3 in points.  With the Countdown format (in which the points are adjusted after the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis), you don’t worry too much about someone having a big lead but there are a lot of other things at stake – like a spot in the Traxxas Shootout.

“Last year, we’d already taken care of that by now.  Maybe we can do it at Houston.”



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