Texan Ousted in First Round for First Time in 20 Races

August 6, 2017 -- When you’re the quickest gun in town, as Steve Torrence has been for the last two months, you know that every wannabe in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is hoping to build a reputation at your expense.   

Many fired and fell back but Terry McMillen found the mark Sunday and sent the sport’s hottest driver home in the very first round of the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

Torrence left the starting line first, as he usually does, but that edge, coupled with the fact that he directed the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to its quickest run of the weekend, only got him to the finish line second, .018 of a second behind McMillen’s career best effort.

That upset ended a streak of 19 consecutive races in which Torrence had avoided a first round loss and, coupled with Antron Brown’s victory over McMillen in the final round, it knocked him out of the Mello Yello point lead for the first time since June 10.  

When the tour moves to Brainerd, Minn., two weeks hence for the 36th running of the Lucas Oil Nationals, the 34-year-old cancer survivor will trail three-time and reigning world champion Antron Brown by 13 points, less than one competitive round.

“If we had it to do over again, I don’t think we’d change anything,” Torrence said.  “We went out and made our best run of the weekend (3.764 seconds at a finish line speed of 327 mph) and we just got beat.  Terry and those guys did a helluva job.  That was second quickest of the day by just a thousandth of a second (at 3.724). 

“It was just a great effort on their part.  All you can do is congratulate those guys, suck it up and get ready for the next one.  We ran our number, what (crew chief Richard) Hogan thought the track would take.  They took their shot and made it work.”

With just two races remaining before the points are adjusted for the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship, the battle to start the six-race playoffs from the No. 1 spot has come down to Torrence and Brown, fast friends off the track, faster rivals on it, and Brown’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Leah Pritchett, who will start at Brainerd 76 points behind the Texan.

“It’s gonna be a battle right down to the wire,” Torrence said of the battle for the regular season championship and the 30-point edge it provides heading into the playoffs.  “To be in the hunt for No. 1 seed  at this point in the season, battling with Antron and Leah, what could be better?”

Despite the early ouster, Torrence left with the track speed record after no one was able to eclipse the 330.47 mph number he posted a year ago.


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