Contenders Out Early at Charlotte
Torrence Moves on to Pennsylvania in Second Place

September 17, 2017 -- Neither of the top four seeds in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship was able to advance beyond the second round in Sunday’s playoff opener at zMAX Dragway and, as a result, veteran Doug Kalitta will be the Top Fuel point leader when racing resumes this week at Reading, Pa.
Kalitta took advantage of early exits by top-seeded Steve Torrence, reigning series champ Antron Brown, national record holder Leah Pritchett and eight-time series champion Tony Schumacher to win the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals and jump from sixth to first place in the race for the $500,000 Mello Yello bonus. 

He will start this week’s Dodge Nationals 14 points ahead of Torrence who, after becoming the first driver for a single car team to win the regular season championship in the Countdown Era, dropped a narrow decision to eventual runner-up Richie Crampton in Sunday’s second round.  

Torrence coaxed his Richard Hogan-tuned Capco Contractors dragster through the 1,000-foot course in a solid 3.782 seconds at a finish line speed of 325.30 miles per hour.  Unfortunately, Crampton was a tick quicker at 3.768 at the wheel of the Sealmaster dragster previously driven by Troy Coughlin Jr. 

“We made a good, solid run in the right lane,” Torrence said.  “We hadn’t gotten down that side all week (4.464 and 8.766 seconds during qualifying), but Richie was just a little quicker.  The only good thing about it is that everybody else at the top had the same kind of day.  Antron (Brown) and Tony (Schumacher) went out in the same round as we did and Papa John’s (the dragster driven by Leah Prtichett) didn’t even get that far.

“Like I’ve said before, it’s a new season.  It doesn’t make any difference what happened before.  It’s all about these last six races,” said the 34-year-old who is trying to become the first driver to win NHRA championships in both the alcohol and fuel divisions.  “Timing is everything.  Doug hadn’t won all year; now he’s leading the points. 

“That stings a little bit but it’s just motivation for me and my guys,” said the 15-time tour winner. 

The 2005 NHRA Champion in the Top Alcohol Dragster class, Torrence slowly has transformed his team into one of the most efficient in the sport.  After a career-best third place Top Fuel finish last year, the Texan won seven times during the regular season and outpaced Brown to win the regular season title.


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