Burned Piston Sends Texan to Runner-Up at Reading

September 24, 2017 -- A burned piston kept Steve Torrence and the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster out of the winners’ circle Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway but not before the Texan regained the points lead one third of the way through the Countdown to the NHRA Mello Yello Championship.
After grabbing a .013 of a second starting line advantage, Torrence apparently was on his way to victory in the 33rd annual Dodge Keystone Nationals when an imbalance in the air-fuel mixture caused a piston failure that slowed his potent Capco entry from a winning 3.741 second time at 326.63 miles per hour in the semifinals to 3.857 at only 248.76 mph in a final round loss to Brittany Force.

Even though he failed to get his eighth win of the year, the 34-year-old cancer survivor did manage to move around Doug Kalitta and back into the point lead as the tour moves this week to Madison, Ill., just across the river from St. Louis, for the 20th running of the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“Basically, we’re back where we started,” Torrence said, “and that’s good because we started 20 points ahead of everybody else.  Now it’s just a four-race Countdown instead of six.”

Still, it would have been nice to get a cushion which is exactly what Torrence thought was his halfway through the final round. 

“In my head, I was already popping the cork on the champagne bottle when it started burning the piston,” said the former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005).  The engine finally quit and she came flying by.”

Torrence’s mechanical issue gave Force her second win of the year and moved her up to third place in Countdown points behind Doug Kalitta.  Before the final, Torrence had made six straight trips down the 1,000-foot course without incident, each one of them in fewer than 3.79 seconds.  It was easily his best ever performance in the east coast event.  In fact, until Sunday, he never had gone as far as the semifinals. 

“We have to keep winning rounds,” Torrence said.  “There’s still a lot of racing left to do and all it takes is a mistake or two to turn you from a hero to a zero.”

After qualifying a solid third, Torrence for the second straight week found himself alongside fellow Texan Terry Haddock in the first round.  After sending the Temple resident packing, he earned his his biggest victory of the day when he dispatched national record-holding rival Leah Pritchett in round two.  He reached his 10th final round of the year by beating sometimes crew member and Capco test driver Dom Lagana in the semis.


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