Newly-Crowned Series Champ Goes for Countdown Perfection at Pomona

November 5, 2018 -- Steve Torrence pursues playoff perfection this week when he sends his Capco Contractors dragster after the Top Fuel championship in the season-ending 54th annual Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway.

Although he already has clinched the $500,000 Mello Yello championship, in the process etching his name in the NHRA archives as the first driver to win five Countdown races in one season and the first to win titles in both the Fuel and Alcohol divisions, the 35-year-old Texan still has a couple more items to cross off his competitive bucket list.

First is that matter of sweeping the playoffs, something conventional wisdom once suggested was not possible, especially in a category as volatile as Top Fuel.  The other is ending 10 years of frustration in the Auto Club Finals, an event in which he has qualified no better than fifth and never advanced beyond the second round.

In fact, the Auto Club Finals is the only event in the series in which his average starting position is worse than No 8.  At the traditional season finale his average starting position has been 10th and only three times has he qualified well enough to earn lane choice for round one.

Considering what he has done elsewhere, especially the last three seasons, and the fact that he has won the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals contested on the same piece of concrete-and-asphalt, his struggles at the Finals are difficult to fathom but unlikely to continue.

Torrence has likened his performance this season to 2005 when he won the NHRA’s Top Alcohol Dragster World Championship.  That year, he won nine of 13 national and divisional races, was runner-up in two others and finished the year with a 37-4 record.

While not quite as dominant this year, his statistics nevertheless are eye-popping.  He comes into the finale having posted a 54-13 record that includes 10 wins in as many final round appearances.  No one has won 10 races since Larry Dixon won 12 times en route to the 2010 championship and no one has won five-in-a-row since 2008.

“Every round that we go is history and you don’t have an opportunity very often to make history,” Torrence said after his most recent win.  “’I’ve said that if you win ‘em all, the points will take care of themselves.  I didn’t really mean it, but here we are with a chance to do something no one else has ever done and that is sweep the (six races in the) Countdown.

“With the car that Richard and Bobby (crew chief Richard Hogan and assistant Bobby Lagana Jr.) and the guys have given me, my confidence has been through the roof,” Torrence said, “because every time I roll up there I know I’ve got a car that can win, no matter the weather, no matter the track, no matter what’s going on.

“We’ve just tried to break it down to its simplest form.  One round at a time; one race at a time,” Torrence said.  “That’s how we’ll approach the Finals, too – just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

What he’s been doing is changing the balance of power in the sport’s signature category, winning 30 percent of the races he’s run over the last three seasons (21 of 70) while compiling a 149-49 record and becoming the first driver not affiliated with one of the sport’s mega teams to win a Top Fuel title during the Countdown Era.


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