Texan Stumbles at Gatornationals, But So Do Key Rivals in Mello Yello Series

March 18, 2018 -- A change in the weather threw the sport’s most talented crew chiefs a wicked curve ball Sunday during the 49th running of the NHRA’s Amalie Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

After qualifying in bright sunshine, teams were greeted Sunday by overcast skies that changed the performance dynamic and sent many of the favorites, including Texan Steve Torrence, to an early exit.

Torrence, who drove the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to an impressive victory three weeks ago, his ninth in the previous 21 Mello Yello tour events, didn’t make it beyond round one this time, extending his frustration in one of the sport’s biggest races.

Although he left the starting line with a .035 of a second advantage, Torrence felt the car start to lose traction shortly thereafter and then make a strong right to left move that carried it across the centerline resulting in a disqualification loss to Mike Salinas.

If there was a silver lining, it was that the 34-year-old cancer survivor, a former world champion in the Top Alcohol Dragster category and a top three finisher in the sport’s premier class each of the last two seasons, retained the point lead even with a point deduction for the center line violation.

“We’re pretty lucky to be getting out of here with the points lead,” said the 17-time pro tour winner.  “We thought we were looking pretty good after qualifying but the weather change leveled the playing field and Mike Salinas took advantage.  That’s a good new team over there and I’m looking forward to getting some payback later on.

“We’ll just suck it up and get ready for Las Vegas (and the 19th renewal of the Denso Spark Plugs Nationals, April 6-8),” he said.  “My dad’ll be running the next two races with us in the other Capco car so that’ll give us some extra firepower against these multi-car teams.”


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