Texan Overcomes Qualifying Struggles to Win 19th annual Denso Spark Plug Nationals

April 8, 2018 -- After struggling during qualifying, Steve Torrence recaptured his four-wide form Sunday and drove the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to a convincing victory in the 19th annual Denso Spark Plug Nationals before a sellout crowd at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It was the 34-year-old Texan’s second straight four-wide win and it made him the first Top Fuel driver to win four-wide races at two different tracks.  He was the four-wide winner last spring at zMAX Dragway at Charlotte, N.C., a track on which he will defend his title just three weeks hence.

Based on qualifying performance one certainly would not have expected Torrence to be among those running for the championship.  The 18-time NHRA tour winner didn’t get down the race track on either of his first three qualifying runs because of clutch issues.

When crew chief Richard Hogan finally went back to basics, Torrence responded by going from No. 16 in the qualifying order to No. 5 on his fourth and final qualifying run.  He then advanced out of the first quad by the narrowest of margins behind Clay Millican before posting his quickest time of the event (3.768 seconds) to win his second quad and reach the money round for the third time in his last four four-wide starts.

In the finale, he had the lead by half track and never looked back, winning in 3.771 seconds with eight-time series champion Tony Schumacher second at 3.790.  Doug Kalitta was third and three-time champ Antron Brown fourth.

“Those guys are all bad to the bone,” Torrence said of his three final quad opponents.  “I was just happy to have a good race car today because this sucker gave us all kinds of heck through qualifying. 

“Great racetrack and great crowds all week,” he continued.  “Just really exciting.   My guys did a great job.  We had some trouble in qualifying but, for the last qualifying session, we just set it up like my dad’s car and it went right down the track.  I’m just so proud of these Capco guys: Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana and everyone else who makes this car so bad ass.”

“Like I’ve said before, I’m just out there trying not to screw it up,” he said. “Fortunately, the driver did his job today and we get a big win that sends us home to Texas (for the April 20-22 NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas) with a lot of momentum. 

“(This win is) a testament to what these Capco boys can do.  When the going gets the toughest, they rise up and just keep pushing it,” said the 2005 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster champion.  “My old man (dad Billy) did a good job and this (trophy) goes back to Capco.  We’re headed back home tonight.  I’ll be at work in the morning and we’ll try to make some more money.  See you in Houston.”

Billy Torrence, making his second Top Fuel appearance of the season, had another strong showing even though he didn’t advance beyond the first quad.  The elder Torrence actually outqualified his son by one position and almost beat him out for the second transfer spot in the first quad when both ran 3.811.

The win, Torrence’s second of the year and his 11th in the last 30 NHRA tour events, enabled him to extend his point lead.  When the tour moves to Houston, he will start qualifying 33 points ahead of Schumacher and 43 ahead of Brown in his bid for a Mello Yello Championship that just eluded him the last two seasons.


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