Texan Protects Point Lead in Return to Virginia Motorsports Park

June 6, 2018 -- Mello Yello point leader Steve Torrence would like to think that he has an edge at this week’s Virginia Nationals insomuch as he is one of those with previous experience at Virginia Motorsports Park, the Richmond-area track that hasn’t hosted an event in the NHRA series since 2009.

He’d like to believe that, but he doesn’t. 

“That’s ancient history,” said the 35-year-old Texan.  “The last time I raced here (2006), they were running the quarter mile.  We ran the big tires on the back and we had parachutes.  That’s about the only thing that relates to what we’re doing today.

“The advantage I do have is (crew chief) Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana (Jr.) and this Capco crew,” he said.  “They’re the best at adapting to whatever gets thrown at them.  You drive better when you go up there knowing you’ve got a bad ass race car and I go up there every round knowing we’re bad ass.”

Winner of 11 of the last 28 NHRA national events, Torrence has become accustomed to sitting atop the driver standings as he has for all but one race this season and as he has after 18 of the last 23 tour stops.  However, when he rolls his Capco Contractors dragster to the line for Friday’s first qualifying session, his lead will be just 25 points, 95 fewer than it was just two races ago.

“You need somebody pushing you and Clay’s definitely giving us a shove,” Torrence said of Clay Millican, who has won the last two races in the series including last week’s JEGS Route 66 Nationals at Chicago.

“Those guys are definitely contenders and it’s pretty awesome that ours are the two teams that are leading the points right here, halfway to the Countdown,” he said.

Torrence’s point is that since the NHRA adopted the Countdown format in 2007, every Top Fuel title has been one by a driver from one of the sport’s multi-car mega-teams, seven of them by drivers employed at Don Schumacher Racing, Inc., three by drivers racing for Alan Johnson when he enjoyed al-Anabi sponsorship and the most recent by John Force Racing’s Brittany Force, who benefits from Johnson’s tuning expertise.

Independents Torrence and Millican know they are in a position to finally end that stranglehold.

In fact, Torrence has come close the last two seasons, finishing third in 2016 before losing the title in the second round of the final race of the 2017 season after leading the points for most of the campaign.

“It’s tough out here, but beating the mega-teams, that’s what motivates me and these Capco boys,” he said.  “To be racing the best in the business and to have success, that’s a rush.  Yeah, there’s a big sense of accomplishment when you come away with a win against DSR or Force or Kalitta because they’ve set the bar so high.

“But they’re not the only cars out here that can win anymore,” Torrence said.  “We’ve shown that.  Clay’s shown that.  Terry McMillen has.  It’s gonna be a battle to the final day, just like last year – and I say may the best independent win.”

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