Texan Beats Rival Millican in Final Round at AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals

September 23, 2018 -- With a Sunday victory in the 21st AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park, Steve Torrence and his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster remained perfect in the NHRA’s 2018 Countdown to the Championship.  That’s two up, two down and four to go. 

Nevertheless, the talented Texan has not yet been able to create enough separation between himself and rival Clay Millican to really enjoy the ride.

“Those guys have been bad ass all year,” Torrence said of Millican and crew chief David Grubnic.  “This is going to be a really hard-fought championship but I couldn’t have a better group to be backing me up than these Capco boys.” 

When qualifying for the AAA Texas Fall Nationals begins Oct. 5 at the Texas Motorplex outside Dallas, Torrence will lead Millican by just 70 points in their increasingly tense duel for the $500,000 Mello Yello championship.

 “I’m blessed and fortunate to be part of this Capco team,” said the 23-time tour winner, “and after all their hard word, I’m just glad I didn’t drop the ball.  I’m very confident moving forward.  This is all we could have asked for to start the Countdown.”

In winning at Gateway for the second straight year, Torrence flirted with performance perfection.  After qualifying No. 1 at 3.675 seconds, the 35-year-old cancer survivor stopped the timers in 3.751, 3.771, 3.772 and 3.779 seconds and for the second straight week narrowly defeated Millican in a one-on-one showdown.

Sunday, that duel came in the final.  The previous week, it came a round earlier.  On both occasions, Torrence grabbed a starting line advantage that proved pivotal.  At Gateway, his .043 of a second reaction gave him a .040 lead that he never relinquished.

It was the seventh win of the year for the one-time Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005) and it gave him 15 Mello Yello tour victories over the past two seasons, twice as many as anyone else in the Top Fuel division.

Nevertheless, he knows better than most that the Countdown is the great equalizer. 

Last year, after dominating the regular season, winning seven races including the U.S. Nationals, he went to the final round at the first two playoff races and was poised to become the first driver to win NHRA championships in both the Fuel and Alcohol divisions when disaster struck.

After qualifying No. 1 at Dallas, he totaled the most consistent car on the tour in a second round crash, finished the season in a backup car and lost the championship to Brittany Force on the final day.  It was a “close, but no cigar” moment that has brought him back with even greater resolve.


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