World Champ Falls to Salinas in Thunder Valley Nationals Final

June 16, 2019 -- Steve Torrence lost his bid for another piece of drag racing history Sunday but still managed to extend his point lead as Top Fuel runner-up in the 19th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

The reigning World Champion, who swept the six races comprising last year’s Countdown to the Championship, was trying to become the first driver in NHRA Top Fuel history to win as many as six consecutive races more than once.

Unfortunately, he came up .017 of a second short against Mike Salinas when his 10,000 horsepower Capco Contractors dragster slowed dramatically right before the finish in the troublesome right hand lane. 

Salinas won in 3.836 seconds at a finish line speed of 325.69 miles per hour.  Torrence, who forged a .039 of a second advantage at the start, trailed in 3.892 seconds at only 287.60 mph.  The result evened the final round record between the only two drivers with multiple wins this season.

“My guys did a great job of getting us down that right lane with a chance to win,” Torrence said.  “We’ll reload and get ready for the next one. There’s still a lot of racing to do before the Countdown.”

When qualifying begins Friday in the 13th annual Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio, the last of four consecutive June races, Torrence will lead Doug Kalitta by 339 points and Salinas by 357.  Each round won is worth 20 points.

The point leader will be joined in Norwalk by his dad, Billy, who will be back in the cockpit of the second Capco Contractors dragster, a car in which he won earlier this year at Phoenix, Ariz., and in which he was runner-up to his son at Topeka, Kansas.

“That’s a really good race team,” Torrence said of the unit assembled by Salinas, a San Jose, Calif., businessman who this year is making his first concerted bid for the championship.  “They’re gonna win a lot of races and make it real interesting once we get to the playoffs.”

The No. 3 qualifier behind Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett, Torrence took out veteran Pat Dakin in round one and Clay Millican in round two before beating pseudo-teammate and Capco crew member Dom Lagana in a key semifinal in which he lost the choice of lanes for the final to Salinas.

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