After Countdown Winning Streak Ends at Six, Torrence Loses Point Lead

September 15, 2019 -- The magic that carried Steve Torrence to a sweep of the 2018 NHRA playoffs was unexpectedly absent Sunday as the reigning Mello Yello Champion and his usually flawless Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster fell to Clay Millican in the first round of the 35th annual Mopar Express Lane Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

After struggling through the qualifying process and winding up in the No. 8 slot, Torrence surrendered a narrow starting line advantage to the six-time former IHRA World Champion in their first round shootout and simply couldn’t make up the deficit at the finish, losing by .007 of a second.

The first of six races in the 2019 Countdown to the Championship was no kinder to Billy Torrence, Steve’s dad and the founder and CEO of Capco Contractors, who grabbed an early lead before his dragster lost traction and fell back against first round foe Mike Salinas.

The unexpected result knocked the younger Torrence out of the points lead for the first time since last April 27.  In two weeks, he 7will move on to the 22nd annual AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill. (St. Louis) trailing Doug Kalitta by 47 points and Brittany Force by 14 in his bid for a second straight championship.

The trouble for Team Capco began in qualifying where, for the first time this season, neither of its drivers figured in the distribution of qualifying bonus points.  It makred just the fifth time in the last four years that Steve Torrence has been shut out of what the racers call “the little points” in races in which qualifying was not abbreviated.

“Maple Grove has been a problem for us,” Torrence said.  “We’re either really good or really bad (three first round losses and a DNQ along with a win and a runner-up in nine appearances) and this year we just weren’t that good.  Good race with “Hillbiilly” (Millican), but it didn’t go our way.  I didn’t do my job.  

“He threw a .047 light (starting line reaction time) at us, but that’s what you get when you’ve got that big No. 1 on your car,” Torrence said.  “Big bullseye and today they hit it.  We just need to regroup and go back to doing what we do.  There’s still a lot of racing left.  At least the pressure’s off on whether or not we can sweep (again).”

Not only was it the first time this season that both Capco cars were out in the first round, it’s just the second time in the last 14 events that one or both haven’t reached the final round.  Between them, the Torrences had won 10 of 18 races entering the playoffs and 17 of the previous 26.


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