Two-Time Mello Yello Champ Qualifies No. 1 at First Race Since February

July 11, 2020 -- A hundred-and-thirty-nine days after he hoisted the winner’s trophy at Phoenix in the last NHRA event contested before the shutdown mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Steve Torrence was back in a familiar position Saturday after guiding his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to the No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday’s E3 Spark Plugs Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

The two-time reigning Mello Yello champion sped through the 1,000-foot timers in 3.779 seconds at 321.19 miles per hour to set the Top Fuel pace for the 25th time in his pro career.  Dad Billy took the second Capco dragster to the No. 4 position at 3.859 seconds with a finish line speed of 316.08 mph.

After an easy 3.883 second effort in Saturday’s first session, Torrence stormed back to snatch the top spot from the grasp of point leader Doug Kalitta, who’ll start second Sunday with a best of 3.804 seconds.

“Those bad-to-the-bone Capco Boys made it fly during Q2 and we’re headed into race day No. 1,” Torrence beamed.  “Now the fun begins.”

For his effort, Torrence will oppose veteran Luigi Novelli, the No. 16 qualifier, in Sunday’s opening round airing on Fox network starting at 11 a.m., Texas time.  Although he is 3-1 against Novelii in his career, the 37-year-old Texan recalled a first round loss to the Illinois driver after qualifying No. 1 at Chicago in 2018.

 “You can’t take anyone lightly,” he said.  “If we make a mistake, Luigi has proved he’s capable of just stepping up and slapping us.  That said, I’m just glad to be back racing.  I’ll be even better once we can get all our fans back in the mix.”

Billy Torrence, who won four times last year en route to a fifth place finish behind his son, will oppose Terry Totten in his first round match.  

Ironically, this is the first time in his career that Torrence will start a race at Indy from the No. 1 spot.  He didn’t do so while competing in Top Alcohol and has not done so in 10 U.S. Nationals appearances since moving up to Top Fuel.

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