World Champ Falls to Ashley by .005 of a Second at the Texas Motorplex

October 10, 2021 -- Justin Ashley denied Steve Torrence his 50th victory on the NHRA Camping World pro tour Sunday, beating the three-time reigning Top Fuel World Champion by .005 of a second in a classic final round to win the 36th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex. 

Both drivers had stellar .035 of a second reaction times, but Ashley got to the finish just ahead of the defending event champion, 3.759 seconds at a speed of 326.40 mph to 3.764 seconds at 321.81 mph for Torrence and his Capco Contractors entry.

Despite the disappointing result, the 38-year-old Torrence will move on to Bristol, Tenn., for this week’s 20th Thunder Valley Nationals a little further ahead of second place Brittany Force in his bid to become just the seventh driver in NHRA history to win as many as four consecutive pro titles.

The last to do so was Tony Schumacher, who captured six straight Top Fuel championships from 2004 through 2009.

When qualifying begins this Friday at Bristol Dragway in the fifth of seven races in this year’s expanded Countdown, Torrence will lead Force by 52 points, roughly three rounds of racing.  Ashley, who beat Force in Sunday’s semifinal round, moved up to third place, 121 points behind the leader.

“Everybody’s been calling this a two-car race,” Torrence said, “but I guess they forgot to tell Justin.  We’ve still got three races to run and there are a lot of points still out there.  Having said that, I feel really good going forward.  When you’ve won one race, been runner-up in another and had two semifinal finishes (in the first four Countdown events), that shows the talent of this team and these Capco Boys. 

“We just have to follow our plan, not get ahead of ourselves and not lose focus.  One round at a time; one race at a time.”

The No. 2 qualifier behind Force, who was No. 1 for the 11th time this season, Torrence took out Buddy Hull of Frisco, Texas in round one before easing past Doug Kalitta in round two and dispatching rookie-of-the-year front runner Josh Hart in the semifinals for his 400th round win as a pro.

Although he struggled in his first few pro appearances at the Motorplex, Torrence now has reached the finals in five of the last seven years with wins in 2018, when he swept the six races in the Countdown, and 2020, when he beat his dad, Billy, in the money round.

Billy Torrence, who lost to Ashley in the second round, slipped to fifth in points but will start the Thunder Valley Nationals just four points behind No. 4 Mike Salinas and 172 behind his son.


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