Reigning NHRA Champion Beats Kalitta in DENSO Nationals at Las Vegas

April 18, 2021 -- On a Sunday full of surprises at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Steve Torrence’s Top Fuel victory in the DENSO Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals certainly was not one of them. 

With recovering crew member Dom Lagana watching from the starting line, the three-time reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion coupled a stellar .042 of a second reaction time to a 3.823 second track time that was just good enough to get him to the finish ahead of Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican and Antron Brown.

Those four were left to duke it out after national record holder Brittany Force, the No. 1 qualifier, was bounced out of competition in the second quad after posting quick time and top speed of the event to start eliminations.  On a strange day in the desert, none of the four No. 1 pro qualifiers made it into the final quad.  Torrence was the only No. 2 qualifier to do so.

It was the fifth win in the last six four-wide races for the Capco Contractors team and it proved to be a perfect birthday present not only for the champ, who turned 38 on Saturday, but also for team owner “Momma Kay” Torrence, who turned 60 on Sunday.  In addition, it was Torrence’s first win since wife Natalie gave birth to daughter Haven Charli on April 7.

“My first race as a dad, my mother’s birthday and Dom up on the starting line for the final,” Torrence said.  “I knew I had to get something done.  At this point it my career, I think I do better in high pressure sutuations and that one was pretty high pressure, personally.”

Significantly, Torrence’s 41st pro tour victory propelled him into a familiar position atop the NHRA Camping World driver standings two races into the season.  When racing begins May 1 in the Lucas Oil Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, he will start 21 points ahead of Kalitta with whom he has battled for the last three seasons.

It was a gratifying rebound after a second round exit in the season-opening Amalie Gatornationals last month at Gainesville, Fla.

“We had a really good race car in Gainesville,” Torrence said, “but we went out and just overestimated what the track would take and smoked the tires (lost traction).  So much has transpired since then.  Dom (who is recovering from injuries suffered in a non-racing accident and learning to use prosthetics) is walking even better than he was in Gainesville and being a new dad, I’m just very blessed.”

It was the second win for the Capco team in the DENSO Four-Wide in which it also prevailed in 2019. 

# # #