Despite Early Exit, Champ Cruises to Another Regular Season Title

August 15, 2021 -- Steve Torrence wasn’t able to repeat as Top Fuel champion at the 32nd Menard’s Nationals Sunday at Heartland Motorsports Park, but he did take a big step toward joining the elite group of seven pro racers who have won as many as four consecutive NHRA series championships.

When close friend and rival Antron Brown was upended by Shawn Langdon in the first round, Torrence clinched the regular season title even though two races remain before the points are adjusted for this year’s expanded Countdown to the Championship.

Despite a narrow semifinal loss to 2017 World Champion Brittany Force, the sport’s dominant driver, winner of 38 races the last five seasons alone, left Heartland Park with an insurmountable lead over both Force (342 points) and Brown (354 points) as the tour moves this week to Brainerd, Minn., for the 39th Lucas Oil Nationals.

Regardless of what happens in the next events on the Camping World tour, Torrence and his all-conquering Capco Contractors dragster will start the playoffs with an adjusted 20-point lead over Brown, Force or whomever ultimately finishes second in regular season points.

“We’re looking forward to the Countdown,” Torrence said.  “It’s always painful to have to give up a big lead, but we know we’ve got a race car that’s bad to the bone.  We’re not planning on doing anything different the next two weeks and we’re sure not going to do anything different in the playoffs.”

The No. 4 qualifier entering Sunday’s eliminations, Torrence took out Leah Pruett, winner two weeks ago at Pomona, Calif., in the first round and kept his record perfect (5-0) against Rookie of the Year front runner Justin Ashley in round two.  Against Force, he grabbed a .031 of a second advantage at the start, but couldn’t hold on at the finish against the No. 1 qualifier.

It’s a measure of Torrence’s dominance this season (winner of six of  11 events) that this is the first time he has gone consecutive races without hoisting the trophy.

Teammate Billy Torrence, returning to the tour after a three-race absence, qualified No. 2 in the companion Capco entry but was ousted in the second round by former world champ Shawn Langdon.

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