Lucas Oil Nationals Has Been Troublesome for Reigning Series Champ

August 16, 2021 -- At every stop on this year’s NHRA Camping World tour, Steve Torrence has rolled his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to the starting line as the pre-race favorite.  That’s what happens when you’ve won 82 percent of your individual races (225 of 275) and hoisted the trophy 38 times in your last 88 starts.

However, when the series moves to Brainerd International Raceway for this week’s 39th Lucas Oil Nationals, the next-to-last event before points are adjusted for the Countdown, the 38-year-old Texan, winner of five straight regular season championships and three consecutive overall titles, WILL NOT be the favorite. 

That’s right.  The sport’s dominant driver over the last five seasons, winner of 30 more races than anyone else in Top Fuel over that span, will start Sunday eliminations as a mere contender.

The favorite’s role will be shared by the two drivers with the second most wins since 2016 – Brittany Force, who won last week at Topeka, Kan., has been the top qualifier the last four races and is No. 2 in points, and Leah Pruett, winner of two of the last three iterations of the Lucas Oil Nationals (2017 and 2019) and the current BIR track record holder at 3.640 seconds.

Of course, there still will be a Torrence in the conversation.  It just won’t be Steve.  Instead, it will be dad and Capco teammate Billy Torrence who, in 2018, qualified No. 1 at BIR on the way to a breakthrough first career Top Fuel win at the expense of his son’s close friend and competitive nemesis, Antron Brown.

As for the champ, the Lucas Oil Nationals is the only race in the series in which he and his team have not celebrated at least one victory.  The frustration runs even deeper, though.  Not only has the younger Torrence never won at BIR, he never has reached the finals and never started from the No. 1 qualifying position.

Torrence looks forward to finally changing that narrative this weekend.

“We just never have been able to put everything together,” Torrence said of his BIR struggles.  “We’ve run well.  I think we qualified second the last two races (2018 and 2019) and I know we’ve been to the semifinals a couple times (2008 and 2018).

“I’m glad to be back, though,” he said.  “I think as a group we respond pretty well to challenges like this.  With Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana and the rest of the Capco Boys behind me, I never go up there thinking I’m not going to win no matter what the numbers say.  I know we’ve got a car that can win; we just have to go out and do it.”

Having won more than half the races contested this season (six of 11), Torrence will begin qualifying Friday 342 points ahead of Brittany Force and 354 points ahead of Brown.  His Brainerd results notwithstanding, the cancer survivor is on pace this year to become just the seventh driver in NHRA professional drag racing history to win four consecutive titles and just the second (after Tony Schumacher) to do so in Top Fuel.

# # #