Four-Time Top Fuel Champ Loses Narrow Decision at NHRA Winternationals

February 21, 2022 -- Steve Torrence’s “Drive for Five” tour got off to a solid, if not- quite-sensational start Sunday as the four-time reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion battled his was into the semifinals before losing a narrow decision to 2020 Rookie of the Year Justin Ashley in the season-opening 62nd annual Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

The 38-year-old Texan, who entered the event having won 15 of his last 30 tour starts, was solid and consistent all day long.  On this day, though, Ashley was just a little more so and, as a result, will move on to this week’s 37th NHRA Arizona Nationals as the point leader for the first time in his brief pro career.

Torrence, meanwhile, will roll his Capco Contractors entry to the starting line for qualifying this Friday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park outside Phoenix in fourth place, number four in points, 50 points off the lead.

“I told you they’d be coming after us,” Torrence said of Ashley and a group of other young Top Fuel racers hell bent on denying his bid for a fifth straight title.  “They got us today.  That’s a real good team over there but it’s a long season and I’m confident we’ll have something for them this week at Phoenix.”

Trying to join the company of John Force, Tony Schumacher and Bob Glidden as one who has won as many as five consecutive pro championships on the NHRA Camping World tour, Torrence won the Arizona Nationals two of the last three times it was contested (in 2018 and 2020).  The race was not run a year ago.

In the 12 seasons he has contested the Top Fuel championship, Torrence has been the point leader after the first race just once (in 2016).  After the last five season openers, he was fifth, fifth, second, fifth and now fourth.

“There’s going to be nothing easy about winning this championship,” said the 51-time tour winner.  “Justin, Austin (Prock) and Josh Hart are all young and hungry.  Brittany (Force, who started Sunday from the No. 1 qualifying position) will be in the hunt again along with Antron (Brown), Tony, Mike Salinas, Clay (Millican), Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta.  You can’t count anyone out at this point, but it’s hard not to be confident when you’re sitting this this Capco car.  It’ll be fun to say how it plays out.”


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