Four-Time Reigning Champ, Dad Billy Both Ousted in Spring Nationals Semifinals

April 24, 2022 -- Steve Torrence started Sunday’s 35th and final NHRA Spring Nationals from the No. 1 qualifying position – and it cost him.

The four-time reigning NHRA Top Fuel Champion wins 29 percent of the time when he qualifies No. 1.  However, he much prefers No. 2, a position from which he has won 20 of his 51 career titles and from which he hoists the trophy 42.5% of the time.

Ironically, No. 2 is the position from which Brittany Force won Sunday’s final race at Houston Raceway Park.

As a result, she will start qualifying this Friday for the NHRA 4Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., leading Torrence by 38 points after five of the 16 events leading up to the six-race Countdown to the Camping World Championship. 

“It was a good weekend; it just wasn’t a winning one,” Torrence said after exiting in the semifinals.  “We made some more progress with our new setup.  We got our first No. 1 of the season, got some qualifying bonus points (a category best total of six) and had low ET first two rounds.  But, like I’ve been saying, it’s harder to win out here than I think it’s probably ever been.

“All it takes is one little mistake or miscalculation,” he said.  “Against Justin (Ashley, to whom he lost in the semifinals), the car fell off just a little and so did the driver and together that was the difference.  We didn’t win the last race at Houston like we wanted to, but at least we won a race (2021) before they closed the place down.”

The No. 1 start was the 32nd of Torrence’s Top Fuel career; his fifth in the Spring Nationals.  At no other venue has he put his Capco Contractors dragster on the drag racing equivalent of the pole more than three times. 

“How about my old man?” he said, changing the subject and referencing the performance of dad Billy who also reached the semis despite a less-than-stellar No. 14 qualifying position.  Making just his second start of the season, the elder Torrence upset Doug Kalitta in round one and Clay Millican in the second before running afoul of Force.

The fact that he has yet to win a race in 2022 doesn’t bother the just-turned-39- year-old champion nearly as much as it seems to bother everyone else.

“There’s no way we were going to continue to win at the pace we’ve won the last five years,” Torrence said.  “There are too many good teams and too many smart crew chiefs but, on the other hand, we’re not going away either.  These Capco Boys definitely have given me a car that can win.  We just haven’t put all the pieces together yet – but it’s a long season.”

For the record, since 2017, Torrence has gone five races without a victory just four times.  He’s gone six without a win just once.  Ironically, that streak came in 2018, the year he swept the six races in the Countdown to the Championship on the way to his first title.


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