Steve Torrence drove his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to the No. 1 qualifying position at Houston

MARC GEWERTZ PHOTO

Riding the momentum born of last week’s wire-to-wire victory in the AAA Texas Fall Nationals at Dallas, two-time reigning NHRA World Champion Steve Torrence drove his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday in advance of Sunday’s pandemic-delayed 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane  SpringNationals.

The 37-year-old cancer survivor posted times of 3.672 and 3.689 seconds Saturday to secure the 27th No. 1 start of his career, his third this season and his third at Houston Raceway Park where he also started from the front in 2014 and 2016.

Because only 15 cars made qualifying attempts, Torrence will have a bye run into the second round where he would face either former world champ Shawn Langdon or rookie sensation Justin Ashley.  If the race goes according to script, a showdown with title contender Doug Kalitta looms in the semifinals.

Although he has qualified first or second five times at HRP, it remains one of only two tracks (with Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota) on which he has yet to win a Top Fuel title.  He was runner-up in 2016 and 2017 and reached the semifinals a year ago before losing to close friend Antron Brown.

As the quickest in both of Saturday’s qualifying sessions, Torrence grabbed the maximum number of qualifying bonus points and, as a result, extended his lead over Kalitta from 51 to 61 points with only Sunday’s race and next week’s 30th Dodge Finals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway remaining on an abbreviated schedule.

“(Crew chief) Richard Hogan and these Capco boys have got this hot rod running on mean right now,” Torrence said.  “I think that’s eight straight runs at 3.720 or better.  That just gives a driver so much confidence going up there (to the starting line).”

A 40-time tour winner who has dominated the sport’s premier category over the last four years, Torrence is trying to become just the third Top Fuel driver to win three consecutive championships.  The first to accomplish that feat was Joe Amato.  Tony Schumacher was the second. 

While the champ was speeding to the top of the qualifying order, his dad, Billy, was racing to the No. 3 starting position in the second Capco Contractors dragster after stopping the timers in 3.701 seconds.  He will oppose newcomer Joe Morrison of Flemington, N.J., in first round action airing Sunday on FOX Sports 1 at 1 p.m., Texas time. 

Torrence Racing PR