Just two years ago, Steve Torrence was one of the most unhappy guys in the pit area. And for good reason.

Having just lost a championship after dominating the regular season, Torrence wondered aloud if he would ever have an opportunity like that again. And then came 2018.

Just one year removed from the biggest disappointment of his racing career, Torrence tore through the NHRA Top Fuel ranks en route to an 11-win season, a sweep of the Countdown to the Championship and his first career world title.

Now, you won’t find anyone happier than Torrence.

And that joyful exuberance shines through in every aspect of the hottest team in the NHRA right now. From playful bantering in the pits between Torrence and his father, Billy Torrence, to fun with the media, as evident on Saturday when Torrence conducted his own interview with himself, it is safe to say noone is having more fun than Torrence.

“It’s really humbling, special, unique, it’s a lot of different emotions getting to be a world champion in a class that is the pinnacle of the sport. Just to be able to come out here and compete is a dream for me,” Torrence said. “The offseason was really fun, really relaxed. The guys worked really hard, but I think all of the work has paid off. We went to testing and things went really well. Yesterday, things weren’t as good as we wanted them to be and we made wholesale changes this morning. Between the two cars in Q3 this morning, we were able to gather some data that we were able to use in Q4.”

In that fourth and final qualifying session, Torrence stole back the No. 1 qualifier he lost earlier in the day with an impressive 3.657-second run at 331.61 mph in the Capco Contractors Top Fuel machine to continue what has been an impressive streak at the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

It was the first top qualifier award of the new year and the 20th of Torrence’s career as he held off his father Billy, who had a 3.662 at 326.79 mph to qualify in second.

“I live across the street from that guy. I work with that guy every day. If he doesn’t do well i am going to tell my mom and that is the same thing he says about me,” Torrence said. “The cars are very similar right now. The way they are tuning them and the way we are driving them, I just couldn’t be any more proud of him and this team.”

Antron Brown qualified third with a 3.696 at 333.08 mph, while Brittany Force, who temporarily held the top spot during Q3 on Saturday, qualified fourth with a 3.696 at 325.37 mph.

Now the attention shifts to Sunday for the Torrence duo as they try to set up a father-son matchup in the final, not exactly a bad feat for an independent team just trying to survive against the big dogs. If he can pull off the feat, it will be the seventh win in a row for the younger Torrence, dating back to last year.

“It may be Billy and I, we just have to go do our jobs,” Torrence said. “There are going to be six other drivers that are going to do their best to stop that from happening, so we have to do the best we can tomorrow and see where it puts us. It would be great to open the season that way and then go kick his butt.

“But at the end of the day, we are some independently funded, family-run race teams and my dad, myself, and (Scott) Palmer, we are just happy to see we are coming to the front.”