WAIT A MINUTE – TOP FUEL WINNER STEVE TORRENCE DOES LIKE FOUR-WIDE RACING
Even men have a right to change their minds, and Steve Torrence definitely has changed his about four-wide racing.
In the beginning, if he had had his way, the three-time Top Fuel champion would have decreed a ban on the gimmicky notion of four 11,000-horsepower dragsters churning up chaos at one time.
But now the Capco Dragster driver is the king of it.
With his photo-finish victory Sunday over Brittany Force, Antron Brown, and Josh Hart at the NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, he mastered it for the sixth time in seven four-wide races and breathlessly declared, “Man, this is fun!”
The 42-time winner said, “Everybody continues to put a little bit of pressure on us about doing well at the four-wides. And at first, admittedly, I was not a fan of the four-wide. But Bruton Smith and Marcus [track owner and his son], thank you, guys. I love it.
“We do really well at it, and I don’t know why. But I like to keep doing it,” Torrence said. Then, a bit tongue-in-cheek, he said, “It’s the only things that I’ve got a winning record at.” But turning sincere again, he said, “I’m proud of that.”
His latest source of pride is his wire-to-wire, .02-second victory over Brittany Force with his 3.716-second elapsed time (at 329.10 mph) on the 1,000-foot course at Concord, N.C. It also held off previous-race winner Antron Brown and Gatornationals victor Josh Hart.
With that, Torrence became the Top Fuel class’ first repeat winner in four races this year.
“With continued success, you build an expectation for everyone,” he said, “So you got to really focus on not letting that get in your own head and say, ‘Hey, we’re the five-time winner of the four-wides here – we’ve got to go win this thing just to keep our streak going.’ That can change your mindset, instead of saying, ‘Let’s go win this round.’
“At the end of the day, you’ve just got to buckle down and focus on it, because the competition’s always going to be stiff, with A.B. [Antron Brown] and Brittany [Force] and everybody running as hard as they are right now. And the conditions have been conducive to just go out and throw down.”
Brown was going for a back-to-back showing and his third victory in the past five races (dating back the 2020 Finals at Las Vegas). He was third, .026 seconds behind Force.
She was the No. 1 qualifier who had won this race in 2016. She was seeking her first victory of the year and first since Nov. 2019 at Las Vegas.
And rookie Hart was going for his second triumph in just his third pro start.
Round 1 saw some shockers, including some positives for a pair of rookies. Josh Hart, in his first elimination round of four-wide action, cut the best light in his quad (.058) and advanced along with group winner Doug Kalitta. Krista Baldwin – despite a clunky .117 light, an intimidating trio of veterans to contend with, and losing some pieces of her rear wing – ran her career-best elapsed time and speed (3.855 seconds,319.52 mph) to move on with Antron Brown.
Steve Torrence clocked low E.T. of race day at 3.707 seconds, and No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force topped her own track speed record from qualifying (333.08 mph) with a 333.49.
But No. 3 starter Leah Pruett and accomplished driver Shawn Langdon had engine trouble and dropped out. Justin Ashley wasted his best pass of the weekend (3.734 seconds) with a red-light foul. And Mike Salinas had the second-best E.T. in his quad, but Doug Foley knocked him out with a holeshot.
Round 2 began with Clay Millican unable to get his car started and being pulled out of line, then Kalitta finishing last among the remaining three in their quad, while Hart and Force advanced to the final.
It was a gratifying round-win for Hart. He got his wish to beat the 2017 champion and return the favor from Atlanta. She eliminated him in the second round there two weeks ago.
And at the time, he said, “When I was in the Alcohol ranks . . . Courtney [Force] ran Advance Auto Parts on her car. And I ran Advance Auto Parts on my car. We both won Atlanta the last time we both were there. That was cool. That’s when I met Brittany. Then, when Brittany crashed the Monster Energy car [February 2018 at Pomona], I sent her flowers, saying, ‘I hope you’re back in the saddle soon,’ and she took the time to email me back. At the end of her email, she said, ‘Thanks, Jack, for the flowers.’ I wanted to beat her, because she never took the time to get my name right.” But after they raced at Atlanta and Force won, Hart said, “Today she was nice in the pits. She just had the better machine. I’m glad we got her off the time, but we’ll get her the next time. We were trying to be consistent. But they had the stronger car.”
So this next time, he evened the score in their friendly rivalry which actually hasn’t had time to develop into any real rivalry.
Also in the second round, elation turned to deflation for hopefuls Baldwin and Foley. It was especially frustrating for Foley, who had a quicker E.T. than quad runner-up Steve Torrence (3.778 to 3.786). But Torrence had an .071 light, compared to Foley’s .107.
The next stop on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule is this coming weekend’s Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals at Baytown, Texas, near Houston.