Steve Torrence not only officially secured a starting place for NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship, but he did it in winning fashion Sunday by outlasting a tough Top Fuel line-up on a 90-plus-degree day to claim the the O’Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals title at Pacific Raceways.
The victory was the Kilgore, Texas driver’s third in his fifth final round of a season that has carried him from a challenger to a true championship contender. It also fulfilled a promise Torrence made one week ago after a first-round loss at Sonoma, Calif.
“We are going to Seattle and we are going to close this Western Swing with a bang,” he commented at the time.
This triumph was well-earned. He ended the competitive day for Steve Chrisman, Khalid alBalooshi, Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon allowing him to climb within one point of third-place Tony Schumacher (1,109-1,108) in Full Throttle Series standings.
His first-round decision over Steve Chrisman – featuring a sashaying Torrence Racing/Capco Contractors Inc. dragster going down the 1,000-foot track – was the most spectacular of the daym highlighting his sharp driving skills. He stopped the timer in 4.563 seconds at 208.46 mph to beat Chrisman’s traction-troubled run of 6.880 at 84.31.
“I didn’t think the car moved around that much until I saw the replay,” he recalled. “It was my job to get the car to the finish line . . . and I did. Steve Chrisman has a very consistent race car that goes down the track. I heard him there beside me and I knew I had to stay there. As long as I heard him there I was going to pedal the car.
“We’ll take a win any way we can get it. We definitely had to work for that one today. We had a good race car today and we wanted to win this one for (crew chief) Richard Hogan. It was his birthday.”
Torrence left first against alBalooshi in the quarterfinals -- .067 to .099 – and advanced with his fifth hole-shot decision of the season, 3.879 at 303.03 to a 3.877 at 312.64 before ousting Doug Kalitta in the semifinals with a 4.138, 274.898 to a 6.310 at 142.39.
In the finale against longtime friend Shawn Langdon, Torrence was determined to finish first . . . and then he was one of the last ones to find out that he had.
“He had me pretty nervous,” he said. “Shawn’s a great driver. We grew up racing against each other. I felt the car trying to knock the tire off in the final round and I just tried to get the car to the finish line. But I didn’t know where he was and I didn’t know who won. I kept gesturing to the guys at the top end and asking who won, but they didn’t know. And then someone told me I did!”
The winning time was 4.168 seconds at 261.98 to 4.329 at 254.57.
The team resumes series action at Brainerd, Minn., Aug. 17-19, in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.