Capco Top Fuel dragster out in semifinals at Gateway.
If anyone needed more evidence of how competitive NHRA Top Fuel drag racing has become, consider the case of Steve Torrence.
The 31-year-old Texan took his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to the semifinals in Sunday’s 17th annual AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park – and lost two positions in the Mello Yello point standings.
“Yeah, that’s a tough one to swallow,” Torrence said after narrowly losing to 2012 series champion Antron Brown, the eventual race winner, by a scant .027 of a second.
Although he started the weekend No. 2 behind only seven-time champion Tony Schumacher, Torrence will move on to Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., for this week’s 30th annual Auto-Plus Nationals in fourth place as both Brown and reigning Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon moved past him at Gateway.
“The good news is that Tony got beat in the first round (losing to journeyman Terry McMillen),” Torrence said. “The bad news is that the door was open and we couldn’t drive through it. My guys have worked their tails off and to come up short like that, it crushes you. If anything good can come out it, it’s that we’re leaving here closer to the front than when we started.”
Indeed, when qualifying began Friday at Gateway, Torrence trailed Schumacher by 106 points. When racing begins this week at Maple Grove Raceway in the fourth of the six Countdown races, he will be only 71 points behind the leader; just 34 behind Langdon and 11 back of Brown.
'Like a UFC cage match'
“Qualifying’s kinda like a UFC cage match,” Torrence said after qualifying seventh. “Even when it’s done you can’t take a breath because you still wind up with a first round against a guy like Khalid (alBalooshi, a two-time winner already this season).”
Torrence did manage to get past alBalooshi Sunday (improving his record against the Al-Anabi driver to 6-3) and then took out upstart rookie Kyle Wurtzel. That put him into the semifinals for the ninth time this season but he will move on to Pennsylvania still looking for that elusive first win of the season.
“We’ve won 25 rounds this year,” said the former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005), “but we just seem to in the wrong place at the wrong time running the wrong race car."