There has been no letdown for Steve Torrence during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, a year after winning eight races and finishing second in points. In fact, you could make the case the Top Fuel star has been even better heading into the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championships, winning five races during the regular season and going into the NHRA’s six-race playoffs with the points lead for a second straight year.
Torrence’s quest for his first world championship begins at Maple Grove Raceway for the 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals, Sept. 13-16, and the driver of the 10,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster is locked in on the task at hand. He has been the points leader since the second race of the season and it’s something Torrence is looking to continue the next six races.
“We want to go in and send a message, put the pressure on and hold that pressure,” Torrence said. “I feel like we’re in a good place and we’re going to keep our eye on the target and just stay focused. But these last six races, we’re going to give it everything we’ve got and we want to crush you. That’s our mindset, so look out because we’re coming. We’re not trying to limp through (the Countdown to the Championship). We’re here to dominate.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were all winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 in 2018, including final eliminations coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 16. It is the 19th of 24 races during the 2018 NHRA season and the first of six in the Countdown to the Championship, and Torrence has no plans to relinquish a points lead he’s held since February.
The team has continued to be consistent throughout the year, losing just three times in the first round. With five wins in 18 events, Torrence has 13 victories in his past 37 races, an impressive success rate in a class loaded with talent. But the team has continued to evolve and search for new ways to get better, and Torrence believes that will be pivotal during the playoffs.
“I’m as confident in my car as I’ve been all year,” said Torrence, who has 21 career wins. “We’ve got out and done well and this team is as solid as a rock. I’m looking forward to going into the Countdown and we are constantly evolving our tune-up to be better. There’s really no explanation (for last year) other than it just wasn’t my time to win. We were on a path to win and we got derailed in Dallas with the wreck. But we’re better prepared now and we’re ready.”
Torrence ran his back-up car during the Western Swing, leaving the team prepared to run its second car should the team be put in the situation it was a year ago after the crash in Dallas. It’s Torrence’s way of covering all the bases heading to the Countdown to the Championship, but he still has to deal with the likes of defending world champ and event winner Brittany Force, Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican, Leah Pritchett, Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta and Indy winner Terry McMillen starting at Maple Grove. Torrence, though, loves the challenge and will rely on a team, lead by crew chief Richard Hogan, he as the utmost confidence in.
“As far as this team, I knew what I had before anybody else did,” Torrence said. “I would put them head-to-head with anybody out there. We want to go out there, kick butt and that’s what they’ve done. But what makes a championship team is being able to overcome adversity and push through when it is the hardest, and they’ve done that. There’s been a constant progression with this car.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 610-856-9200. Tickets also are available online at www.maplegroveraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.