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Billy Torrence firmly in championship conversation entering Las Vegas

Billy Torrence can take another step towards his first Top Fuel world championship in Las Vegas.
30 Oct 2019
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Billy Torrence

There is a Torrence who has the most wins thus far in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, but it’s not the same Torrence as the one who clinched the Top Fuel world title a year ago in Las Vegas. It’s the elder Torrence, Billy, who has already racked up two playoff wins heading to this weekend’s Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, which takes place Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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His son, Steve, remains as the points leader and the defending event and world champ, but B. Torrence is closing fast thanks to the pair of playoff victories in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster. That puts him in fourth place in points, 71 points back of his son, setting up a potential must-see father-son duel down the stretch. For now, though, B. Torrence is simply hoping to keep his hot streak going and pick up his first career win in Vegas, the location of the penultimate race during the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. 

“We’re just going to go out there and hopefully continue to do a good job,” Torrence said. “We’ll go out there and race and support each other. We’re going to try to do the very best we can and that’s what we’ll be doing. I’ve been able to beat Steve a couple times, but he’s difficult to deal with and I probably couldn’t beat Steve often.” 

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S. Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 3. It is the fifth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship, and the 23rd of 24 events in 2019. For B. Torrence, it’s been a season he couldn’t have imagined. 

After picking up his first career Top Fuel win a year ago, he’s put together four victories in 2019, including playoff wins in St. Louis and Dallas. The St. Louis victory included a final-round win against his son, but S. Torrence has enjoyed another remarkable season as well. He has nine wins this season, as the Torrence family has won an incredible 13 of 22 events thus far. One way or another, the goal is to keep that impressive streak going in Vegas.

“I do have a clone of the winningest car on the planet, so I’m expected to do well,” B. Torrence said. “It has been very humbling, and we have been fortunate and blessed to have this kind of success. We’ve got a great group of guys on both cars and they do a great job of working together. (Our success) is just a testament to the work the Capco guys do. We’re having a stellar season and it’s difficult to achieve that. It’s grueling. These guys just work very hard and they’re very dedicated. I get to come out, and just show up and race.”

But now a world title has entered the equation heading towards a thrilling weekend in Las Vegas. Doug Kalitta is just 33 points out of first, while Brittany Force remains in contention for her second world title, only 46 points from the top spot. B. Torrence helped the family cause by winning in Dallas, knocking off Force in the semifinals after Steve fell in the first round, but he knows nothing will come easy this weekend.

“Originally, I was out here for a (research and development) car and that’s what they primarily do with it,” Torrence said. “They’ll try different things with it and if it works we’ll use it with both cars. But when Steve went out (in the first round in Dallas), it was our chance to help him out. All of these people (in Top Fuel) are all pretty close, so it should be interesting.”

Todd won in Las Vegas en route to his first Funny Car world title, but everyone is chasing points leader Robert Hight. He’s trying to claim a third world championship against the likes of John Force, Jack Beckman and Dallas winner Matt Hagan.

Butner is the reigning event winner in Pro Stock and he’ll need a win to stay in the title hunt. The former world champ is 74 points behind leader Erica Enders, who jumped into the lead with her St. Louis win. But the likes of Matt Hartford, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Jason Line remain close.

Arana Jr. will look for a second straight win in Vegas to help finish his Pro Stock Motorcycle season on a strong note. Andrew Hines is after another world title after an impressive season, but Karen Stoffer, Jerry Savoie and Eddie Krawiec will look to make things interesting in Vegas.

The Dodge NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil also features thrilling competition in the season-finale of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. Stevie “Fast” Jackson has clinched his first world championship in the NHRA Pro Mod class, while Sidnei Frigo is the defending winner in the category.

After nitro qualifying, watch spectacular jet cars, including Segal Motorsports’ Shelly Segal running “FireStarter,” Tim Smith running “American Freedom Fighter,” Tony Franco driving the Lucas Oil Terminal Velocity and Lucas Oil Racing TV Missile driven by Tom Bogner. Known for exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.

Along with the exciting on-track action, the Dodge NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration.

NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock School and Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will also host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their victories.          

As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
 
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 12:45 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3.

To purchase general admission or reserved seats, call 800-644-4444. Tickets also are available online at www.lvms.com/tickets/nhra/. 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. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.