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Steve Torrence eyeing more Countdown records with top seed, huge lead

Heading into final eliminations for Top Fuel at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, one thing that won’t change is that Steve Torrence will enter the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs as the top seed.
02 Sep 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Feature
Steve Torrence

Heading into final eliminations for Top Fuel at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, one thing that won’t change is that Steve Torrence will enter the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs as the top seed.

Torrence will finish the regular season as the top seed for the third straight year, the first time that any driver in any of the four Mello Yello classes has accomplished that hat trick in the 13-year history of the Countdown. Historically that bodes well for Torrence, as seven times in the previous 12 Countdowns the top seed has gone on to win the season championship, the most in all class (by way of comparison, it’s only happened twice in Funny Car)

Torrence is well-acquainted with history-making Coutndowns as he went unbeaten through six races and 24 straight rounds last year en route to an unprecedented sweep of the playoffs and his first Top Fuel championship.

Torrence, who has scored eight wins in the season’s first 17 races so far this season, will probably finish the regular season Monday with another record: Largest points lead in the 18-race regular season.

Coming into final eliminations day at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, leads 2017 world champion Brittany Force by 634 points, roughly the equivalent of 32 racing rounds.  Previous to this year, Tony Schumacher held the largest Countdown-era lead with a 567-point edge on Antron Brown. Torrence won't get to keep that huge lead, of course, once the points are reset for the Countdown, but it's the thought that counts, right?

On a much less macro view, Torrence also very well could also finish with a bigger lead than the all-class record of 618 points set by John Force over then-teammate Tony Pedregon 18 races into the 19-race season in 1996. (Force eventually finished with a 636-point edge.) With the points reset narrowing his massive lead, he can’t finish with that kind of lead at season’s end like Force, but there’s always next year.