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Streak over, Torrence has no excuses, but plenty of motivation

Steve Torrence’s final-round loss at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals cost him a chance at a pair of class records, but the reigning NHRA Mello Yello champ isn’t letting it get him down.
18 Feb 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Feature
Steve Torrence

Steve Torrence’s final-round loss at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals cost him a chance at a pair of class records, but the reigning NHRA Mello Yello champ isn’t letting it get him down.

Torrence closed out 2018 with a record-setting performance, becoming the first driver to win all six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, but his bid for another slice of history -– most consecutive rounds won -– ended in the final of the Winternationals.

After qualifying No. 1, Torrence appeared fully capable of extending that streak and breezed through the first three rounds to run his streak to 27 rounds, just four shy of the record set by Tony Schumacher in 2008,  before being defeated in the final round by Doug Kalitta.

A combination of Kalitta’s quicker reflexes and lost traction proved to be Torrence’s undoing as his 4.008 lost to Kalitta’s slower 4.014. Had Torrence won the final, he also would have tied Schumacher’s record of most consecutive event victories, also set in 2008.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” said Torrence. “No excuses, we just got in a pedalfest with Doug and he won on a holeshot. Great race, but I’m already looking forward to going to Phoenix [the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent Arizona Nationals, Feb. 22-24]. We know we’ve got a good car, we ran good at Phoenix during testing and we’ll just try to get back in the winners’ circle when we get there.”

Torrence sits second in points – the first time he hasn’t been No. 1 since winning last year’s Phoenix event – and even though his consecutive event and round win streak were snapped in Pomona, more history looms on the horizon.

The team’s focus now will shift from trying to eclipsing Schumacher’s record for victories over three consecutive seasons. Schumacher won 26 races over the course of the 2007, 2008 and 2009 campaigns. Torrence has 19 victories since the start of the 2017 season and will need seven this year to tie that mark, eight to surpass it.

Not that Torrence is getting caught up in those numbers.

“We’re not counting rounds. We’re trying to collect gold men [trophies],” he said. “I look at guys like Tony and Antron [Antron Brown] with tons of respect. They’re two of the best that’s ever been. To even be racing against those guys and doing as good we’re doing, I feel like the kid who’s out here playing for high score.

“You can’t have that mindset of don’t lose, don’t mess up, because that’s when you do things you wouldn’t normally do. We’re having a good time and just trying to stay relaxed and focused. That’s what got those guys where they are, and we’re just going to try to follow in their footsteps.”

 

MOST CONSECUTIVE ROUND-WINS

Top Fuel Tony Schumacher 31 2008
Funny Car Don Prudhomme 30 1976-’77
Pro Stock Bob Glidden 35 1978-’79
Pro Stock Motorcycle Dave Schultz 34 1994
 

MOST CONSECUTIVE VICTORIES

Top Fuel Tony Schumacher 7 2008
Funny Car Don Prudhomme 7 1975-’76
Pro Stock Bob Glidden 9 1978-’79
Pro Stock Motorcycle Dave Schultz 8 1994
 

MOST CONSECUTIVE FINAL ROUNDS

Top Fuel Tony Schumacher 11 2008
Funny Car Don Prudhomme 13 1975-’77
Pro Stock Bob Glidden 17 1977-’79
Pro Stock Motorcycle Matt Hines 10 1997-’98