One weekend after his 19-round win streak was snapped with a tough loss in the final round in Bristol, Steve Torrence has started yet another streak of victories, going four rounds to take home the Top Fuel title at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
The victory for Torrence is his sixth in 12 events this season and the final-round victory over veteran Pat Dakin upped his win-loss total to an impressive 33-6 this season and denied Dakin a story-tale victory in his homestate.
Torrence wasn’t even born yet when Dakin scored his last Top Fuel victory, in August 1973 --Torrence was born in April 1983 – but he didn’t let sentimentality get in his way as he powered his Richard Hogan- and Bobby Lagana Jr,-tuned Capco dragster to a convincing 3.83 to 3.90 victory over 73-year-old Dakin.
Torrence, who closed out qualifying with a string of three 3.7-second passes, entered eliminations from the No. 5 spot and fired off another 3.7-second blast, a 3.74, to send class rookie Jordan Vandergriff to the trailer.
With track conditions heating up, crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr. dialed back put still produced a 3.83 to defeat Doug Kalitta in the second round and then a 3.82 to beat low qualifier Brittany Force in a battle between the series last two world champions. The victory over Force, nailed down with a fine 3.82, was his 300th career round win and put him into his seventh straight final round, a streak that includes wins in Charlotte, Richmond Chicago, and Topeka and a streak-ending runner-up behind Mike Salinas last weekend in Bristol.
Dakin’s Scott Graham-tuned Commercial Metal Fabrication dragster surely didn’t have it easy reaching the final round as, after qualifying No. 14 with a last-ditch 3.78 Saturday afternoon, he had to face Bristol champ Mike Salinas in the opening frame. A solid 3.80 got him past Salinas’ tire-smoking.
Dakin advanced to the semifinals after outpedaling Terry McMillen in round two then had to work the throttle in the semifinals when his car broke traction at halftrack against Leah Pritchett. Fortunately for Dakin, whose mount backfired the blower, Pritchett’s gold machine had gone up in smoke early and couldn’t recover.
It’s was Dakin’s first final round in more than 20 years, since finishing second behind Cory McClenathan at the 1998 event in what was his fourth straight runner-up. Later that year Dakin suffered serious injuries in a blowover wheelstand in Topeka and sat out for a decade before returning.
Prior to that, Dakin had scored two event wins both at NHRA’s Montreal event, in 1971 and 1973 and had finished second on the world championship battle behind Shirley Muldowney in 1977.
TOP FUEL WINNER STEVE TORRENCE: “Hell, I was pulling for Pat Dakin, too. That guy is not only a legend but he’s a cool dude. We’ve been able to become friends over the last couple of years; he’s a genuinely good guy and a lot of fun. We share a lot of the same philosophies and things; I give him crap and he gives me crap and comes over and has a beer with us sometimes.
“I didn’t drive that well today. In qualifying I think I averaged a .056 light and today I wasn’t in the .050s except in the final round. Some days you come out and you’re on top of your game and sometimes you’re a little slow, and today was one of those slow days. It was one of those days where you had to count on your crew chiefs; those guys had my back. It went down there four laps in a row and the other guy just made a mistake. This is a team sport; the driver gets the spotlight but without those guys turning the knobs and working on it, it’s nothing. I’m just the hood ornament for the Capco boys.”