Someone stopped Steve Torrence. Mike Salinas got past the defending Top Fuel world champion with brute force thanks to an incredible race car tuned by Alan Johnson. A 3.836-second pass was enough to beat Torrence for the first time since April, ending a five-race stretch of dominance by the Capco Contractors team.
Salinas was second off the starting line, but the Scrappers Racing machine began to catch up with the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster by the time the cars reached half-track. Torrence put a cylinder out shortly before the finish line, sealing his fate and allowing Salinas to blow by him at 325.69-mph.
"I think today we had a little bit of luck and ended up running very decent. It came down to Alan Johnson and the crew -- they just know how to run these cars," said Salinas.
"All of our parents are getting old, my father is going through this deal and he always raced cars. He raced circle track stuff and everything else when I was a kid so it's really tough watching him go through this stuff. Now when he sees me sometimes he thinks I'm the gardner and sometimes he thinks I'm somebody else. It's tough. My sister will tell me that sometimes he thinks he's still racing and wants to know why the TV isn't mentioning his name. It's just really good that he's still around and still happy. We're going to have this trophy down there for him."
Salinas earned his first victory at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in April and came up short against Torrence in Chicago two races ago. He reached his first final at the 2018 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals and with his win has moved all the way to third in points despite missing two events during the 2019 season.
He got past Scott Palmer, Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta to reach the final round. His reaction times got progressively better throughout eliminations, using a .046-second reaction time in a win against Kalitta to reach the fourth final of his career. He took a step back against Torrence, but had enough race car to earn the second Wally of his career.
Torrence qualified No. 3 and beat part-time racer Pat Dakin, 2017 Bristol winner Clay Millican and pseudo-teammate Dom Lagana to reach his sixth-straight final round. The defending world champion’s streak may be over, but he will not take much of a break before trying to start a new one. The Capco Contractors team, and the rest of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing tour, will be back on track at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk on Thursday.