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Steve Torrence begins Top Fuel title defense with NHRA Arizona Nationals victory

23 Feb 2020
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Race coverage
Steve Torrence

Steve Torrence picked up right where he left off. The Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster drive won his debut event of the 2020 Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing season, defeating Doug Kalitta to earn his 37th Top Fuel victory. 

Torrence ran a 3.679-second pass, his quickest of the day, at 321.27-mph while cutting a .066-second light to get to the NHRA Arizona Nationals winner's circle. It's the third-straight year that a Capco Contractors driver won the Phoenix event and second time in three years Torrence won the event. His father, Billy Torrence, won in 2018. Steve defeated his father in the semifinals with a better reaction time and a .001-second better elapsed time. 

“First round I had a little bit of the jitters,” said Torrence. “We missed Pomona so you came here and this is the first round of the first race of the season for us and I was a little bit nervous to go up there. We’re just going to see how the races go and what the weather throws at us. I think that we’ve always had a good hot weather tune-up. We’re just going to try to develop cool track conditions. We’re easing up to it. We’ll just see how it goes and that’s something that we really need to try to put our thumb on.”


Torrence qualified second, just thousandths behind 2017 Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force, and took care of James Maroney and former world champion Shawn Langdon in the first two rounds. 

Kalitta reached his third-straight final dating back to the 2019 finale, the Auto Club NHRA Finals, and was looking for his third-straight victory. He remains the Top Fuel point leader after qualifying eighth. He defeated Shawn Reed, Brittany Force and Antron Brown to reach the 103rd final of his career. Kalitta was chasing his 49th Top Fuel victory.

Justin Ashley continued the fine start to his season, picking up another first-round victory, this time against Scott Palmer. He fell short against Antron Brown but averaged a .0385-second reaction time on race day. 

Langdon earned his first round win since switching back to Top Fuel in 2020. He defeated Clay Millican after cutting a .069-second reaction time and running a 3.717. He qualified seventh in his DHL Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster and moved to the second round where he fell short to Torrence in a round where both drivers pedaled their machines. 

The next event on the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series tour is the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. You can get tickets here.