Steve Torrence’s drive to win a third-straight NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel championship got a kick-start after he wheeled his Capco Contractors dragster to a final round victory over low qualifier Terry McMillen at the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals presented by Pennzoil. The final numbers show that Torrence won on a holeshot, 4.27 to 4.15, but they don’t begin to tell the whole story. McMillen, the low qualifier, was clearly distracted on the starting line and left nearly two-tenths behind Torrence. What looked like an easy win seemed less probable when the Capco dragster began to smoke the tires. What eventually turned into a pedal contest ended when McMillen’s engine let go in a ball of fire just before the finish line.
For Torrence, the win was his 38th as a professional, and second this season following his win in Phoenix. Torrence was the No. 2 qualifier behind McMillen and took out Luigi Novelli, Justin Ashley, and Leah Pruett to reach the final round. After missing the Pomona season-opener, he’s quickly gaining ground the points leaders.
“It’s frustrating because I ain’t the best at peddling one of these things but I try to do my job,” said Torrence. “We go out there and it knocked the tires off and it kind of surprised me. I did the best I could do. Terry is a great guy and I love his little boy, Cameron but Cameron didn’t want to talk to me today. He said, ‘we’re racing, I can’t talk.’ All the guys at Capco, thank you for supporting us. I got my head out of my butt and we’re heading home with another Wally and it’s just a blessing to be able to come out here and enjoy what we love doing. Maybe out country will overcome these obstacles and we’ll get back to normal real soon.”
Historically, low qualifiers have not faired well at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, but Terry McMillen didn’t seem to have much regard for history or tradition after he wheeled his Amalie Top Fuel dragster to the final. McMillen debuted a new chassis from Hemmertech Race Cars last month during NHRA’s return to racing at Indy and the arrival of the new pipe appeared to pay immediate dividends. McMillen’s biggest win came in the semifinals when he took down points leader Doug Kalitta in one of the most memorable battles of the day. In Racing in the hottest part of the day, both dragsters hazed the tires downtrack but McMillen held on for a dramatic 4.04 to 4.05 victory. McMillen also grabbed wins against Lex Joon and Billy Torrence en route to his ninth career final.