Steve Torrence had already won more than half of the season’s first 19 events, collecting 10 victories including two of the last four events heading into the season finale, and clinching his fourth straight world championship, but it wasn’t enough for the talented Texan.
Torrence’s monster season all but assured his fourth straight world championship, and, after qualifying an impressive No. 2, he clinched it with his first-round victory over Brandon Welch then went on to win the event, his 11th of the season, besting good friend Antron Brown in the final round, 3.75 to 3.80.
"When you come here, no matter what's going on, you're nervous," said Torrence. "First round, you got to do this, you got to do that. And you let pressure kind of influence you. And I think that the more experience that you get, the more in these situations that you've been, you're able to deal with that pressure better, and that that was a huge advantage to me today.
"[Winning the race] was big. Last year we won the championship, but we got beat in the final, same scenario. I'm racing Antron at Vegas and I go up there and do something stupid, I'm late on the tree and lose on the holeshot. I did not want to do that today."
After clinching the title, Torrence had to pedal his way to victory in round two as both he and perennial championship rival Doug Kalitta lost traction, and Torrence’s 4.25 was nothing to write home about but nonetheless advanced him to a semifinal date with darkhorse favorite Cameron Ferre. Ferre, who had won Super Comp at the Finals in 2012, had a career day in reaching the semifinals with the EMPI/Paton racing entry, almost pulled off another upset after Torrence’s machine went silent before the finish line, but the early lead he built gave him a narrow .006-second victory and admission to his 76th career Top Fuel final.
The event was a meaningful one for Brown as he’ll leave the Don Schumacher Racing empire for team ownership next season and gave the DSR operation one final thrill.
Brown qualified the Matco Tools machine No. 5 in the field and raced his way past Justin Ashley, beating the class’ best leaver off the line and winning on a 3.717 to 3.713 holeshot. Brown followed with another holeshot victory over Billy Torrence, 3.74 to 3.73, then defeated fast-rising Tripp Tatum in the semifinals with a 3.79 to reach his 94th career Top Fuel final.