In a season where he can seemingly do no wrong, Steve Torrence almost predictably added a third career Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals crown to his resumé, collecting his eighth win of the season to enter the Countdown to the Championship with a ton of momentum.
Torrence came into the event with the top seed in the Countdown long ago locked up with the Richard Hogan-tuned Capco Contractors machine and low qualifier Brittany Force his biggest obstacle to continuing that roll, and it was her Monster Energy dragster that stood between him and victory. The final-round drama didn’t last long as she was up in smoke almost immediately while Torrence streaked to a 3.74 victory, his 48th in Top Fuel and 52nd overall.
“I felt confident being in the left lane before I saw Timmy [Wilkerson] go [3.]91 and outrun [Ron] Capps [in the Funny Car final], and then I'm thinking, ‘Oh man that lane's pretty stout.’ [Crew chief Richard] Hogan is consistent but [Dabid] Grubnic’s in a different area code as far as going out and just throwing down Hail Mary passes and making it stick. So you’ve got to be cautious, you got to go out there and do your job, and so it was just a tough final round.
“It’s unbelievable to be able to say you've won Indy once and I've done it twice in Top Fuel and once in alcohol. It’s just another race, but it's not just another race. And it's difficult to explain that to people. It's the history of this place, and the people that have won, and it's a milestone of the pinnacle race of our sport.”
Torrence qualified No. 2, just .004-second behind Force, the same margin he had to earn final-round lane choice after a 3.744 semifinal victory over his father, Billy.
Torrence’s red and black terror was strong early, with a 3.71 in round one to beat good friend Antron Brown (the first time that the two had ever raced in the first round) then beat upset-minded Greg Carrillo with a 3.74.
Force reached her first career U.S. Nationals final from the No. 1 qualifying position with her David Grubnic-tuned dragster. Force had not reached the semifinals at Indy since the 2015 event and had only won one round at the event in her last three tries.
That fortune seemed to be changing this year as her 3.702 in the first round was low e.t. of eliminations to take down reigning event champ Shawn Langdon and she followed with a strong 3.75 to beat Top Fuel rookie Alex Laughlin, who smoked the tires in the Scott Palmer-owned, Havoline-backed entry.
Force’s solid 3.788 in the semifinals ended the day of two-time U.S. Nationals Top Alcohol dragster champion Josh Hart, sending this year’s Gatornationals champ down to defeat.