After an unprecedented victory sweep of all six playoff events en route to a runaway first Top Fuel world championship — winning by an unheard-off 304 points — Steve Torrence found the sledding tougher en route to a second straight title.
After an eight-win regular season campaign, “them Capco boys” won just once in the Countdown to the Championship — in Charlotte — and ended up in a three-way title fight with 2017 champ Brittany Force and perennial championship runner-up Doug Kalitta.
After a final-round victory over Torrence at the season’s penultimate event, in Las Vegas, Force trailed Torrence by just 16 points and Kalitta was within striking distance 55 points behind Torrence heading into the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
In Pomona, after Torrence beat Cameron Ferre in a heated first-round battle and Force's Advance Auto Parts entry dispatched Antron Brown, the two ended up paired in round two, where Torrence beat her, 3.74 to 3.77.
“I knew when I hit the gas that I had it,” said Torrence. “I could hear her a good ways down there until just before the end.”
But the drama did not end there, as a hungry Kalitta — championship runner-up in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2016 — still loomed in Exhibit A of “the job’s not complete until the paperwork is done.”
Even though Torrence had mathematically locked up the championship with his win over Force, he was still required to run in the semifinals against Richie Crampton to lock out Kalitta. It didn’t matter whether Torrence won or lost against Crampton as long as he didn’t cross the centerline, incurring a five-point penalty that would have left the door open for Kalitta.
Torrence didn’t win — losing on a 3.76 to 3.75 holeshot — but he also didn’t cross the centerline, locking up the title. Kalitta ran right behind him and beat Leah Pritchett then beat Richie Crampton in the final, leaving Kalitta just three tantalizing points behind Torrence in the final tally.
1. Steve Torrence: 2,607
2. Doug Kalitta: 2,604
3. Brittany Force: 2,555
|CLOSEST FINISHES IN NHRA HISTORY
Hector Arana Sr.