A points lead that has changed hands five times in the past six races signals just how tight the racing has been in Top Fuel during the end of the regular season and the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Steve Torrence went back into the lead in Las Vegas, and heading into this weekend’s 58th annual In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals — the final race of the season in the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season — at legendary In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, he hopes to stay there for just one more race.
Torrence has been impressively consistent all season in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster, never straying far from the lead. He’s never been lower than third in points this season, but Doug Kalitta and Leah Pruett are close behind. Kalitta trails by just 15 points and Pruett is 34 points back, as an epic final weekend awaits. Looking for his fifth world championship – and fifth in six years – the talented Texan is fired up for what could be an incredible finish in Pomona.
“This car is probably the best race car that I’ve ever driven,” Torrence said. “I think we’ve finally gotten to the point where it’s the best mouse trap we’ve ever had. It’s the fastest, it’s the most consistent, it’s by far the quickest race car I’ve ever driven. [In Las Vegas], we had the best race car, not the best driver. It’s a lot as a driver, not so much given the scenario of trying to win a champion but just going up there and getting in your own head. I’m more excited right now than I was at any point this whole season. I’m looking forward to going to Pomona. We’ve got two great competitors biting at our heels, but I have experience.”
Austin Prock (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angie Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s event, while Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) claimed world championships. The race will be broadcast on FS1, including eliminations at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday as the season closes in style. Since 1984, the NHRA Finals has been where champions are crowned, and this closes out the 21-race season and six-event playoffs.
A Pomona victory would ensure a championship for Torrence and his team, and, remarkably, if that happens, it would be just the second win this season for the veteran. It’s another nod to his consistency, as Torrence has advanced to the semifinals or better 13 times in 2023 and been to the finals six times.
But Torrence knows his work is cut out for him trying to keep Kalitta and Pruett – both seeking their first world title – at bay. Mike Salinas and Justin Ashley also remain in contention in the loaded field, which means the eventual champion may have to be close to perfect on championship Sunday.
“It’s going right down to the wire,” Torrence said. “But it’s all about who executes the best this week. It doesn’t matter what’s happened the rest of the year. It’s about who can get it done in this one race.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m just having fun, and it’s pretty cool to be in this position again with the competition and the level of competition that we’ve seen this year.”
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at noon and 3 p.m. PT on Friday, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday at noon and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. PT on Sunday. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into eliminations at 4 p.m. ET.
To purchase tickets to the 58th annual In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general-admission area with a paid adult. Fans can get closer to the action with a Top Eliminator Club experience, offering the best seats in the house and a premium experience, as well as a members-only hospitality center, complimentary food and beverage, driver appearances, a premium view, and more.