NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Torrence, Capps, Herrera win Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge titles in Seattle

Steve Torrence, Ron Capps, and Gaige Herrera collected victories in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge held during qualifying Saturday at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals.
22 Jul 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Steve Torrence

Steve Torrence, Ron Capps, and Gaige Herrera collected victories in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge held during qualifying Saturday at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals.

The Mission Challenge brings competitive racing to the Saturday qualifying schedule at 12 regular-season events during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series campaign, pitting semifinalists from the previous race — in this case, the Mile-High Nationals — against each other in a pair of rematches, with the two winners then matching up in the final qualifying session with bonus cash and bonus points on the line.

Torrence became just the third different Top Fuel winner of the seven Mission Challenge events this year, winning a match with Shawn Langdon that was the first Challenge final for either this year and would break a season-long winless streak for either driver.

Torrence, winless since last October in St. Louis and appearing in his fourth Mission Challenge event, powered the Capco Contractors dragster to a 3.788 to beat Langdon’s fading 4.18. 

"You know, we had a really good race car in Denver," said Torrence. "That thing actually shut off about 100 feet early against Doug {Kalitta in the semi's]; we should have won that round. But it definitely gives me a boost of confidence in my race car. The mindset I went to Denver with, I left there with a lot of confidence in the car and came here. 

"It's more mentally taxing than anything, because when you have that momentum and that confidence and that swagger and that just consistency that we had for four years. And then to have a season like we did last year, you kind of have to dig deep to get back where you're at. I went to Denver with a completely different mindset to start the Western Swing, to go out and get that Steve Torrence swagger back. You can overthink the situation, you can overanalyze it, you can do a lot of things and, and back yourself into a corner, and you either fight your way out or you don't and I'm a fighter, so I just reevaluated my situation, I trusted my guys and my race team in my car. We didn't win four world championships by not trusting in them."

In the first round of Top Fuel, Langdon had reversed the outcome of his Denver race with Clay Millican, scoring a narrow ,002-second victory on a holeshot over Denver champ Millican, 3.820 to3 .814. Torrence likewise avenged his Denver semifinal loss to Doug Kalitta, racing to a 3.764 while Kalitta lost traction at midtrack.

Capps collected his third Mission Challenge victory after previous scores in Chicago and Norwalk, and sealed the deal in a thrilling 3.951 to 3,967 victory over Phoenix Mission Challenge runner-up J.R. Todd.

"I want to just say it over and over: Thank you to Mission Foods for putting this on," said Capps. "They really created something cool. We all saw the points is the thing that stood out for most -- it's great money; we appreciate that, too -- but as you know, we won the world championship last year by less than a handful of points. So I completely understand. I've lost championships by less than a handful of points several times.

"At whatever given race on Sunday, when you get past second round, you're in the semi's and going back to the pit area, a little part of you says 'All right, we're in Mission Foods thing at the next race,' so it's been pretty cool for every team out here."

In round one of Funny Car, Capps flipped the script on Denver winner Matt Hagan, running then low e.t. of the meet with a 3.96 after Hagan smoked the tires 200 feet into his effort. Todd likewise got Denver revenge, defeating Alexis DeJoria with a 3.99. DeJoria also had defeated Todd in the final round of the inaugural Mission Challenge earlier this year in Phoenix.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle final was a rematch of the Mile-High Nationals finale a week ago, and it went the same way the second time around, with Herrera and the Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki prevailing over Angie Smith‘s Denso Buell on a 6.79 to 6.80 count for his third Mission Challenge win in four appearances.

"I feel like we're kind of back in the groove that we had before Bristol, and so to be able to come out here and get the third Mission win for us and Mission is a big sponsor for us. so to be able to support them as much as they support us, it's awesome," said Herrera. "And to be the No. 1 qualifier with Eddie [Krawiec, teammate] No. 2, it's an awesome start,"

In the opening Pro Stock Motorcycle round, Smith, the Challenge winner in Norwalk where she handed Herrera his only loss in the special competition this season, not only repeated her Denver semifinal victory over Hector Arana Jr., but her strong 6.787 was accompanied by the first 200-mph Pro Stock Motorcycle pass in Pacific Raceways history at 200.29 mph and more than enough to beat Arana’s 6.908. 

Herrera might have had an even better run going after a blistering 1.028 60-foot time, but the Vance & Hines Mission Suzuki broke a transmission in high gear and slowed to just 178 mph, but his coasting 6.808 still finished in front of Chase Van Sant’s holeshot-aided 6.843.

Torrence and Capps each pocketed $10,000 while Herrera netted $3,300.. Each challenge winner also earned three bonus points that will be added to their point total to begin the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The runner-ups (Langdon, Todd, and Smith) got two points and the quickest losing semifinalist — Millican in Top Fuel, DeJoria in Funny Car, and Arana in Pro Stock Motorcycle — earned one point.