SONOMA, Calif. – Steve Torrence moved a step closer to winning the NHRA regular season championship Sunday when he drove his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to an impressive victory in the 30th annual Toyota Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.
In a final round showdown with close friend Antron Brown, Torrence won wire-to-wire, grabbing a starting line advantage (.051-.063) and then pulling away with a time of 3.784 seconds at 329.42 miles per hour that easily covered Brown’s 3.974. The win ended Brown’s hopes of earning a second sweep of the three races in the grueling Western Swing.
It was Torrence’s first win at Sonoma Raceway but it was his sixth in the last 10 Mello Yello tour events and it enabled him to stretch out his advantage over Brown and Leah Pritchett with just three races remaining before the points are adjusted for the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.
Torrence gave all the credit to his tuners, crew chief Richard Hogan and car chief Bobby Lagana Jr., and to a crew of self-described outlaws that has transformed the Capco hybrid into the most dominantly consistent car in the series.
“I just love beating those Schumacher cars,” Torrence said, “not so much when it’s A.B. (Brown), but every win is a good win and we’re definitely gonna celebrate this one before we start getting ready for Seattle (and the 30th Northwest Nationals, final event in the Western Swing).”
While everyone else seemed to struggle with a hot Sunday track, Hogan kept the Capco dragster on a tight leash. No one was able to keep pace as the Texan, who qualified only sixth, ran 3.760, 3.750, 3.753 and, finally, 3.784, all with finish line speeds exceeding 327 miles per hour.
“These Capco guys are bad ass,” Torrence said. “I’ve said all along I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else and I think people are starting to see what I mean. They are great at making adjustments to the conditions so that I know when I go up there that I’ve got a race car under me that can do the job. All I can do is screw it up and, thankfully, I’ve managed not to do that – at least not a whole lot.”
After running his season record to 38-9, the 34-year-old cancer survivor will start Friday’s first qualifying session at Seattle leading Brown by 75 points and Leah Pritchett, another of the Don Schumacher Racing drivers, by more than 100.
“No, we’re not going to change anything,” Torrence. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Hogan’s been spot on making adjustments and that’s what this game is all about. You have to be able to adapt and these guys do that every weekend. I love ‘em.”
See Steve and crew in action in the NHRA Northwest Nationals on Sunday, live starting at 3 p.m. on Fox Network (not Fox Sports 1, as usual, but the main Fox Network).