BRISTOL, Tenn. – On a weekend during which he failed to earn a single qualifying bonus point for just the sixth time in the last 59 events, Kilgore native Steve Torrence managed to wrestle his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster all the way to the semifinals last Sunday in the NHRA's 18th annual Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Ultimately, though, a 143-degree racetrack and the loss of the lane choice option denied the 35-year-old Texan a bookend Father’s Day victory to match the one he claimed in 2011.
Although he stopped Shawn Reed in round one and close friend and three-time series champ Antron Brown in round two, Torrence couldn’t get around eight-time champ Tony Schumacher in the semifinals after being relegated to the less-favored lane.
Schumacher advanced with a time of 4.038 seconds at 297.02 miles per hour while Torrence trailed at 4.104 at 254.04 mph, times and speeds to which neither driver is accustomed.
However, neither is accustomed to the kind of track temperatures that greeted them on Sunday, either.
The 143 degree temperature was just four degrees off the hottest track temp tour officials could recall.
Torrence quickly turned his attention to this weekend’s 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio, where he will start qualifying Friday as the defending Top Fuel champion.
“These Capco guys did a great job in some awful conditions,” said the cancer survivor and former Top Alcohol Dragster champion. “They kept chipping away at it and finally got me a pretty good race car on Sunday. We’ll just regroup and head to Norwalk where we’ll defend our championship and we’ll go in there with a bigger point lead than we had when we started at Bristol. So that ain’t all bad.”