LAS VEGAS – After struggling during qualifying, Kilgore’s Steve Torrence recaptured his four-wide form Sunday and drove the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to a convincing victory in the 19th annual Denso Spark Plug Nationals before a sellout crowd at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was the 34-year-old’s second straight four-wide win and it made him the first Top Fuel driver to win four-wide races at two different tracks. He was the four-wide winner last spring at zMAX Dragway at Charlotte, N.C., a track on which he will defend his title just three weeks hence.
It also ensures Torrence remains atop the Top Fuel standings – he leads Tony Schumacher by 33 points.
Based on qualifying performance one certainly would not have expected Torrence to be among those running for the championship. The 18-time NHRA tour winner didn’t get down the race track on either of his first three qualifying runs because of clutch issues.
When crew chief Richard Hogan finally went back to basics, Torrence responded by going from No. 16 in the qualifying order to No. 5 on his fourth and final qualifying run. He then advanced out of the first quad by the narrowest of margins behind Clay Millican before posting his quickest time of the event (3.768 seconds) to win his second quad and reach the money round for the third time in his last four four-wide starts.
In the finale, he had the lead by half track and never looked back, winning in 3.771 seconds with eight-time series champion Tony Schumacher second at 3.790. Doug Kalitta was third and three-time champ Antron Brown fourth.
Billy Torrence, making his second Top Fuel appearance of the season, had another strong showing even though he didn’t advance beyond the first quad. The elder Torrence actually outqualified his son by one position and almost beat him out for the second transfer spot in the first quad when both ran 3.811.
Torrence is next in action on April 20-22 at the NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston.