Steve Torrence might not have the recent results to show for it, but he believes his 10,000-horsepower Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster is running as well as it has all season on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.
Now needing a few fortunate breaks to go his way, Torrence hopes heading to a track where he has had previous success provides that boost to finish off the three-week NHRA Western Swing with a victory.
Torrence won at Pacific Raceways in 2012, and he will have the opportunity to pick up a second trophy in Seattle and first in 2014 at this weekend’s 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
“You always get a little mental boost when you go back to a track where you’ve had success, but really, right now, we know we have a fast hot rod wherever we go,” Torrence said. “We just need to make that work for us on race day. We’ve had a lot of situations this year where we would’ve beaten anybody else except who we were racing that round. We had some good luck to start the season (when he went to six semifinals), but we haven’t had much lately. We’re hoping it’s going to swing back the other way in time for the Countdown [to the Championship].”
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. It is the 16th of 24 events in 2014, and just two races will follow it before the start of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Torrence will certainly want to have momentum heading into the most critical part of the season, and it would look similar to the start of his 2014 campaign. Torrence reached the semifinals in six of the first seven events to open the year and sat in third in the points standings for an impressive five-race stretch.
But Torrence, who has four career victories, hasn’t been as fortunate in recent weeks, winning just three rounds over the past eight races. Torrence, though, has not stressed about the struggles, pointing to strong qualifying positions (sixth or better at six of the past races) and a solid showing last weekend in Sonoma.
Torrence won his first-round matchup in Wine Country and also enters a stretch of races where he has had recent success. That includes Seattle, where Torrence will look to start his upswing and capture his first win in more than a year.
“It’s very important to end the Western Swing on a good note,” Torrence said. “The Countdown is tough enough without going in flat. The important things are a good starting position and going in there with momentum. That makes these next three races really important, but we’ve won before in Seattle, we’ve been to the semifinals at Brainerd, and we were runner-up last year at Indy, so we’re going to tracks where we have a pretty good comfort level. We had a bad run in the Countdown last year, but we’re racing a little smarter this time, so I feel pretty good.”
Of course, Torrence will also have to deal with an impressive Top Fuel field that includes Tony Schumacher, who has four wins at Pacific Raceways, five-time season winner Antron Brown, points leader Doug Kalitta, reigning Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon, Denver winner J.R. Todd, Sonoma winner Khalid alBalooshi, two-time season winner Spencer Massey, rookie Richie Crampton, and three-time runner-up Brittany Force.
Recalling his previous win in Seattle, Torrence remembers beating a host of Top Fuel stars en route to the victory, which could provide all the confidence he needs for more success at Pacific Raceways.
“What I remember is we beat the two Al-Anabi cars (Khalid alBalooshi and Shawn Langdon) and Doug (Kalitta),” Torrence said. “That’s a pretty good day’s work, but the deal is those are still the cars you have to beat. We have a fast hot rod, but there are a lot of fast hot rods out there right now. It’s tough. I think when we won (the 2012 Seattle race), we won a couple of ugly rounds, and that hasn’t happened a lot this year, at least not yet.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
The event will also showcase the thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Aug. 1, with sessions at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Aug. 2, at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 3, at 11 a.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Pacific Raceways at (253) 639-5927 or visit www.NHRATIX.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general-admission seating.