No one has defeated Steve Torrence yet in this year’s NHRA Countdown to the Championship. He has set an NHRA precedent in winning all four of the completed events in the six-race playoff series and could clinch his first Top Fuel championship this weekend at the Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Closest rival Clay Millican – who stormed from 11th place Friday to seize the provisional No. 1 starting position with two more qualifying sessions remaining Saturday – thinks Torrence probably will.
“All I can do is stomp on the loud pedal. If we were NASCAR racing across the street, I might could give ol’ Torrence the chrome horn,” Millican said. To overtake Torrence, Millican said “We would have to win every race [the final two] and Stevie would need to not show up at Pomona [in two weeks for the season finale in California]. And I don’t think that’ll happen.”
Torrence entered the Vegas event a commanding 169 points ahead of Millican, emboldened enough to quip that he can pull to the starting line these days in his Capco Dragster “knowing that you can slap the biggest guy in the bar and come out unscathed.” He said, “Bad’s when you’re capable of beating the baddest, and right now we’re doing pretty good.”
The maximum number of points a driver can earn at the season finale at Pomona is 191 points. But that might be little consolation to Millican if Torrence has one more strong outing with his strategy to “stick to our guns [and] race hard in Vegas.”
The Kilgore, Texas, native might get his wish to “put it to sleep” now. He’s not interested in stewing throughout the NHRA Finals, like he did last year when Brittany Force stepped up and ruined his brilliant year-long performance by claiming the title on the final day of the season.
“It helps that I’ve been in the situation before,” Torrence said. “We still have to do the same thing at the last race as the first race. To be honest, we don’t change anything. We just keep going. We just need to stay focused on the task at hand, try to qualify well, and go some rounds. That’s what has worked well for us. You’ve got to keep your eye on the prize. We’ve gotten to where we’re staying extremely focused.”
Although he loves Clay Millican personally, he said, “If we run into him on race day, we’re going to chop his head off.” Said Torrence, “It’s intense. It takes extreme focus. It takes staying in a specific mindset.
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