NHRA Mello Yello Series finals: Steve Torrence wins second Top Fuel championship by 3 points




November 17, 2019 07:51 PM

NHRA Mello Yello Series finals: Steve Torrence wins second Top Fuel championship by 3 points

Runner-up Doug Kalitta wins final race of the season, but he’s still without a championship.

Susan Wade



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NHRA/National Dragster

Steve Torrence won his second Top Fuel championship by the slimmest of margins on Sunday.

By the end of Sunday’s second round of NHRA Finals eliminations at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., Steve Torrence had all but earned his second consecutive Top Fuel championship.
He didn’t even have to win the race. All he had to do was avoid incurring a center-line or wall-grazing infraction that would have cost five points. The only question at that point was whether last-standing challenger Doug Kalitta would be saddled with his fifth series runner-up label by 33 points or merely three points. What made the difference was the four bonus points that Torrence picked up in the fourth and final qualifying session Saturday evening.
The win was the 47th for Kalitta, who has the most all-time NHRA wins without a championship.
Torrence, 36, lost in the semifinals on a hole shot to Richie Crampton, who used a better reaction time to win with a slower elapsed time (3.762 seconds to Torrence’s 3.751) on the 1,000-foot course. Crampton launched in .068 of a second, while Torrence had an atypically snoozy .183 on the Christmas tree electronic starting device.
“I did the job I needed to do when we needed to do it,” he said, but he gave full credit for the accomplishment to crew chief Richard Hogan, crew chief Bobby Lagana, and “them Capco Boys.” He said they’re “the sole reason” he is where he is and that the continuity of the tight team has been the key to the team’s success.

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NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence delivers blow to the face of rival, apologizes

“We’re really blessed,” he said, because “a lot of these cars out here can throw down.”
He showed he can thrown down, too, on and off the dragstrip. On his championship parade ride up the return road, Torrence blew kisses to the fans who had booed him soundly after his first-round victory that dissolved into disgrace when he physically attacked vanquished rookie Cameron Ferré.
“The whole place here hates me. I’m the most hated champion ever, probably,” Torrence said. “But nobody knows what was said. We were in a heated conversation down there.
“It went too far. Unless you know the whole story and what was said other than just watching it on TV, you don’t get it. I don’t just fly off.  I went over and talked to Cameron and apologized. We have a mutual understanding. We’ll just leave it at that.”

NHRA/National Dragster

Doug Kalitta’s season included wins at Indianapolis (above) and Sunday’s finale in Pomona, but once again he walked away without a title.

Torrence apologized for his actions following his second-round showdown victory over closest challenger Brittany Force. But he didn’t owe anyone an apology for the performance of the Capco Dragster team throughout his season reign. Torrence won nine times in 14 final rounds on the 24-event Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour.
Crampton, who announced he would not return to the team in 2020, already had eliminated Torrence’s title-contending father Billy Torrence in the first round. Doug Kalitta advanced past Terry McMillen, Justin Ashley, and Leah Pritchett. Sixty years after team owner and legend of the sport Connie Kalitta competed in his first race here,  his nephew won in an all-Kalitta Motorsports final round.

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