KENT, Wash. – With only three races remaining until the top 10 teams in each Mello Yello Series category are locked in for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, every team on the bubble and those on the outside of the top 10 know the time is now to make a move.
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence is feeling that strong sense of urgency.
Sitting 10th overall and recently squandering a couple of great qualifying performances with a pair of first round losses at Denver and Sonoma, Torrence feels like he needs to get back on the winning track at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, Aug. 2-4 at scenic Pacific Raceways near Seattle. Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) joined Torrence as winners last year of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at the multi-purpose motorsports facility. Once again, the race will be the final stop in the grueling three-race Western Swing.
Torrence, who qualified No. 1 at Denver but lost to Mike Strasburg in the opening round and qualified No. 2 at Sonoma but had a similar first round result with a loss to Tommy Johnson Jr., is ready to turn the trend at Pacific Raceways, where he put on a great show last year in taking round wins over Steve Chrisman, Khalid alBalooshi and Doug Kalitta before outrunning Shawn Langdon in the final round. He’s hoping to draw off his victory from last year to help get his 2013 season in gear as the Countdown playoffs approach.
“I’m excited to go back there and it is a confidence booster going into the race where I got to share the winner’s circle with two beautiful ladies in Courtney and Erica,” Torrence said with a smile. “I said at the time I would rather that be me on the podium than my final round opponent Shawn Langdon. We had some eventful races there to get the win; a wild ride in the first round and a couple of tire-smokers. I am looking forward to getting back there. I like racing there and now it has a great memory for me of getting a Wally and getting a win.”
Torrence heads to Seattle in 10th place, 125 points ahead of 11th place David Grubnic and 128 in front of 12th place Brandon Bernstein. Rookie Brittany Force is still within striking range at 155 back in her Castrol Edge dragster in the 13th spot. Torrence says his team, which is now led by veteran tuner Lee Beard, will continue to pursue every available point until they are securely locked in the Countdown. He says after being as far down in the standings as 14th and 13th after the Houston race in April, his team has been rallying to make the playoffs for most of the season.
“This team has been in that mode for several races now,” Torrence said. “We’ve been digging deep and scratching and clawing to try to get every point we possibly can. We are right on the 10th spot we are paying really close attention to it. We know anything can happen, this is drag racing.”