Steve Torrence’s Bid for Final Topeka Outing Ends Up Short In Quarterfinal Appearance

By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer

TOPEKA, Kan – Following a successful qualifying round on Friday night, where four-time NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel Champion Steve Torrence earned the No. 1 qualifier for the 35th time in his career with a pass of 3.764 at 326.24 mph, the Kilgore, Texas native’s day on Sunday ended early with a quarterfinal appearance loss to Brittany Force.

As Torrence was searching for his second win of the 2023 season, he did enter race day with some momentum by being in the Mission Foods 2Fast2Tasty Challenge, which took place on Saturday afternoon. The challenge takes place during the two final rounds of qualifying where NHRA takes the previous week’s semi-final matches and races them again the week after at another event. 

Additionally, the challenge rewards bonus points for the race winner with three points up for grabs, which ultimately helps the driver during the Countdown to the Championship. The more the driver wins these challenges, the more they earn the points. 

With that in mind, Torrence was hungry on Saturday looking to add some points and gain some ground in the standings, as he entered the Topeka race, 35-points behind Top Fuel championship leader, Justin Ashley. Torrence was successful in winning this challenge over Ashley in the final round with a pass of 3.767 at 319.90 mph over Ashley’s 3.842 at 319.37 mph and winning by 23 feet. 

While Torrence’s Saturday was a great one by winning the challenge for the third straight time in 2023, Sunday was the complete opposite. On-and-off rain showers throughout the morning created tricky track conditions by washing off all the rubber that was laid down the day prior. In addition, there was high humidity with the sun clearing the clouds out of the area. 

With a delayed start of 3:30 p.m./local time, the first round of Top Fuel finally fired off. Torrence, the No. 1 qualifier, was paired with the No. 16 qualifier Terry Totten. Unfortunately, for Totten, his car was unable to go in reverse following the burnout. In this case, the driver is automatically told they’re unable to run.

This meant a bye run for Torrence, but the time was no slouch as he posted a quick speed of 3.786 at 328.22 mph to help him move to E2 in a tough matchup with last year’s Top Fuel champion, Force. 

The two champions have faced each other on multiple occassions during the recent years with Torrence having the advantage of an 18-11 record over Force. However, during this round, while his E.T. was quicker of 3.766 to Force’s 3.781, it was the reaction time for Force with a 0.054 to Torrence’s 0.078 that ultimately helped her move on and sending the Texas native home early. 

“We’re taking a great car to Brainerd,” said the only driver ever to have swept the races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship (2018). “If we can get the driver on the same page, we’re gonna be hard to beat. I’ve said all season long that this is going to go down to the wire.”

The quarterfinal apperance marked his fourth of the 2023 season. 

Official NHRA Top Fuel Results Following Topeka

  1. Justin Ashley 
  2. Brittany Force 
  3. Antron Brown 
  4. Clay Millican 
  5. Steve Torrence
  6. Leah Pruett
  7. Scott Palmer
  8. Austin Prock 
  9. Shawn Langdon 
  10. Buddy Hull 
  11. Lex Joon 
  12. Tony Schumacher
  13. Doug Kalitta
  14. Mike Salinas
  15. Josh Hart
  16. Terry Totten 

Official NHRA Top Fuel Championship Points Standings Following Topeka 

  1. Justin Ashley, 1,052 points 
  2. Steve Torrence, -83 
  3. Brittany Force, -223 
  4. Antron Brown, -259 
  5. Leah Pruett, -275
  6. Austin Prock, -286
  7. Doug Kalitta, -342
  8. Mike Salinas, -364
  9. Josh Hart, -369 
  10. Clay Millican, -372

Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will head to Brainerd, Minnesota for the 41st annual Lucas Oil Nationals. 

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