CHANDLER, AZ – February 20, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Steve Torrence saw the benefit of a quick start a year ago when a season opening victory in Pomona catapulted the Top Fuel driver to the best season in his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series career.
Pomona didn’t go his way to open the 2017 campaign, which means doing well and grabbing early-season momentum will be critical for Torrence at this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. It was a key aspect to Torrence finishing third in points a year ago in his 10,000-horsepower Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster, and he knows it will be an important part of a title chase in 2017.
“It’s big to start strong and we’re excited to get to Phoenix,” Torrence said. “Winning Pomona last year was a huge confidence booster. It serves notice to everybody that we’re here and it kind of stokes the fire. We didn’t have the weekend we wanted in Pomona (to start 2017) but we’re confident we can do well in Phoenix. We changed some things in the off-season and we feel like the changes we made are definitely putting us in the right direction. We just haven’t gotten them completely hammered down yet.”
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the race that will once again be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 (FS1). Qualifying will air on FS1 on both Friday and Saturday, with Sunday’s finals starting at 6 p.m. EST.
Torrence fell in the second round in Pomona to kick off 2017, but his performance last season proved he could compete with the elite in the talent-filled Top Fuel class. He posted three victories and eight final round appearances, moving as high as second in points with a late-season win in Las Vegas. It might be a new season, but Torrence is the first to admit there is plenty of carry-over after a successful year like 2016.
“It carries tremendous weight,” said Torrence, who has eight career Top Fuel victories. “That kind of sets the bar to where we expect ourselves to be. We want to push the envelope and continue to do better. We feel like we have a championship-caliber team and it’s taken some time to get there, but we have all the same people this year and that’s the recipe for success. We feel we have a legit shot at being a contender.”
That means contending with the likes of Pritchett, who started 2017 with the win in Pomona, as well as back-to-back world champion Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force, the runner-up at the race in Phoenix a year ago.
Torrence had success during the pre-season test session at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park when he ran a 3.69, giving the team confidence heading into the weekend. More than anything, Torrence is thrilled to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him. Competing with the best in Top Fuel has been a lifelong dream and Torrence continues to show he belongs.
“It’s a little bit surreal to see it all work out like this,” Torrence said. “From a kid who raced Super Comp into a Top Fuel team into a contender that can win, we’ve been super blessed. We’re just going to keep going, put our head down and keep working hard.”
Tim Wilkerson knocked off eight-time event winner John Force in the Funny Car final round in 2016. He’ll contend for a repeat win against the likes of reigning world champ Ron Capps, Del Worsham, Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr., Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria.
Jason Line’s first of eight Pro Stock wins in 2016 came in Phoenix, jumpstarting his run to a third championship. Line will try to hold off teammate Greg Anderson, as well as top contenders Jeg Coughlin, Chris McGaha, Vincent Nobile, Allen Johnson and Drew Skillman.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Nitro Harleys and exhibition passes by Jet Cars. 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 get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:30 and 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 25, also at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS
WHAT: 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Chandler, Ariz. Track is located off Interstate 10 at exit 162. Follow the signs.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Feb. 24-26.
FRIDAY, Feb. 24 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SATURDAY, Feb. 25 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, Feb. 26 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 26, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise three hours of finals coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
2016 EVENT WINNERS: Leah Pritchett, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC- 8; Bob Glidden, PS- 5; Tony Schumacher, TF- 5; Jack Beckman, FC- 3; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC- 3;
Antron Brown, TF-3; Ron Capps, FC-3; Larry Dixon, TF- 3; Cory McClenathan, TF- 3; Darrell Alderman, PS- 3; Kurt Johnson, PS- 3; Warren Johnson, PS- 3.
Top Fuel – 3.716 seconds by Doug Kalitta Feb. ’16; 329.91 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ’13.
Funny Car – 3.905 seconds by Robert Hight, Feb. ’16; 327.11 mph by Hight, Feb. ’16.
Pro Stock – 6.498 seconds by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’13; 213.77 mph by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’13.
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association