Steve Torrence earns No. 1 seeding in top-fuel elimination rounds at Winternationals

Top-fuel driver Steve Torrence couldn’t help but give Tony Schumacher a good-natured stare down and smirk after zooming past him in Saturday’s final qualifying session at the Circle K National Hot Rod Assn. Winternationals.

“It was pretty cool to be running against Schumacher and show him how it’s done,” Torrence said, jokingly.

Torrence’s time of 3.703 seconds clinched the No. 1 seed for Sunday’s elimination rounds in Pomona. It was the first time he has won the qualifier at Auto Club Raceway.

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“When you can come into Pomona with a good race car, run well through qualifying, and then hopefully we can do well tomorrow, that momentum carries throughout the season,” Torrence said. “If you drop the ball early in the season, it’s hard to catch up and make up those points.”

Although he has reached the NHRA postseason for five consecutive years, Torrence is chasing his first top-fuel title. He said his success still sometimes catches him by surprise.

“I’m just a hillbilly country kid that’s out here living a dream,” Torrence said. “Not everybody gets to do their dream for a job.”

Torrence believes his 3.703-second run has a chance to be the best performance of the weekend, but he’ll be gunning for more in his first-round matchup with Steve Faria.


“We don’t hold back,” Torrence said. “We’re coming with a one-two punch.”

Gary Densham crashes but escapes unscathed


The parachute on Gary Densham’s Dodge Charger failed to deploy during his first run, sending the vehicle into the safety net at the end of the track. Densham was “checked and released by NHRA emergency services officials,” according to an NHRA news release, and did not appear to suffer any significant injuries.

“Tore up a perfectly good race car,” Densham said. “Don’t know what happened. It’s great that the Safety Safari is here and they do what they do. These race cars are awful fast and when the parachutes don’t work, they just don’t stop. That’s the way it goes.”

Densham’s time of 4.050 was his best out of three qualifying runs, but he was unable to participate in the final qualifier of the day. There was a 70-minute delay after the accident to clean up debris and remove Densham’s car from the safety net. He is in 11th place.

Elimination matchups are set


The first round of eliminations is set for 11 a.m. on Sunday. Semifinals are scheduled for 3:15 p.m., with finals at 4:30. Fox Sports 1 will broadcast beginning at 2 p.m.

--Greg Anderson is the top pro-stock qualifier after a time of 6.585 seconds on his final run. He’ll take on Matt Hartford in Round 1.

“It feels great,” Anderson said. “I’m proud of the guys around me. It’s just been a great team effort at KB racing, with a lot of help outside the building also.”

Jason Line qualified second and Bo Butner third. Two-time defending champion Erica Enders-Stevens, who switched from Chevrolet to a Dodge Dart, was unable to improve on her ninth-place showing from Friday. She’ll face her teammate, eighth-seeded Jeg Coughlin Jr..

-- Jack Beckman qualified first in funny car with a 3.888-second run, saving his best attempt for the final race of the day. Last season, Beckman didn’t qualify at the Winternationals. The defending funny car champion, Del Worsham, qualified in fifth place.

-- After Torrence, Doug Kalitta and Tony Schumacher round out the top three qualifiers for top-fuel. Antron Brown is seeded seventh against Shawn Langdon, who won twice at Pomona in 2015.

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