Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – CONCORD, NC – Not only is Steve Torrence the defending event winner at the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals event, which returns this weekend to zMAX Dragway, but the Top Fuel standout also won the inaugural four-wide racing event in Las Vegas earlier this month.
It puts him on an impressive run when it comes to one of the biggest spectacles in drag racing and in a favorable position heading into this weekend’s NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. Now the standout is hoping for even more progress on a 2018 season that already includes two wins and a share of the points lead in his 10,000-horsepower Capco Contractors Inc. dragster.
“I’ll go in there with a good bit of confidence that I’m comfortable with the driving and staging procedures, but I don’t think (the Vegas win) gives us any advantage,” Torrence said. “I just think confidence-wise, it helps things. (Crew chief) Richard (Hogan) has adapted to the track very well, getting one lap in each lane (during qualifying) and I just have to go up there and do my job. I have to stay really focused, and it takes more focus and concentration because it is so different.”
Ron Capps (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. (ET). The fan-favorite race is the sixth of 24 events during the 2018 NHRA season and Torrence, who has 18 career wins, has seemingly mastered the nuances and intricacies of one of the most unique experiences in all of motorsports.
After eight wins and a second-place finish in 2017, Torrence and his team also continue to push forward. It has led to trying several different things early in the season, but he’s confident it will pay off against the likes of Tony Schumacher, who shares the points lead with Torrence, three-time world champ Antron Brown, Brittany Force, the reigning world champ who won last weekend in Houston, Pomona winner Doug Kalitta, and Gainesville winner Richie Crampton.
“You have to constantly be evolving or else you’ll be behind,” Torrence said. “We had a really good race car last year and we know how to get back there, but you need to improve on it and make it quicker. We’ve got the consistency down, now we need to work on getting quicker. We’re trying a lot of things and experimenting, using this time with some of the better conditions. The competition in this class is so good and always moving forward, and we’ve got to do that. We’ve been at the front for a while, and we don’t want to stay idle and start to fall behind.”
The early-season success indicates Torrence is on the right path, as does his first career victory at zMAX Dragway a season ago. That victory was the Texan’s first of 2017 and kicked off an impressive stretch that now includes 10 wins over the past 24 races. Torrence, who also won this Phoenix this year, will look to add to that this weekend, feeling good about performing in front of another big crowd at the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
“Anytime you go somewhere you’ve had success, I think you go in there with a little mental advantage,” Torrence said. “It gives you confidence and a little swag that you’ve done it before and you can do it again. It’s cool to see all the fans and spectators and that does fuel you. I’m there to win and at the end of the day, they want to see good racing and that’s what we want to give them.”
Ron Capps is after his first Funny Car win in 2018 against a lineup that includes J.R. Todd, who has won two straight races, points leader Jack Beckman and defending world champ Robert Hight.
Chris McGaha already has a 2018 win in Pro Stock, trailing points leader and defending champ Bo Butner. Others to watch include Vegas winner Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, and Greg Anderson.
LE Tonglet will look for another win at Pro Stock Motorcycle at zMAX Dragway, facing off with defending champ and Gainesville winner Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr., and Andrew Hines.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the third of 12 stops in 2018 at zMAX Dragway. Mike Castellana is the defending winner in the Pro Mod class, which made its four-wide racing debut last year. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals include Shirley Muldowney, Buddy Martin, and Bobby Warren.
As always, fans can 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 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.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 27 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 28, at 2 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 29.