Special to the News-Journal

NORWALK, Ohio – Steve Torrence celebrated his nomination for a “Best Driver” ESPY by winning Sunday’s 13th annual Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park and extending his streak of final round appearances to a personal best seven straight.

Although he admitted he wasn’t fully on his game as a driver, Torrence still managed to get his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster into the winners’ circle for the 12th time in the last 18 Mello Yello tour events and for the sixth time this season.

The 36-year-old Kilgore native beat Ohio native Pat Dakin in a final round that was closer than anyone expected. Torrence won in 3.832 seconds at 323.27 miles per hour. Dakin, making his first NHRA final round appearance since losing to Shirley Muldowney at Montreal, Canada, in 1977, trailed in 3.909 seconds.

It was Torrence’s 33rd victory since turning pro, moving him to within one win of tying Cory McClenathan for eighth all-time. Significantly, the victory enabled the former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005) to extend his point lead over second place Doug Kalitta to 404.

That’s a 20-round lead with only six races remaining before the points are adjusted for the Countdown to the Championship.

With Sunday’s success, Torrence now has led the Top Fuel point standings after 41 of the last 50 events, one of the factors in his ESPY nomination along with his unprecedented sweep of last year’s Countdown.