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Steve Torrence and his Capco Contractors dragster were ousted in the second round Sunday at a packed house Maple Grove Raceway in the first of six races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Special to the News-Journal

READING, Pa. – The road to an historic fifth consecutive Top Fuel World Championship grew a bit more challenging for Kilgore’s Steve Torrence and his Capco Contractors teammates Sunday after they were ousted in the second round of the opening race in the NHRA’s 2022 Countdown to the Championship.

A narrow .008 of a second loss to Austin Prock in Sunday’s37th Pep Boys Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway sends Torrence into this week’s Betway Carolina Nationals at Charlotte, N.C., trailing new front runner Justin Ashley by 56points.

“I have all the faith in the world in these Capco Boys,” Torrence said. “We’re taking a good car to Charlotte. It’s an all-concrete track on which we’ve been successful in the past, so we’ll try to fire a shot or two and get back in this thing. We’re fortunate to be leaving here just a couple rounds behind.

“I’ve said it before, it’s hard to win out here,” said the 39-year-old Texan. “There are so many good cars and drivers right now that you can’t afford to make a mistake in the tune-up or in the cockpit. We may have dug ourselves a little hole, but these Capco Boys have been there before. We know what we have to do.”

Indeed, while he is best known for his incredible and unprecedented sweep of the 2018 playoffs, Torrence won his second championship a year later even though he was beaten in the first round of the playoff opener.

Working with a new engine/clutch combination designed to close an acknowledged performance gap between his Top Fuel Toyota and the dragster driven by regular season champion Brittany Force, Torrence has been victimized to some extent by the loss of mechanical consistency that made him virtually unbeatable the last five seasons.

However, consistency was not a problem Sunday, which is why the 52-time tour winner remains optimistic about his chances of extending his championship streak. After qualifying with a solid 3.711, he sped past former world champ Shawn Langdon in round one with a 3.740 and rang up a 3.767 in a round two duel with eventual race winner Austin Prock, whose 3.762 got him to the finish line just a couple ticks quicker.

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