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Torrence vs. Kalitta Top Fuel battle heats up this weekend at Texas Motorplex

by Mike Haag | Posted on Friday, October 16th, 2020

ENNIS – With three races remaining on the schedule for the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel drivers the battle for the championship is expected to intensify this weekend at the Texas Motorplex between Steve Torrence and Doug Kalitta.

Two-time reigning series champion Steve Torrence executes a burnout in the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster in which he has won 31 races over the last four seasons. He competes this week in the AAA Texas Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. Photo by Mark Rebilas

Torrence, who drives the Capco Contractors dragster, is aiming for his third straight NHRA Top Fuel championship.  The 37-year old resident from nearby Kilgore, Texas has a two-point lead over Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Leah Pruett is 80 points back in third and Torrence’s father, Billy Torrence is fourth and trails Pruett by 56 points.

The two drivers will square off this weekend at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.  The event is the ninth of 11 races this season.  The action begins Saturday with two qualifying runs at 1:30 and 5:45 p.m. The elimination rounds are set for Sunday at 10 a.m. The event marks the first of two back-to-back races in Texas. Next weekend the NHRA will compete in the 33rd Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals in Houston, Texas.

Despite Torrence Racing’s absence from the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Torrence has dominated the season by scoring three wins.  He has also dominated the series the last four years, winning 31 career races.

Doug Kalitta enters the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals fresh off a win two weeks ago in St. Louis. He trails Steve Torrence by two points. NHRA photo

Meanwhile, Kalitta, a veteran driver who has never won a championship, has been to four final rounds, two of which were head-to-head final matchups against Torrence.  They are 1-1 after Kalitta scored his 49th career victory and second of the season two weeks ago in the Midwest Nationals at St. Louis.

“We’re looking forward to racing in front of friends and family,” Torrence said.  “There’ll be a lot of those ‘Capco Boys’ out there supporting both me and my dad (Billy) along with our friends from the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.  Hopefully, that will give us a little edge ‘cause those Kalitta boys are tough as nails.”

Torrence is hoping that racing at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex track will give him home track advantage.  In 2018 he qualified seventh and then beat Shawn Langdon, Pruett, Antron Brown and Kalitta to keep his drive alive as he later rolled on to an historic sweep of the six races in the Countdown to the Championship.

Billy Meyer, left, congratulates Steve Torrence after the latter won the Top Fuel title at the 2018 AAA Texas Fall Nationals. Photo by Mark Rebilas

However, Kalitta might have the edge at the Texas Motorplex. He is one of only six drivers with multiple Top Fuel wins at the FallNationals.

“We are ready for these next three races,” Kalitta said. “The win in St. Louis was a nice boost but these next three weeks will be where we win or lose the championship. We got off to a hot start at the beginning of the season and now I feel like we are in a position to finish the season just as strong.”

Two weeks ago in St. Louis, Kalitta and the Mac Tools team qualified fifth and took out teammate Shawn Langdon in the first round and then defeated TJ Zizzo, Tony Schumacher and finally Torrence for the win.

Doug Kalitta scored his 49th career victory and second of the season two weeks ago in the Midwest Nationals at St. Louis. NHRA photo

“That win in St. Louis was big,” Kalitta said.  “Every win is important but we wanted that one. If we are going to get the world championship we are going to have to beat the Torrences, Leah (Pruett), and a handful of other drivers. I am not counting out my teammate in that DHL dragster Shawn Langdon either. Anything can happen. I am going to give it my best and we will see where we end up. I am looking forward to getting to the Texas Motorplex for sure.”

Kalitta added, “We have won a lot of rounds at the Texas Motorplex. Billy (Meyer) build a great race track. Kalitta Motorsports has a lot of history at that track. This is Toyota’s home track now so we all want to do well. I know there will be a lot of Toyota VIPs at the race. For me I love racing this Mac Tools dragster and Rob Flynn has really been giving me a great race car. We are going to try and get a great qualifying spot and then get four win lights on Sunday. If we do that I will like our chances for the final two races.”

Torrence and Kalitta by the numbers:

Steve Torrence

Career: 245 races, 39 wins, Round W-L 347-202

2020: 7 races, 3 wins, Round W-L 19-4

2019 at Dallas – After qualifying fourth, Torrence was defeated by Shawn Reed in the first round of a race.  His dad Billy Torrence was the event winner.


Doug Kalitta

Career: 521 races, 49 wins, Round W-L 708-465

2020: 8 races, 2 wins, Round W-L 18-6

2019 at Dallas – After qualifying 10th, Kalitta was defeated by Austin Prock in the first round.

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 33 years. In addition to covering motorsports for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 16 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike taught high school English and Journalism for 30 years before retiring in May, 2020.