The confidence Steve Torrence brings behind the wheel of his Top Fuel dragster is pretty self-assuring.
Two consecutive victories on the National Hot Rod Association circuit leave the driver convinced his car stacks up against any in the division.
“These guys have had this car on a string lately,’’ Torrence said of his crew. “The consistency is there and it’s fun being me just to ride in it. Three final rounds and two wins this year, and it keeps rolling. We’ve been kidding that this thing’s like a freight train.’’
Steam, and speed, were evident again Friday night in the first round of qualifying for the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals. Torrence was clocked in 3.662 seconds with a time of 328.54 to take the early lead in the event, which continues Saturday with qualifying runs at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.
“It’s huge,’’ said Torrence, “because now you give yourself a little wiggle room to try to do something a little different on this next lap. If you miss it at all, you’ve still got a safety net.’’
The remainder of the Top Fuel division, and even Torrence, was optimistic another qualifying run could be staged Friday. The threat of a thunderstorm, however, prompted NHRA officials to call off a second qualifying session for the Mello Yello Series.
“I knew the track would take it,’’ Torrence said, noting the second-best qualifying time posted by Brittany Force (3.730, 329.02 mph), which came after Robert Hight set a national record of 337.66 mph in Funny Car.
“We were really aggressive early and it just held on,’’ Torrence said. “These are some of the best conditions we’ve seen all year. With the opportunity for this one session, we really had to go out and try to go get it.’’
Torrence, sponsored by Capco Contractors, entered the HPT event third in the Top Fuel standings behind two drivers from Don Schumacher Racing, Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher.
Those two were paired in opposite lanes for the final qualifier of round one.
Only Schumacher, however, got off the line. Pritchett, who has won three of the previous seven events this season in Top Fuel, scratched on her first-round pass because of debris in her lane.
“Right as I was about to stage, the placard from the Christmas tree flew off right in front of my lane,’’ Pritchett said on a Facebook post.
“You can’t have 11,000 horsepower just blow by a big piece of plastic on the track. That’s not safe. That’s not cool. So we got shut down.”