Top Fuel championship points battle heats up heading into NHRA FallNationals

The 2020 NHRA Top Fuel championship points battle has been interesting, to say the least.

With just three races left on the schedule, Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence are in a league of their own. Both Torrence and Kalitta have traded the points lead during the last few weeks with Torrence having the upper hand by two points over Kalitta.

Previously, at the Gatornationals, Torrence picked up his 39th career Top Fuel victory and the native Texan had a sizable points gap of 22 over Kalitta. However, Kalitta fired back in St. Louis by eliminating Torrence in the second round and ultimately winning the St. Louis Nationals. After gaining his second win of the season, Kalitta reduced the 22 point lead Torrence had to two points.


American Muscle

Despite falling short at St. Louis to Kalitta in the second round, Torrence heads to his home track in Texas, the Texas Motorplex, where Torrence won there two years ago in 2018 and has made three finals in 2015 and 2018. In addition, Torrence has a total of 12 starts at his home racetrack.

It will be a big weekend for Torrence and company as he will have his sponsor Capco at the track supporting his championship efforts.

“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.”

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

Ironically, Texas Motorplex was the site of Torrence’s scary crash in 2017 against competitor Brittany Force, when his car went up in flames and he lost the race to Force. Ultimately, the crash ended his championship chances, as Force would go on to win the Top Fuel that year.

However, Kalitta has been strong at the Motorplex as well with two victories to his credit. His first win came in 2002 and most recently in 2013.

When the 2020 season began, Kalitta opened up with a victory at the famous Winternationals at Pomona back in February. However, he has faced some tough struggles throughout the year, losing to Steve Torrence in Phoenix, runner-up to Billy Torrence at Indy I and he was eliminated in the second round by Justin Ashley at Indy II. He was also eliminated by Terry McMillen in the third round at Indy III, lost to Ashley again at the U.S. Nationals and eliminated by McMillen at Gainesville.

Even so, his team continues to be upbeat in a close championship battle with Torrence after winning against Torrence at St. Louis. If Kalitta can keep up his winning ways as he did in St. Louis thru the end of the season finals at Las Vegas, it could be Kalitta’s first Top Fuel championship since he entered the sport in 1998.

“We are ready for these next three races,” said Kalitta. “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 of 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. That win in St. Louis was big. 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.”

Texas Motorplex will give Kalitta some extra motivation, as the racetrack was the site of Kalitta’s first ever Top Fuel final round elimination way back in his rookie year.

“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,” added Kalitta.”

The Ann Arbor, Michigan native has been runner-up in the Top Fuel points battle five times throughout his career, including finishing second last year in the standings.

NHRA’s action at the Texas Motorplex begins Saturday with two rounds of qualifying slated for 1:30 and 5:45 p.m. local time.

Final round eliminations are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. local time Sunday morning.


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