NHRA: Despite Countdown lock-in, there is no rest for Steve Torrence

NHRA
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KENT, Washington – After an phenomenal 2018 season that saw him win eleven races – including all six countdown races – to win his first NHRA Top Fuel championship, Steve Torrence is easily the top favorite to claim the Top Fuel title once again this season.

The driver of the No. 1 Capco entry enters the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways with a whopping 572-point lead over Clay Millican in the Top Fuel points standings, having won eight of the 15 events so far this season.

Already a lock-in for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoff system, Torrence could simply take it easy through the next three rounds if he really wanted to, but that isn’t the 36-year-old Texan’s style. For him, the goal every weekend remains the same: to reach the finals and win.

“We take every round every weekend with the same intensity and focus,” Torrence told NBC Sports. “We try to go out here and do the best that we can. Ultimately, it’s all in the good Lord’s hands of how it’s going to pan out, but we just got to do our best to control our own destiny and go out and just race hard and race well. That’s all you really can do.”

Steve Torrence. Photo: NHRA

Success will mean even more to Torrence points wise when the Countdown for the Championship begin in September. Once the Countdown starts, Torrence will see his lead shrink to only 20 points over second place, meaning that losing the championship is still a possibility should he experience misfortune in one of the six playoff events, something he believes is unfair.

“Honestly, I’m not a fan of the points system,” Torrence said. “Really, they [the NHRA] put more of an emphasis on the countdown than maybe there should be.

“We’re still locked in and focused, but in the countdown, they’re going to throw everything away that you’ve accomplished at this point, so we’re just going to try to continue moving forward and maintain that consistency.”

However, with a Top Fuel title already in his name, Torrence admits that there is less pressure to win a second time around now that he’s proven to others, as well as himself, that he has what it takes to become a champion, but that doesn’t change the fact that he remains just as hungry to win title number two.

“Everybody out here races with aspirations of winning a race or winning a championship,” Torrence said. “When you achieve that, it doesn’t change your aspirations. You still want to do it again because you’re only a champion for a year.

“You’ll be a champion for life, but you only get to wear that No.1 for that one year and then you have to earn it again, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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Supercross 2023: Results and points after Houston

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Eli Tomac led all 23 laps of the Monster Energy Supercross race at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and the results show he now has three wins in the season and is one shy of tying Ricky Carmichael’s 48 for third on the all-time list. With this win, he takes a seven point lead in the standings with 12 rounds remaining.

For Tomac at Houston, it was literally a tale of two races. Both his heat and the main started the same with Tomac grabbing the holeshot, but he was passed quickly by Chase Sexton in the heat. Tomac faded quickly after getting passed and was trailing by almost eight seconds at the checkered flag, which caused him to retreat to the hauler and reassess his lines. Without making any adjustments to the bike, Tomac entered the Main with a new attitude, and simply rode better.

Supercross Results Houston
Chase Sexton played it safe in the sand, but he was aggressive in every other turn. – Feld Motor Sports

Sexton had so great a lead in his heat that one could not even use the cliche that he left Tomac in his dust. By the time the rider with the No. 1 plate crossed the same real estate as the No. 23, the dust was well settled. Sexton had a modest start on the initial gate drop and ended Lap 1 in fourth. He worked his way past Aaron Plessinger on Lap 3 and got around Jason Anderson three laps later. Sexton was able to catch Tomac and pressure him, but he picked a safe, i.e. slow line through the sand section and could never get alongside his rival.

RESULTS: Click here for 450 Results; Click here for full 250 East Main Results

After starting the season with back-to-back seventh-place finishes, Anderson now has a pair of podiums. He won his heat and was easily one of the top three riders in the field, ultimately finishing behind the riders who finished 1-2 in the other preliminary. Anderson was subdued on the podium – happy he was there, but disappointed he has not yet found a way around the riders he is chasing in the points.

In the early stages of the race, Plessinger appeared to have a bike capable of winning. He pressured Tomac on the first two laps and was setting up the pass just as a red flag waved for an injury to Dylan Ferrandis that brought out a red flag. He lost second to Anderson on the restart and eventually slipped to fourth to score his first top-five of the season.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

Cooper Webb rounded out the top five. Along with Sexton, he is now one of just two riders with a sweep of that mark in 2023, but with Tomac’s three wins, he is beginning to slip in the points. Webb sits third in the standings, 12 points behind the leader.

Ken Roczen entered the race as the third rider with a sweep of the top five and progressively better results in the first three races of 2023. Had the pattern held, he would have finished at least second, but he struggled for most of the night, finishing fifth in his heat and eighth in the Main. There may have been extenuating circumstances, however. Ferrandis’ injury was suffered when he landed on the back of Roczen’s bike and potentially damaged the No. 94 Suzuki.

Click here for 450 Main results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points | Lap Chart


The 250 East division made their 2023 debut in Houston, but the name atop the board was familiar. Hunter Lawrence joined his brother Jett Lawrence as the early points’ leader in their respective divisions, but it didn’t come without a little anxiety.

Riding behind Supercross newbie Tom Vialle on the second lap, Lawrence was forced to take evasive action when the leader pitched his bike sideways to scrub speed over a jump. Lawrence veered left and landed off course, but he cleared the Tuff Blox and kept his bike straight. Lawrence made the pass for the lead on Lap 18 and never relinquished it.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

In his first attempt on a 250, Max Anstie ascended to the podium. – Feld Motor Sports

England’s Max Anstie made the move from 450s to 250s this year after scoring a best result of 11th on the big bike at Anaheim 2 last year. It didn’t take anytime at all to find the front for Anstie, who finished second in both his heat and main.

It has been a while since Jordon Smith stood on the podium: February 23, 2019 to be exact when he finished that well in Detroit. A series of injuries kept him off the bike for much of 2020 and 2021, but he’s proving to be a factor when he’s healthy.

Click here for 250 Main results | 250 East Rider Points | Combined Rider Points | Lap Chart

There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of Haiden Deegan in the 250 class and he proved it was merited. He finished fourth in his heat and main. He was as far down as ninth at one point in the feature before slowly picking off riders on his way to the front.

Jeremy Martin finished fifth and now has a streak of three consecutive top-fives to his credit stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, his pair of strong runs in 2022 were interrupted by injury.

Making impressive debuts in the 250 division, Vialle recovered from a fall to finish seventh, Chance Hymas finished eighth, and Talon Hawkins just missed the top 10 with an 11th.

2023 Results

Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Chase Sexton falls
Week 1: Eli Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s