CAPCO Driver Eyeing Mello Yello Championship Run

August 19, 2015 -- There was a time when simply qualifying for the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship was cause for celebration among those who prepare and maintain the Capco Contractors dragster for owner and driver Steve Torrence. 

That no longer is the case, however, which is why when racing begins this week in the 34th annual Lucas Oil Nationals, Torrence won’t be calculating how many rounds he must win to make the playoffs but how many he must win to get a more favorable starting spot in the six-race shootout that will pay one Top Fuel driver a $500,000 Mello Yello bonus.

“We have a really good race team,” proclaimed the 32-year-old cancer survivor, “and now we expect to make the playoffs.  The goal now is to win the championship.  You can do it from No. 10 (starting position), but you’d like to be a little closer (when the points are adjusted following the 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis). 

“I still think we can start as high as No. 6, but it’ll take some work at Brainerd and Indy,” admitted the 2005 Top Alcohol Dragster world champion.  “You start sixth, you’re only going to be behind a little over three rounds when they adjust the points.  If you’re 10th though, it’s gonna be a struggle.”

If not for eight-time series champ Tony Schumacher, Torrence could have come into Brainerd unbeaten over the last three races in the series.  Nevertheless, he considers two recent defeats at the hand of the winningest driver in Top Fuel history to be more positive than negative.

“To be the best, you have to beat the best and Tony is the best,” Torrence said of the reigning champ.  “We raced him three straight weekends during the Western Swing and went 1-2.  The biggest margin for either of us was .018 of a second.  That didn’t hurt our confidence at all.  When you’re that close to the top guy, you know you’ve got a shot, not just at winning races but at winning it all.”

Although Torrence is not yet guaranteed a starting spot, he conceivably could lock one up this weekend.  No. 11 Clay Millican enters the Lucas Oil Nationals 103 points behind the Texan.  Millican would be mathematically eliminated if Torrence was able to claim his second win in the last four races and his first at Brainerd International Raceway.

Having recorded the two quickest times of his pro career in the last four races, Torrence has put a mid-season swoon far behind him.

“It wasn’t anything mechanical,” Torrence said of a stretch of five May and June races in which he failed to advance beyond the first round. 

“We had a fast hot rod but we had some bad breaks and, to be honest, I was a little off my game (as a driver).  As competitive as Top Fuel is right now, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every round.  Any one of these guys can take you out and that includes Brittany (Force, the only currently competitive woman in the category).”


# # #