CAPCO Driver Seeks U.S. Nationals Top Fuel Title

September 2, 2015 -- On the 10th anniversary of a U.S. Nationals victory that helped propel him to the 2005 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster World Championship, Steve Torrence is hoping to effect a similar result this week at the wheel of a Capco Contractors dragster in which he will pursue the Top Fuel championship in the 61st renewal of drag racing’s oldest and most prestigious event.

Torrence’s optimism is not without foundation.  The 32-year-old cancer survivor not only has won previously at Lucas Oil Raceway, he has been the Top Fuel runner-up the last two seasons and, in 2013, was runner-up in the inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout contested on the same racetrack.

“Indy’s special,” Torrence said.  “It’s the one race win you want on your resume when you hang up your helmet.  We were fortunate to win it in Top Alcohol and now we’re looking to bookend it in Top Fuel.”

Torrence’s Indy weekend will be the more special because he will be joined by his father Billy who, for the first time this season, will cinch up the harnesses in a second Capco dragster in the hope of providing his son not only a teammate but invaluable data from which crew chief Richard Hogan can discern when and where to apply most of the 10,000 horsepower at his disposal.

A winner earlier this year at Denver, Colo., the talented young Texan is trying to move up in the Mello Yello driver standings prior to the start of the NHRA playoffs in two weeks.

“You have to be in it to win it,” Torrence said of the six-race showdown to a $500,000 bonus, “so that’s our first priority.  We need to get our hot rod qualified well and take care of business but, realistically, I think we have a chance to start in the middle of the pack.”

A five-time Top Fuel winner, Torrence presently is ninth in points but is only slightly more than three rounds behind current No. 5 Doug Kalitta. 

“You can win from 10th place,” Torrence said.  “Robert Hight did it in Funny Car (in 2009), but you’d like to be middle of the pack so you don’t start out too far behind the leader.”

The point standings at the conclusion of racing on Monday will determine starting position in the Countdown to the Championship.  The actual points will be adjusted for the playoffs so that the point deficit faced by the No. 10 starter at the outset is 110 points. 

Torrence’s battle with Hodgkins lymphoma, with which he was diagnosed as a teenager, has made him far more appreciative of even the most mundane items.

"It has an effect on everything I do," he said. "I think that's what makes me gung-ho, because you never know when it could end."

Although he has been around racing all his life (his dad has been racing sportsman cars for more than 30 years), Torrence originally excelled in a sport far removed from auto racing.

At age nine, he earned a black belt in taekwondo and in 1998 qualified for the American Taekwondo Association world championships.  Nevertheless, his mother, Kay, always knew he would wind up in a race car.

"He did a book report about it in the eighth grade," she recalled. "I remember the report had a picture of a Top Fuel dragster. I knew that's what he wanted to do."

She also expected him to do it well – which he has.  After starting in Super Comp, racing with his dad, the Kilgore College graduate moved up to Top Alcohol where he enjoyed one of the most dominant seasons in history, winning nine of 13 national and divisional races in 2005 while compiling a 37-4 won-lost record. 

Since moving up to Top Fuel, he has not yet enjoyed that over-the-top kind of success, but who knows what lies ahead.  Whatever it is, rest assured that Torrence will pursue it with an intensity born of the realization that life is a gift and not a guarantee.


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