Texan Aims to Gain Ground as Tour Moves to Las Vegas

October 26, 2016 -- Although good friend Antron Brown has taken most of the drama out of the battle for the 2016 Mello Yello Championship, Texan Steve Torrence won’t be without incentive this week when he drives the Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition Top Fuel dragster in the 16th Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

With a narrow runner-up finish to the reigning and soon-to-be three-time champion two weeks ago at the Texas Motorplex (3.750 seconds to Brown’s 3.744), Torrence put himself solidly in position to secure the best finish of his brief pro career.

He will start Friday qualifying in fifth place, just 47 points (a little over two rounds) behind Doug Kalitta, the veteran who currently occupies the No. 2 spot.  To move up, though, the 33-year-old Kilgore resident will need to overcome his history at LVMS, a track on which he suffered one of his few career DNQs and on which, in 14 starts, he has advanced beyond the second round just once.

“My only chance (to win the championship) was to hold Antron hostage for a couple weeks in Kilgore,” Torrence joked after he and Brown spent several days following the Texas race in Kilgore eating barbecue, Mexican food and pecan cobbler between rounds of target shooting with everything from rifles to shotguns to fully-automatic machine guns to Rambo-esque 50-caliber weapons. 

“He was really good at it,” Torrence said of Brown’s skill.  “He picked it right up.  It was a lot of fun, something different for us to do away from the races.  It’s been a long season and it’s nice to be able to just relax with good food and good friends.”

Torrence and Brown have grown close the last three years and admit they have developed a “family bond” that intensified when they began going to bible study together. 

“It’s nice to have someone to depend on who you can talk to about something besides racing,” Torrence said.  “Antron is just a good Christian guy leading by example.  I hope I’m doing the same thing.   I think we make each other better on the track and off.”

A cancer survivor who this year had to deal with a heart attack stemming from the radiation treatments he endured to address a bout with Hodgkins lymphoma, Torrence has taken his family-owned hot rod to seven final rounds this season with wins at Pomona, Calif., in the season-opening Circle K Winternationals, and at Englishtown, N.J., in the Summernationals.

 “We’re still marching forward,” said the 2005 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster champion.  “We’re going to do the best we can to finish as strong as we can in what has been our best season as a team and my best season as a driver.”

His weekend begins Friday when he takes the first step toward extending to 30 the number of consecutive tour events in which he has qualified his 10,000 horsepower dragster No. 8 or better.  That’s the longest active streak in either of the two fuel categories.

In the meantime, the inimitable Mr. Brown has come up with new nicknames for the pair based on their weekend of weaponry.

“Steve, he’s 5-7, so I call him mini-Rambo,” Brown said, “and me?  I’m Ram-bro.”


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