Team CAPCO Tries To Build on Winternationals’ Success

February 24, 2016 -- The fact that Steve Torrence rolls into this week’s 32nd annual CARQUEST Nationals as the Top Fuel point leader has everything to do with legendary crew chief Alan Johnson’s contributions as consultant to his race team – but not for the reasons one might imagine.

Johnson, who as crew chief or team owner won NHRA Top Fuel Championships with five different drivers, hasn’t made any major changes since coming on board last fall.  What he has done is instill a new confidence in a Capco Contractors crew carefully assembled by Torrence over the last five seasons.

“It’s taken a couple of years to get the guys we have,” Torrence said. “Like any business, your success is going to depend on the people you have around you and I feel like we have one of the best crews out there.  (Crew chief) Richard Hogan, (car chief) Bobby Lagana, (clutch specialist) Gary Pritchett, all the guys.  They put a great car under me every week.  I’m just the guy who’s lucky enough to drive it.”

The 32-year-old cancer survivor drove it well enough two weeks ago to win the season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., just a week after an eye-opening performance in pre-season testing on the same Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park track on which he competes this weekend. 

 According to Torrence, Johnson’s genius has been in drawing Hogan out of his comfort zone. 

“A.J. is a good fit for us,” Torrence said.  “He and Hogan have always been friends and worked good together.  They respect each other and since Alan got here, we’ve gone from being a 3.75 car to a 3.70 car.  I think that’s because he’s given Hogan another set of eyes and the confidence to be a little more aggressive when conditions are right.  He’s always in his ear and it’s paid big dividends so far.” 

A former NHRA World Champion in the Lucas Oil Series where he won the 2005 Top Alcohol Dragster title, Torrence has won six times since moving up to Top Fuel but has yet to finish better than sixth in Mello Yello points.

He’s aiming much higher this season.  At the Winternationals, he marked one item off his drag racing bucket list when he won from the No. 1 qualifying position.  He hadn’t done that since his days in Top Alcohol.

Nevertheless, as pleased as he has been with the car’s performance (including a career best 3.703 second qualifying run at Pomona), he’s been downright giddy about its high speed consistency for which he gives loads of credit to a new chassis built at the shop of Top Fuel rival Morgan Lucas.

 “We’ve made 17 laps (1,000 foot sprints) and have gone down the track every run but one,” he said, “and that one I think we just got a little greedy. 

“We’ve got a hot rod that’s pretty bad to the bone right now and we’re just going to continue to do what we do,” Torrence said.  “That’s racing our own race, racing the lane and getting as many of the little points (qualifying bonus points awarded to the three quickest drivers in each session) as we can.

“We picked up a lot of them at Pomona (eight of a possible 12) and we’re gonna try to do that again this week.”

Bolstered by the addition of Rio Ammo as a major associate sponsor, the continued moral support of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and Johnson’s quiet guidance, Torrence admittedly is more optimistic this year than ever before.

Nevertheless, he’s racing right now in a Top Fuel class that is more competitive than it has been since the 1970s. 

“That just makes it sweeter when you have success,” Torrence said.  “We’re still just a family race team.  I was back in the office (he works at Capco, a Texas-based pipeline construction business) the day after Pomona trying to lay some pipe and make enough money to buy us some more nitro.”


# # #