CAPCO Driver Aims for Fourth Straight No. 1 Start

May 10, 2016 -- For most professional athletes, the first win is the most memorable.  That certainly was true for Steve Torrence, the 33-year-old driver of the 10,000 horsepower Capco Contractors/Rio Ammo dragster who returns this week to Atlanta Dragway, site of his first pro victory, as a leading contender for the NHRA’s $500,000 Top Fuel championship.

            Trying this week to become the first Top Fuel driver since 2009 to qualify No. 1 at four consecutive Mello Yello tour events (three-time series champion Larry Dixon accomplished that feat while adding a fifth straight in 2012), Torrence still remembers the exhilaration of winning at the sport’s top level for the very first time after a successful apprenticeship in the Top Alcohol Dragster division.

            “That was a huge win,” Torrence said of his final round upset of No. 1 qualifier and then series champion Tony Schumacher at the 2012 Summit Southern Nationals.  “You think you have a team capable of it, but until it actually happens there’s still that question in the back of your mind.  That’s where we were (four years ago).  We thought we could win (in Top Fuel) but we hadn’t done it yet.”

Since that breakthrough, the cancer survivor and former black belt (in taekwondo) has won five more races including this year’s season opening Circle K Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.  Furthermore, he has finished in the Top 10 in NHRA driver points each of the last five years. 

His goal this season is to become the first driver in NHRA’s 60-plus-year history to win championships in both the Top Alcohol and Top Fuel categories.  He was Top Alcohol Champion in 2005.

“You know, we’re a Texas-based family race team,” said the graduate of Kilgore College, “and it’s very gratifying to be able to hold our own against some of the biggest names and best-funded teams in the sport.  This is a very competitive category and when you can win against people like Doug (Kalitta) and Tony (Schumacher) and Antron (Brown), as a team it gives you an enormous sense of accomplishment.”

Although he went on to win three races in 2012, he considers this his best team, his best car and his best chance to win a championship.

“We have a new Morgan Lucas Racing chassis that has been awesome,” he said.  “There have been six races and we’ve had a car capable of winning all six.  Every time we go up there, whoever we’re racing knows that my guys have put a fast race car under me.  That’s a huge confidence-booster for the driver, I’ll tell you that.”

Torrence already had most of the pieces in place with veterans Richard Hogan as crew chief, Bobby Lagana as car chief and Gary Pritchett, husband of Top Fuel rival Leah Pritchett, as clutch tech. The catalyst was the addition of Alan Johnson as tuning consultant.  

Working with Hogan, the sure fire Hall-of-Famer has helped send Torrence to the top of the starting field four times in six races this year and five times in the last 11 events.

“I think he gives Hogan the kind of confidence Hogan gives me,” Torrence said of Johnson, who also consults of the car of Brittany Force.  “He’s just always in (the crew chief’s) ear, giving him a little nudge when he needs one.  We’ve always run A.J.’s parts and he and Hogan have been friends and have had a working relationship for a lot of years.  It was a great fit.”



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