CAPCO/RIO Driver Hopes to Start ‘Swing’ on a High

July 19, 2016 -- Steve Torrence loves to get high.  While the majority of those competing in this week’s 37th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals are uncomfortable at Bandimere Speedway’s 5,400 foot elevation, Torrence and his Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition race team have mastered the tour’s most unique challenge to such an extent that apprehension has given way to anticipation.

“Richard (crew chief Richard Hogan) has developed a tune-up that has a great deal of power but doesn’t sacrifice the engine, which is one of the things a lot of teams have had to deal with,” Torrence said as he prepared this week to defend his Top Fuel title on he highest altitude track on which teams will compete this season.

“We’re not just running it hard, we’re running it hard and not tearing up the engine,” said the seven-time Top Fuel winner.  “There are a couple things we’ve found that have been an advantage and I don’t think I’m bragging when I say that we’ve had one of the best cars (at Bandimere) the last few years.  We have a good baseline and we’re not going to deviate from that.  We’re just going to try to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

The 33-year-old Texan has been a Top 4 qualifier in his last three appearances in the Mile-High Nationals and was the quickest qualifier in 2013. That, coupled with last year’s win, is a resume of which anyone who’s ever run the race would be proud.

If there’s a downside, it is that you can’t take it with you.  For most teams, including Torrence’s, the tune-up designed to address Denver’s rare air has become a throwaway item, a combination of parts and pieces taken down from the shelf just once a year. 

“You change everything for this race,” Torrence admitted. “Basically what you do is run this tune-up, take it out and don’t run it again until next year.”

Presently third in driver points on the strength of victories this year at Pomona, Calif., and Englishtown, N.J., Torrence is quick to concede the make-or-break qualities of the Western Swing, a three-races-in-three-weeks grind that takes the NHRA tour from Denver to Sonoma, Calif., to Seattle. 

“It’s tough on people and it’s tough on parts,” explained the 2005 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster Champion.  “It’ll beat you up and you can lose focus but, for me, I think racing every week keeps me in my routine and helps me stay sharp.  We know we have a car that can win every week.  Unfortunately, that’s true for about a dozen other teams.  Coming out of Seattle, you’ll kind of know who’s going to make a run in the Countdown.

“The challenge is why we do it; to prove ourselves against the best in the business,” Torrence said.  “We’ve had more cars in Top Fuel (in the past) but I don’t think we’ve had this many championship-caliber cars.”

While Hogan gets credit for the Denver tune-up, it doesn’t hurt to have a tuning consultant like Alan Johnson on board, either. 

“We’ve got a good group,” Torrence said.  “All these guys have been here at least two years so everybody is on the same page.  That’s huge for me as a driver because I know every time I go up there that my guys have put a bad hot rod underneath my butt.  I just try to go out there and not screw it up.”


# # #