Torrence Excels in CAPCO Dragster After Heart Attack

August 1, 2016 -- Just six weeks ago, Steve Torrence, a black belt in taekwando and an avid outdoorsman, a man who drives 330 mile-an-hour race cars for a living, was sitting in his truck having a heart attack after completing his daily workout regimen.  Not that he knew what was happening at the time.

 “All I knew was that I was in a bind,” he said.  “I had had some pain in my left arm and numbness a couple weeks before but I just thought it was from pushing myself too hard.  It was nothing like this.”

After driving himself to a nearby hospital, the 33-year-old Texan described the pain as being like a spear running from back-to-front through his chest.  He was soaked in perspiration, weak to the point that he was unable to sign the required paperwork to check him in.  Turned out, a blood clot in his aortic valve triggered the heart attack, likely a delayed side effect of radiation treatments he received 16 years earlier.

Following a procedure in which doctors inserted a stent and after missing the race at Norwalk, Ohio, Torrence was given the go-ahead to resume “normal activity” which is what brings him and his national record-holding Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition Top Fuel dragster to Pacific Raceways for this week’s 29th annual ProtecttheHarvest.com Northwest Nationals.

 Texans are naturally competitive but Torrence seems the more so because of the potentially fatal health issues with which he already has had to deal in his life.  First, there was Hodgkins lymphoma, which he battled as a teenager.  Now, a heart attack.
“It definitely has redirected my focus to live every day with purpose,” said the seven-time NHRA Mello Yello tour winner.  “It was a wake-up call (to remind me) that I need to always have intent with what I’m doing and trying to accomplish.”
His goal this weekend is to extend one of the most impressive qualifying streaks in history, get his second win at Pacific Raceways (he was the Top Fuel champion at the 2012 Northwest Nationals) and close the gap on the two rivals he currently trails in the Mello Yello driver standings.

Torrence, who is trying to become the first to win NHRA World Championships in both the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol categories (he was the Top Alcohol Dragster champion in 2005), comes in having posted the quickest time in 11 of the last 12 qualifying sessions including an NHRA national record 3.671 seconds at 331.04 miles per hour last week at Denver, Colo.

A two-time winner this year (Pomona, Calif., and Englishtown, N.J.), he has qualified No. 1 at eight of 16 races this season including four of the last six. 

Of the 55 qualifying rounds in which he has been a participant this year, Torrence has been quickest in almost half (26).  Moreover, the last time he failed to qualify among the Quick 8, which assures lane choice in the first round, was at this race in 2015, a span of 23 events.

Torrence, who formed his own team in 2012 so that he could manage more of the variables responsible for the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in pro racing, credits a team that has now been intact for two seasons for all his success.

“My guys give me a great race car every round.  All I can do is screw it up,” he said.  “(Crew chief) Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana, AJ (tuning consultant Alan Johnson), everybody.  They have the same passion for this that I do.

“Basically, we’re a one-car, family team racing against the sport’s big dogs and it’s very rewarding to be able to have some success at that level with so many great drivers and teams out there,” Torrence said.  “To be the best, you’ve gotta beat the best.  That’s what we’re out here trying to do this week and every other week.”


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