Point Leader Defends Top Fuel Title in Toyota Nationals

October 25, 2017 -- In the grand scheme, what’s a little collision with a concrete guardwall at 320 miles per hour?  To Steve Torrence, who endured the consequences of such an incident little more than a week ago, it’s simply another challenge to overcome in pursuit of the ultimate goal.

Despite having “totaled” a Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster that had won twice as many races as any other this season; despite the resultant drain on his team’s operating budget and despite the myriad of physical aches and pains one would expect from such a traumatic incident, it is a confident Torrence who returns this week to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 17th annual Toyota Nationals.

And why not?  First of all, the 34-year-old Texan is the defending event champion.  Second, in spite of the crash he still sits atop the Mello Yello driver standings, 37 points ahead of Brittany Force.  Finally, he’ll start Friday qualifying in a new Capco dragster in which he tested last weekend at Indianapolis with a 1,000-foot time of 3.68 seconds and a finish line speed of 332 mph.

To put that into perspective, the 16-time pro tour winner’s best-ever competitive numbers are 3.671 seconds last year at Sonoma, Calif., and 332.10 mph last May at Topeka, Kan.  That’s correct.  In a new Morgan Lucas Racing-built dragster with Alan Johnson Enterprises power, he went as quick and as fast as he’s gone in his career.

“That’s one helluva endorsement, right there,” Torrence said.  “A.J. power and Morgan Lucas pipe. That underlines what I’ve said from the start which is that I’ve got the best crew in the sport.  To put everything back together after a crash like that and go out and run those numbers?  Think about it.  If that’s not a confidence-builder for a driver, I don’t know what is.”

Not that the former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005) was running shy on confidence.  Over the last 22 events, he has posted the quickest average reaction time in the category.  Moreover, in the last 40 races, he has lost in the first round just three times.

Torrence credits crew chief Richard Hogan, car chief Bobby Lagana Jr. and what he calls “a crew of outlaws and misfits” for his improvement at the starting line.

“When you have a fast hot rod, it makes you a better driver,” he said.  “(When) you’ve got a crew that can give you a car like we’ve had all year, you don’t want to be the one to screw it up.  We can’t run .63 or .64 like some of these guys, but we can run .67 or .68 and if I can do my job at the starting line, we don’t have to run the world record every round to win.”


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