CAPCO Driver Among Favorites at 30th Spring Nationals

April 19, 2017 -- Looking back at his performance during last year’s NHRA Spring Nationals, it’s difficult to understand how Steve Torrence didn’t wind up in the winners’ circle with his potent Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster.

The No. 1 qualifier for the second time in three years, the former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champ set the Royal Purple Raceway track record at 3.724 seconds, just missed the speed record at 329.42 miles per hour, was quickest in each of the last three rounds of elimination racing and, in the final, had a reaction time (.058) that on most days would have been good enough to win.  This time it wasn’t.

Rival Doug Kalitta not only had the best reaction time of the entire day (.036), he had one of the 12 best reaction times of the 24-race 2016 NHRA Mello Yello campaign and it got him to the finish line .019 of a second ahead of a very disappointed Kilgore College graduate. 

Nevertheless, on the eve of this week’s 30th renewal of the spring classic, the just-turned-34-year-old Torrence knows that it’s useless to dwell on the “what might have been.”

“I just hate that we had a chance to win a race on one of our home tracks with all our friends and family watching and didn’t close the deal,” he said.  “But that’s drag racing.  All you can do is give credit to Doug (Kalitta) and his guys and focus on trying to get back there for another shot.”

The odds favor another opportunity for the talented Texan who last year emerged as a legitimate threat to win the $500,000 Mello Yello championship.  In his fifth season as an owner/driver and in spite of a minor heart attack suffered in mid-season, he went to eight final rounds, won three races, started a category-best eight times from the No. 1 qualifying position, briefly held the NHRA national record and finished third in the Top Fuel driver standings.  

That laid the foundation for a new title bid he hopes to energize this weekend.  After the season’s first four races, he’s sixth in points owing to some uncharacteristic inconsistency resulting from adaptation to subtle changes in the engine and clutch combination made in the off-season by crew chief Richard Hogan, tuning consultant Alan Johnson and car chief Bobby Lagana Jr. 

“The DSR (Don Schumacher Racing) cars have been kicking our butts,” he said.  “They’ve won the first four races but maybe we can start giving them some payback now that we’re back home in Texas.  We’re still a work in progress.  We made some changes and it just takes time to get everything right.”

When qualifying begins on Friday, the avid outdoorsman and hunter will be trying to extend to 37 the number of consecutive NHRA tour events for which he has qualified his 10,000 horsepower dragster eighth or better.  That’s the longest such active streak in the Top Fuel division.

An eight-time winner on the Mello Yello tour, Torrence is trying to become the first driver in NHRA history to win World Championships in both the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol categories.   He won the Lucas Oil Top Alcohol title in 2005.



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