Texan No Longer Can ‘Sneak Up’ on His Competition

May 1, 2017 -- Coming off consecutive final round appearances on the NHRA Mello Yello tour including a victory in last week’s 4Wide Nationals at Charlotte, Steve Torrence has emerged as the biggest threat to the continued Top Fuel dominance of the three-car juggernaut fielded by Don Schumacher Racing.

Until Torrence’s Charlotte breakthrough, DSR drivers had won the first five events of 2017.  Equally significant is the fact that of the three races NOT won by DSR since Tony Schumacher prevailed last September in the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, two have gone to Torrence and his Capco Contractors dragster; the other to Doug Kalitta.   

Still, with attention shifting this week to Atlanta Dragway and the 37th running of the Lucas Oil Southern Nationals, Torrence will be the first to admit that he if he is to win here for a second time, he’ll have to do so without one of the weapons that made possible his upset of Schumacher in the 2012 final. 

That win was the first for the 34-year-old Texan since moving up from the Top Alcohol Dragster division in which he won a world championship in 2005 and there is little doubt that he benefitted greatly from the element of surprise.  Schumacher, after all, already had won seven World Championships and 67 tour events at the time and, during qualifying, had lowered the Atlanta track record as No. 1 qualifier. 

Torrence, by contrast, was appearing in his first final round in 55 career races as a pro.  Moreover, he was competing for just the seventh time as an owner/driver after spending five frustrating seasons driving for others on a limited schedule.  Nevertheless, after convincingly dispatching Schumacher, the determined cancer survivor went on to win two more races before ultimately finishing ninth in points. 

He’s been winning ever since.

“We can’t sneak up on anybody anymore,” Torrence joked as he prepared for his eighth trip to Atlanta Dragway, “and that makes you feel pretty good.  It’s taken awhile to put all the pieces together but now when this team shows up, everyone knows we have a car that can win.  Nobody takes us lightly.  We get everybody’s best shot and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Since that Atlanta win five years ago, Torrence has added eight more Wally trophies to his display and last year finished third in points in a season in which he had a category-best eight No. 1 starts and went to the finals eight times.  Now, he is trying to become the first driver in NHRA history to win championships in both the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol categories.

Ironically, Don Schumacher himself helped fuel the Texan’s rise.

“We sat down (after Torrence announced that he would field a team on his own) and he told me that I can’t do this on my own and be competitive with these multi-car teams,” said the Texan.  “I’ll just be honest with you, it pissed me off.   We can and we have and we’re going to continue to do so.”

While his win in the 4Wide was gratifying, it also was cause for reflection insomuch as it was secured in the absence of crewman Justin Crossley, whose mother died the day before eliminations.

“You spend every weekend with these guys and they become your family,” Torrence said. “We’re like brothers and I trust these guys with my life.  You form that bond and when anybody is down, you support them. We told him that we would be getting the trophy for him.  I’m very fortunate to have my mom (Kay) at all the races. It makes you take a look at what you have and not take anything for granted.”



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