Texan Among Favorites in Event He Missed in 2016

June 20, 2017 -- Last year, Steve Torrence didn’t have the heart to compete in the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals, contested this week for the 11th time at Summit Motorsports Park.

Stricken with angina pains after his daily workout, the 34-year-old drove himself to the hospital in Kilgore, Texas where he was told he had suffered a minor heart attack that likely was an unwanted byproduct of the radiation treatments he endured years earlier to treat Hodgkins lymphoma.

Nevertheless, two days before the start of qualifying, after undergoing a corrective procedure, he was given clearance to resume normal activities -- until doctors became aware that, for Torrence, “normal” meant driving the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster at speeds of more than 330 miles per hour.

Informed that such activity routinely subjected the talented Texan to pressures equal to five Gs on acceleration and a negative five Gs upon deployment of the twin braking parachutes, the medicos strongly suggested that he take the weekend off.

Reluctantly, he agreed to do so, but only after he was told that if there was a problem with the incision, he could bleed to death before the NHRA Safety Safari could render aid.   It was then that reality trumped fearlessness and he called officials to withdraw his entry. 

The upshot is that he had to follow the race on the internet and has been waiting for an entire calendar year to get back on the track on which he was the No. 1 qualifier in 2012.

A three-time winner this season, Torrence will start Friday qualifying as the Mello Yello point leader for just the second time in his pro career.  He leads Leah Pritchett by 11 points and close friend Antron Brown by 20 in the ongoing battle for the $500,000 championship.

“The only time it means anything to be No. 1 is after the last car goes down the track at Pomona (at the season-ending Auto Club Finals),” Torrence said of his lofty status.   “The first time (after winning the 2016 season-opener) was a milestone.  Now being No. 1 is just a means to an end.   All it does is give you a little head start when you get to the Countdown.”

Not that the former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005) doesn’t want that head start.  It’s just that he knows that performance at this point in the season does not necessarily translate to success in September and October.

“The important thing is that we’ve got a great team and a solid race car,” he said.  “Our only strategy is to just keep doing what we’re doing.”

What the team has been doing is putting a competitive car on the racetrack regardless of the conditions.  With Richard Hogan making the tuning decisions with input from car chief Bobby Lagana Jr. and tuning consultant Alan Johnson, Torrence has advanced out of the first round in 15 straight races dating back to last year’s Countdown.

In addition, it’s been 43 races since the 11-time tour winner last started without the benefit of lane choice in the first round.  That means that he has qualified eighth of better 42 consecutive times, the best such mark in the category.



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