Point Leader Returns to Site of National Record Run

July 26, 2017 -- Every successful career is comprised of milestone moments and for Steve Torrence, the Mello Yello point leader in NHRA drag racing’s premier class, one of the biggest of those came last year at Sonoma Raceway, site this week of the 30th annual Toyota Sonoma Nationals.

It was at the wine country track one year ago that Torrence stunned his Top Fuel rivals with a Friday night qualifying run that not only sent him to the top of the order but also propelled him to a new level of peer respect as the official NHRA national record-holder for the first time in his pro career. 

He stopped the 1,000 foot timers in 3.671 seconds.  That, coupled with his track record speed of 331.06 mph, are the marks at which everyone else will be aiming when qualifying begins anew this Friday.

It was a “stand up and take notice” moment for the 34-year-old who, although he didn’t win the race, thereafter was mentioned prominently as a legitimate contender for a $500,000 Mello Yello championship that hadn’t been won by a single-car team in the Countdown Era. 

Although, ultimately, he finished third behind Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta, the confidence generated by the national record (which stood for seven months until it was eclipsed by Leah Pritchett), eight No. 1 qualifying performances and a trio of victories carried over to a 2017 campaign in which he has put the Capco Contractors hybrid in the winners’ circle five times while his Richard Hogan-led team has retained its reputation for fielding the most consistent car in the sport’s most inconsistent class.

“That was a big moment,” Torrence said of the national record run.  “That made a statement.  It was our first time to run in the ‘60s; our first time over 330.  We already knew we had championship-caliber team but that was kind of a moment that said to everybody else that we weren’t out here just to go through the motions.”

Winner of three of the last five tour events and of five races overall, the talented and talkative Texan rolls into town leading Brown, the three-time and defending world champion, by 54 points and Pritchett by 70.  Fourth place belongs to eight-time series champion Tony Schumacher who, along with Brown and Pritchett, races out of the multi-car Don Schumacher Racing stable.

“To be able to come out and do this as a family-run operation and have the success that we’re having makes you proud of what you are and where you come from,” Torrence said.  “Owning the team and being part of the day-to-day operation, working with a crew that I wouldn’t trade for any other one out there is very gratifying.”

Still, the acknowledgement that Team Capco is a capable of winning races in Top Fuel never was the goal.  That fact is winning the championship is the singular focus of Torrence and his team.

Told by some of the most respected individuals in the sport that it is virtually impossible for a single car team to win a championship in the multi-car era, they have made it their mission to prove otherwise.

Torrence’s sprint to the top of the point standings has been anything but a fluke.  The cancer survivor has qualified eighth or better, insuring first round lane choice, in a category-best 45 consecutive events.  He hasn’t lost a first round race in almost a calendar year (last September) and, as he did last year, leads the class in qualifying bonus points that accrue to the first, second and third quickest in each of the foul qualifying sessions that precede eliminations.


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