Mello Yello Champ Aims to Repeat at Phoenix

February 19, 2019 -- Reigning Mello Yello drag racing champion Steve Torrence, the Top Fuel favorite at this week’s 35th Magic Dry Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, is 100 percent “gin-you-wine” Texan right down to the cowboy hat crafted for him by the 104-year-old American Hat Company. 

That means that when he’s not riding herd on the 10,000 horses that propel his Capco Contractors dragster to speeds exceeding 330 miles per hour and when he’s not bidding jobs for his family’s pipeline construction business, he usually can be found astride his favorite cow pony, Gunner, on the little south Texas ranch to which he one day hopes to retire.

Ridin’ and ropin’ provide an escape for the 36-year-old cancer survivor whose victory here a year ago laid the foundation for a record-shattering season culminating in an unprecedented sweep of the NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship. 

Having finally secured drag racing’s ultimate prize, Torrence now is focused on joining Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Gary Scelzi, the late Scott Kalitta, Joe Amato and Don Garlits as winners of back-to-back Top Fuel titles – pretty heady stuff for a guy who hasn’t given up his day job.

“I usually work Monday through Thursday at Capco,” Torrence said.  “I fly into the races on Friday and then I fly back on Sunday.  I try to be back in the office on Monday.  Between my day job and racing, it’s definitely a pressure cooker so, on the off weekends, whenever I get the chance, I try to get down to the ranch and play cowboy.”

In fact, “the ranch” never is far away even when the 27-time tour winner is strapped into his race car awaiting a launch that subjects his body to G forces five times the normal.  A picture of the rural property at sunrise is mounted on the cowling of the race car, always there to remind him of his roots.

Right now, life is very good for the graduate of Kilgore College who rolls into Wild Horse Pass in second place in Mello Yello points after dropping a narrow final round decision to Doug Kalitta in the final round of the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.

When racing begins Sunday, Torrence will be seeking his 20th win over the last 49 NHRA tour events and among those trying to keep him from doing so will be his dad, Billy, driver of a second Capco Contractors entry and winner last year of the Top Fuel championship at the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn.

“It’s always great to race with my dad,” Torrence said.  “We used to race Super Comp together and now it’s Top Fuel – but it doesn’t matter.  We’re both real competitive and you don’t want to show up at Capco on Monday without bragging rights.”

Last year, the two locked up in the semifinal round at Phoenix with Steve emerging with a narrow victory, 3.722 seconds at 328.86 miles per hour to 3.726 seconds at 328.54 mph. 

“We’ve been able to do a lot of cool stuff,” Torrence said at the time, “but that one right there is going to rank at the top of all my career – racing my old man like that.  The only way it would have been better would be to do it in the final round.”


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