Capco Driver Trying to Sweep Charlotte Races for the Third Consecutive Time

September 13, 2021 -- Even if he hadn’t left Maple Grove Raceway with the point lead following last week’s Countdown opener, Steve Torrence and his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster still would have been heavily favored to win the 13th DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals beginning Friday at ZMax Dragway.

After all, the three-time reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion has won five straight times on the all-concrete surface at Bruton Smith’s super track and this week could become the first pro driver in any of the NHRA car classes to win as many as six consecutive events at one venue.

In many ways, though, Torrence’s five straight ZMax victories already have placed him in a class of his own.  That’s because the drivers with whom he currently shares the record, Hall of Famers Bob Glidden and John Force, won their five races in a single event contested at virtually the same time each year utilizing the sport’s traditional one-on-one, loser goes home format.

Glidden won five straight Pro Stock titles in the NHRA Springnationals at Columbus, Ohio (1979-1983) while Force hoisted the Funny Car trophy five straight years at the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. (1992-1996).  Torrence’s streak has been far more mix-and-match.

It began in the spring of 2018 when he won the NGK/NTK 4Wide Nationals and was extended later in the year when he won in standard two-car eliminations at the Carolina Nationals.  The following year he again won both races, one in April, one in October, before this year winning the Carolina four-wide for the fourth consecutive time.

“That just shows the talent of (crew chief) Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana and these Capco boys,” Torrence said.  “To be able to make the right adjustments for differences in weather and surface conditions from April to September, especially when you’re going from four lanes to two and back again, is pretty amazing.”

Torrence’s ability to adapt as a driver has been equally impressive especially considering his initial disdain for four-wide racing.

“I’m competitive by nature,” the 48-time pro tour winner told Wes Buck, founder of Drag Illustrated magazine and host of a drag racing podcast.  “Whether it’s going out and racing a Top Fuel car, racing Super Comp with my dad, playing golf with my buddies or flipping quarters, I want to win.  Whatever it is.  If we’re gonna color in the coloring book, I want to be the best.  That’s what drives me and not only to win, but to be the best; not to just barely win or barely get by, but to make a statement.”

The 38-year-old Texan made just such a statement in 2018 when, a year after losing the championship on the last day of the season, he swept the six races in the Countdown, a feat unlikely to ever be duplicated.  Now, three years later, he is focused on becoming just the seventh pro driver in NHRA history to win as many as four consecutive championships (after Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Bob Glidden, Lee Shepherd, Force and Tony Schumacher).

With that goal in mind, he is hoping to put a little more daylight between himself and second place Brittany Force this week.  The No. 1 qualifier at the last seven races, she starts the Carolina Nationals just 12 points behind thanks to an NHRA policy that “adjusts” the points prior to the start of the Countdown.  In similar circumstances, it was Force who snatched the championship from Torrence’s grasp in 2017 after he led most of the way.  He credits that experience for making him the racer he is today.

“You have to be mentally strong,” he said.  “To have that kind of failure and to know you were that close and then accept the fact that it was just you not doing your job when you needed to perform, that’s the only way you can move forward.

“I took that whole next year and redirected my focus on not who I’m racing, not what they’re doing, not what their car did but only on what my car’s doing, what my guys are doing, and what I’m doing when I’m in the car.  At the end of the day, that’s the only control I have,” he said.

While he acknowledges Force and her crew chief, David Grubnic, to be the biggest threat to his bid for a fourth straight title, Torrence doesn’t have to look far to find another formidable challenger.

Occupying the pit spot adjacent to his own is a second red-and-black dragster driven by his dad, Billy Torrence, founder and CEO of Capco Contractors, Inc., and winner of last week’s Mopar Express Lane Nationals at Reading, Pa.  Although he sat out four races during the regular season, the elder Torrence currently is third in points, the same position in which he finished a year ago.

Between them, the Torrences have won 10 of 14 races this season and 48 of the last 92 events contested on the NHRA’s Camping World tour.

One nitro qualifying session is scheduled for 6:15 p.m., Texas time, Friday with additional sessions at 1:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., Texas time, Saturday.  Eliminations will begin at 9:30 a.m., Texas time, Sunday with coverage on FOX broadcast network.

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