Team Capco Aims for Fourth Straight Top Fuel Title in NHRA Arizona Nationals

February 24, 2022 -- Already off to a solid start, Steve Torrence’s “Drive for Five” tour should gain momentum this week with the 37th running of the NHRA Arizona Nationals, an event in which the Texan’s Capco Contractors team has celebrated a Top Fuel victory in each of its last three appearances at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Nevertheless, extending that streak will be no easy task, not with an expanded field of hungry challengers and certainly not in the absence of the four-time champion’s familiar wing man, dad Billy, the 2019 Phoenix winner who won’t make his first 2022 appearance until the Camping World tour moves east to Gainesville, Fla. for next month’s 53rd annual Amalie Gatornationals.

 “The longer you’re on top, the harder it is to stay there and that’s our challenge this year – to stay on top,” Torrence has said.

To do so, the 51-time tour winner will have to fend off not only Brittany Force, who was second in points last year and who was the last driver other than Torrence to win the championship (2017), but also recent Rookie-of-the-Year designates Justin Ashley (2020) and Austin Prock (2019).

Those are the three drivers behind whom he will start Sunday’s eliminations, but they are not the only drivers who pose a threat to his impressive current reign as only the seventh to win as many as four straight NHRA championships.

“Off the top of my head, I could name 11 Top Fuel teams right now who easily could win this race other than us,” Torrence said.  “There’s definitely guys coming after us.  But that’s what makes it fun.  It’s all about the competition.”

In addition to the aforementioned threesome, Torrence identified perennial bridesmaid Doug Kalitta, six-time former series champion Tony Schumacher, three-time former world champ Antron Brown, 2013 series champion Shawn Langdon, two-time Phoenix winner Leah Pruett, second year pro Josh Hart (a two-time winner in his rookie year), veteran Mike Salinas and six-time IHRA champ Clay Millican as the principal threats to his bid to become just the fourth in NHRA history with five straight pro titles.

Nevertheless, as the only driver to have swept the NHRA playoffs in any category (six wins in six starts to claim his first title in 2018), Torrence believes his own team is equal to whatever challenge it may face, a view supported by recent history.

With Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana Jr. and a veteran crew of “Capco Boys” putting a car beneath him that has redefined consistency in an 11,000-horsepower race car, Torrence has won 81.5 percent of his Top Fuel matches since the start of the 2017 season (265-60) and last year enjoyed one of the most productive pro seasons in the sport’s history when he posted a 60-9 record.

“No matter how many races I wind up winning,” Torrence said, “it won’t be because of anything I’ve done.  The Capco Boys do the work and I’m just the guy who’s lucky enough to drive the best race car out there.”

Despite his protestations, statistics would suggest that Torrence might be a little bit more than just a passenger in the Red Line Oil-protected Capco Contractors Toyota.  Although he has won 46 of the last 104 races in which he has appeared, the 38-year-old cancer survivor won only seven of those races from the No. 1 starting position.  By contrast, during his six-year dominance, Schumacher earned 18 of his 50 wins from the drag racing equivalent of the pole position. 

Arizona Nationals qualifying begins with a single nitro session at p.m., Texas time, on Friday followed by sessions at 2:30 and 4:30 on Saturday.  Sunday eliminations begin at 12 noon, Texas time.  Television coverage on FS1 will include qualifying highlight shows at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Texas time, on Saturday and final eliminations from 6 until 9 p.m., Texas time, on Sunday.

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