Top Fuel Champion Seeks First 2022 Win in Capco Contractors Dragster

March 8, 2022 -- On a track that has proven challenging even for him and his accomplished crew of “Capco Boys,” Steve Torrence tries to channel his inner “Big Daddy” this week when he sends his Capco Contractors dragster after the Top Fuel championship in the 53rd annual Amalie Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Two years ago, in recognition of the drag racing career and contributions of Florida legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Torrence’s Capco crew fabricated a car that mimicked the basic design and livery of “Swamp Rat 14,” the Garlits’ dragster that in 1971 revolutionized the sport by validating the advantage of rear engine power.

Energized by the project and by Garlits’ reaction to it, the 38-year-old Torrence beat former champ Tony Schumacher, among others, en route to a victory that ended 10 years of Gatornationals frustration during which he failed to reach a single final round and actually lost more rounds than he won (8-10).

This week, he’ll try to recapture that “Swamp Rat” magic in a race that serves as a homecoming for crew chief Richard Hogan, who grew up in Florida, who worked on Garlits’ crew and whose dad, the late Charlie “the King” Hogan, was one of “Big Daddy’s” fiercest rivals early in his career.

“There’s a longstanding history between ‘Hoagie’ and ‘Big,’” Torrence said, “so that win was a surreal experience, for sure.  It’s one of the memories I will always cherish but, like I keep saying, this is a ‘what have your done for me lately’ sport.  We won that race but now we have to prove we can win without the ‘Big Daddy’ influence.”

Seeking to become just the fourth pro driver in NHRA history to win as many as five consecutive series championships, Torrence will start Gatornationals qualifying in third place in Camping World points behind Justin Ashley and Mike Salinas.

 “The longer you’re on top, the harder it is to stay on top,” Torrence said of his latest title bid, “so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us this year.  We know we’ve got a target on our backs every time we roll up to the line but, with this crew and extra help this year from Red Line Oil and Toyota, I feel really good about our chances.”

Ousted in the semifinals at the season’s first two races after closing 2021 with a pair of victories, the talented Texan is trying to extend a streak spanning three seasons during which he has not gone more than two consecutive races without a victory.

Before he addresses his bid for an initial 2022 tour victory, though, Torrence first will focus on the inaugural Pep Boys All-Star Call Out, a Top Fuel bonus race contested in conjunction with Saturday qualifying that offers up an $80,000 top prize independent of the Gatornationals purse.

The event’s unique format gives the top-seeded drivers the option of choosing their first-round opponent.  As the No. 1 seed, Torrence will “call out” whomever he wishes to race in Saturday’s first round set for a 10:45 a.m., Texas time, start.  Second round is slated for 12:30 p.m. and the final for 1:45 p.m., Texas time.

A cancer survivor who prepped for his Top Fuel career by winning the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster World Championship in 2005, Torrence has dominated the Camping World tour the last five seasons, winning 43 of his last 99 starts, more than twice as many races as any other pro driver.

Qualifying begins with a single nitro session at 4:30 p.m., CST, on Friday followed by sessions for those not involved in the All-Star Call Out at 11 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Saturday.  Sunday eliminations begin at 10 a.m., CST. 

FOX broadcast network will provide coverage of the All-Star Call Out starting at 1 p.m., Texas time, on Saturday.  FS1 will handle race coverage with qualifying shows at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., CST, on Saturday and final eliminations at 6 p.m., CST, Sunday.

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