World Champ Inspired by Daughter, Dad at NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

June 15, 2022 -- A lot of things have happened since a Camping World tour event last was contested on Father’s Day as it will be this week when the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals returns to Bristol Dragway and the traditional June date it first adopted as its own in 2010.

In the three years since Mike Salinas beat four-time reigning Top Fuel World Champion Steve Torrence to win on Father’s Day, 2019, Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump as President, the average price of a gallon of gas went from $2.68 to more than $5 and, oh yeah, Torrence become a father for the very first time.

While the latter event has diminished neither his passion for drag racing nor his drive to become just the fourth pro to win as many as five straight NHRA tour championships, Torrence admits that it has changed his attitude.

“Being a dad is more important than anything else,” said the 51-time tour winner whose daughter, Haven Charli, just celebrated her first birthday and subsequently took her first unaided steps.  “It doesn’t change your drive to be the best, but it does change your perspective. 

“I wear my emotions on my sleeve,” admitted the 39-year-old driver of the Capco Contractors dragster, the most dominant car in the series, “and a few times I’ve let those emotions get away from me.  Now that I’m a dad, I’m trying really hard not to be that guy. This is a high-intensity, emotion-driven sport and if you let those emotions get the better of you, which I know I’ve done, people will never let you forget it.

“I’ve done what I can to make amends and that’s all I can do,” he said.  “Going forward, I just want to make my daughter proud, make (my wife) Natalie proud and make the rest of my family proud.” 

Torrence credits his own father for every bit of the success he has enjoyed on the track and in every other aspect of his life.

“The thing he taught me that’s most important, not just in racing, but in life, is a work ethic,” Torrence said of dad, Billy, a 10-time winner on the NHRA national event circuit in both Top Fuel and Super Comp and the founder and CEO of the family’s oil-and-gas pipeline construction business.

“It’s a huge part of the success we’ve had the last few years,” said the only driver ever to sweep the races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship (2018).  “Everybody out there racing for the championship has the parts, the pieces and the people. Sometimes it just comes down to who puts in the most work. 

“I think when you have that mentality and somebody else sees it, it carries over to the next person,” he said.  “Dealing with people like my dad has, you get to understand what elevates them and what motivates them and that’s something he’s shared with each and every one of us.”

Although he will roll to the starting line for Friday’s first qualifying session in third place in Camping World points, Torrence has yet to celebrate a victory in eight races this season, the longest he has been shut out of the winners’ circle since 2016.

“Everyone is talking about how we haven’t won a race yet,” he said, “but the car is running reasonably well.  We just haven’t had the consistency we’ve had the last few years.  I can’t say it often enough: it’s hard to win out here.  So many good cars, so many hungry teams plus we’re the ones with the targets on our back.  Having said that, we wouldn’t want it any other way.  Competition is what pushes every one of these Capco boys to go the extra mile.  To be the best, we know we have to beat the best.”

Qualifying begins with a single nitro session at 7 p.m., Texas time, on Friday followed by sessions at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday.  Sunday eliminations begin at 11 a.m., Texas time.  FOX broadcast network coverage of final eliminations from 2-5 p.m., Texas time, on Sunday, will be preceded by a pair of qualifying shows on FS1, one at 7 p.m. Friday and the other at 10 p.m. Saturday.

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