Four-Time Reigning World Champ Seeks Third Straight Mile-High Nationals Win

July 13, 2022 -- It’s good to be king, especially King of the Mountain, the lofty position four-time reigning Top Fuel World Champion Steve Torrence will occupy this week when drag racing’s touring pros begin the grind of the Western Swing with a stop at 5,600-foot high Bandimere Speedway.

“That (his 330.31 mph track record) was with the old set-up,” Torrence said, referencing the manner in which crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr. prepared his Capco Contractors dragster back in 2019, “but I’ll take these Capco Boys whether we’re racing at sea level, on a mountain or a dirt road.”

Transitioning to a new engine-and-clutch combination designed to keep him competitive at the elevated performance levels established by rivals Mike Salinas and Brittany Force, Torrence thus far has been victimized by his hot rod’s uncharacteristic inconsistency. 

“When you have an expectation of performance and it’s not there week-in and week-out, it can be a little frustrating, maybe (even) a little disheartening,” said the man who next week will attend the 2022 ESPY Awards gala in Los Angeles as one of the nominees for Best Driver along with NASCAR champion Kyle Larsen, Formula 1 Champion Max Verstappen and Indy Car Champion Alex Palou.

“You have to remind yourself that it’s for the greater good.  Everyone out here is constantly changing; they’re (always) trying to do something more,” he emphasized.  “We had it figured out for so long that we didn’t change, but (ultimately) you have to change or get left behind.”

Despite a winless streak that has reached 10 events, the 39-year-old Texan will start this week from third place in Camping World points in an ongoing bid to join John Force, Bob Glidden and Tony Schumacher as the only pro drivers to have won as many as five consecutive NHRA championships.

“We’re close, real close,” the 51-time tour winner said of his team’s progress, “but it’s just hard to win out here.  Toughest I’ve ever seen it.  I think with Tony (Schumacher) coming back this year, a lot of people thought it was just going to be me and him.  I never thought that. 

“Look what Mike Salinas has done with that team,” he said.  “(Top Fuel success) used to be about building your own parts and pieces.  We changed the model by focusing more on what you do with the parts that are available off the shelf.”

It’s a philosophy that’s been successfully adopted by a host of new teams including those of Salinas, Josh Hart and Justin Ashley.

When nitro qualifying begins at 5:30 p.m., Texas time, Friday, Torrence will trail Salinas by 109 points and Force by 97.  Qualifying continues at 9 p.m., Texas time, Friday and concludes Saturday with runs at 4:30 and 8:30 p.m., Texas time.  Eliminations begin at 12 noon, Texas time, on Sunday.

Television coverage of the first race of the Western Swing includes Texas time qualifying highlights at 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Sunday on FS1 and Sunday race coverage from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., Texas time, on the FOX broadcast network.  All TV times subject to change.

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