Steve Torrence is destined to be the top seed in this year’s NHRA Drag Racing Series’ Top Fuel countdown. Heading into this weekend’s 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, Torrence leads Tony Schumacher by 187 points in the standings. With Indy being the 18th and final race of the regular season, the regular season championship is all but his.
Torrence, 35, is looking to earn his second straight top seed. Last year, he was the top seed too. Unfortunately, the Texas native crashed his dragster just four races into the Countdown which in turn ended up costing him a championship.
“I won’t believe it until we get through that first qualifying run on Friday,” the runaway point leader said of his bid to become just the fifth driver in Countdown history to earn the No. 1 starting spot in consecutive seasons. “This sport can bite you. It bit us last year when we crashed in Dallas.”
Forced into a backup version of his all-conquering Capco Contractors dragster following that accident, Torrence won just two rounds the rest of the way and lost the title to Brittany Force in the next-to-last round on the final day of the season.
Torrence, has taken that disappointment out on the 2018 season. He’s won five times in 17 races and has made it to at least the semifinals 11 times. After winning at Phoenix back in the winter, Torrence took over the points lead and has never given it back. Despite all the success, his main goal in 2018 wasn’t to be the top seed in the playoffs. He just wants to position himself to win the championship.
“If we’re the No. 1 seed, that’s great,” Torrence said, “but that wasn’t our goal coming in here. There’s only one thing we’ve talked about all year. Everybody on this team is committed to winning a championship that we know we let get away last year.
“When you get so close that you can taste it and it doesn’t happen, it just makes you want it even more,” admitted the man who is trying to become the first in history to win NHRA series championships in both the Alcohol and Fuel categories. “Maybe my attitude wasn’t right (last year), but it is now.”
Ironically, one of the biggest roadblocks to Torrence’s bid for a second straight Indy victory may come from within the Capco compound.
Billy Torrence, the 60-year-old founder of Capco Contractors, will be back in the cockpit of a second Capco dragster as teammate to his son after earning an upset victory two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn., his first such success in Top Fuel.
Not only did he win the race, he also qualified No. 1 (just ahead of his son) and, in the final, upset three-time World Champion Antron Brown, whose semifinal victory had squelched the possibility of an all-Torrence, all-Capco final.
“He was pretty bad-ass,” Torrence said of his dad who for more than 30 years has raced competitively at the sportsman level where he has won a couple of NHRA national events in the Super Comp class.
“Racing each other at this level in a final round has been a dream of mine,” Torrence said. “You don’t get that many opportunities. In fact, I think it’s only happened once in Top Fuel (when Conrad Kalitta beat his son Scott at the 1994 Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.). We’d like to be the second. That would be tough to top.”