CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Defending NHRA Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence has the same kind of relationship with four-wide drag racing that Matthew Quigley, protagonist of the 1990 Australian-American western “Quigley Down Under,” had with handguns.
An expert marksman with a long rifle, a skill for which he was hired by bigoted Australian rancher Elliot Marston, Quigley (Tom Selleck) admitted early-on that he didn’t have much use for the revolvers favored by his employer, a wannabe gunfighter.
Imagine Marston’s surprise when Quigley, deprived of his trusty rifle, wins the climatic shootout with the antagonist and two of his henchmen using a handgun supplied by the villains themselves. Standing over his incredulous victims, Quigley uttered the movie’s most famous line: “ (I) said I didn’t have much use for ‘em, never said I didn’t know how to use ‘em.”
Torrence is that way when drag racing goes four-wide as it does again this weekend in the 10th renewal of the NGK Spark Plugs 4Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. He doesn’t particularly like the format, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at it.
The fact is he is very good indeed having driven his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster into the winners’ circle in three of the last four events contested four across including the last two at zMAX, the original four-wide racetrack.
“To succeed (in four-wide racing) you really have to concentrate on the job at hand,” said the 36-year-old Texan. “There are distractions you don’t have (in the traditional two-driver format) but, really, when you’ve had the kind of success we’ve had, winning three of these things and being runner-up in another (at zMAX in 2015), it’s hard to be too critical. It’s just another challenge to get to the ultimate goal – and that’s winning another Mello Yello (championship) trophy.”
The truth is, whether it’s two-wide, four-wide or however many-wide, Torrence and his “Capco Boys” have established themselves as the gold standard in Top Fuel racing. Moreover the Torrence Racing business model has been adopted by a slew of new Top Fuel teams including the one anchored by California businessman Mike Salinas, winner earlier this month of the Denso Four-Wide in Las Vegas.
“We’re not some big powerhouse that’s building our own parts,” Torrence said. “We buy everything off the shelf and put it on the race car. (Success) is all about the boys that put these things together and Richard (Hogan) and Bobby (Lagana Jr.) making the right calls tuning it.”
Torrence and crew can be seen in Charlotte in coverage of the finals on Fox Sports 1 on Sunday, starting at 5 p.m. Central. Next week, the circuit heads to Atlanta, Ga., for the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals.