ST. LOUIS – After an unexpected first round exit at the opening event in the Countdown to the Championship, Kilgore’s Steve Torrence put his bid for a second straight Mello Yello Top Fuel title back on track Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway even though he was upstaged by his dad, Billy, in the final round of the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals.
In just the third father-son final in NHRA Top Fuel history, Billy Torrence, considered by most to be the sport’s top part-time professional, beat his son and, in so doing, kept the reigning champion from regaining the point lead that has belonged to him and his Capco Contractors team for most of the last three seasons.
When the playoffs resume in two weeks at the 12th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at Charlotte, N.C., Steve Torrence will trail Doug Kalitta by a scant two points. His dad, meanwhile, moved up from tenth to ninth as a first time Countdown qualifier.
“Just a great win for this Capco team,” said Steve Torrence.
“A lot of people already were writing us off after both our hot rods went out in the first round (in the Countdown opener at Reading, Pa.), but that’s racing. Things happen. What’s important is how you respond and these Capco boys didn’t miss a beat.
“We’re right back in it now, but I’m sure I’m gonna hear it from my dad on the way back home,” he predicted. “We’re 1-1 in final rounds now (Billy was runner-up to Steve last June 9 at Topeka, Kan.) so I guess we’re gonna have to do this again sometime to break the tie.”
For Billy Torrence, the founder and CEO of Capco, a Texas-based oil-and-gas pipeline construction and maintenance business, it was his fourth Top Fuel victory in little more than a year; his fourth in his last 18 appearances but his very first in a Countdown event.
“First of all, I’ve got to thank the Good Lord for letting us be out here as a family doing what we love to do,” he said after the team’s 11th win in 20 races this year. “And I want to thank all the guys at Capco. We’ll be there at six o’clock in the morning ready to lay pipe.
“To get to race Steve in the final was the goal,” he said. “We came here and we watched how we qualified and (then) we did what we needed to do to stay on opposite sides of ladder and it came out good. It came out better for me, but it’s good to get one on the kid every now and then.”
Other than the final, Billy’s biggest win came in the second round against Kalitta, to whom he had lost in four of five previous meetings.
“Doug’s a great driver and that’s a great team,” he said, “plus he’s a really good friend. I really enjoy all those guys, but we had a job to do and this time we got it done.”
Ironically, it was Doug’s uncle, Connie Kalitta, who beat his son, the late Scott Kalitta, in the first ever father-son Top Fuel final on March 20, 1994 at Gainesville, Fla.