CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The way his career began at zMAX Dragway, who could have imagined that Steve Torrence would arrive this week at the 12th annual NTK Carolina Nationals with a chance to hoist the Top Fuel trophy for the fourth consecutive time at Bruton Smith’s self-titled “Bellagio of Drag Racing?”
After all, in his first five starts at zMAX, he turned on the win light just one time. Not exactly the stuff of legend.
Nevertheless, when he rolls his potent Capco Contractors dragster to the starting line for the first round Sunday, Torrence will indeed be bidding for his fourth win in-a-row on the all-concrete surface, his fourth in two years and his fifth in three.
Throughout NHRA history, on tracks that have hosted multiple races in one year, only two drivers (Greg Anderson and Erica Enders) have swept those events in consecutive seasons and neither drove a Funny Car or a Top Fuel dragster. Torrence is poised to be the first.
If he is able to do so, the bonus will be a return to the No. 1 points position he has occupied after exactly half of the races contested over the last four seasons (48 of 96) during which time he has won a remarkable 30 races.
Despite a rocky start to the current Countdown, a first round loss at Reading, Pa., that dropped him to third place after he had won his third consecutive regular season championship, Torrence starts Friday just two points behind Doug Kalitta.
That’s a margin that could evaporate before the start of actual racing given the fact that Torrence has earned 443 qualifying bonus points over the last four years, an average of 4.66 per race, more by a substantial margin than anyone else in Top Fuel.
“I’ve got a really good group,” Torrence reiterated, heaping praise on a Capco team anchored by crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr. “They rarely make mistakes and that sends me to the starting line with an awful lot of confidence.
“Very seldom do I win races,” he said. “About all I can do is screw it up, but I try real hard not to do that because I know how hard my guys work to give me the best car possible. Whatever success we’ve had, the glory goes to God and the Capco boys. I’m just the guy who gets to wear the helmet.”
The reigning series champion will be joined again this week by his dad, Billy, who will be back in the cockpit of the second Capco Contractors entry in which he has won three times this year, most recently at Reading where he beat his kid in the final, making them 1-1 in final rounds as just the second father and son tandem to race in the money round (after the late Scott Kalitta and his dad Connie, who raced in the final at the 1994 Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.)
See coverage of the finals live on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) Sunday at noon.