DENVER – In the five years that he and his Capco Contractors dragster have dominated the NHRA series, reaching the finals in 48 of 90 events on the Camping World tour with 36 wins, Steve Torrence has become the first to claim championships in both the Top Alcohol (2005) and Top Fuel divisions and the first to sweep the races in NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship (2018).
Torrence, from Kilgore, was the last to win a bonus race and national event on the same weekend (2017) and his mastery of four-wide racing has become the stuff of legend – six wins in his last seven starts in a format in which no one else has won more than twice.
At this weekend’s 41st Dodge Mile-High Nationals, however, the 38-year-old has a chance to take the first step toward an achievement that thus far has eluded him. Despite his overall dominance, one thing the talented Texan has not done is sweep the three races comprising an arduous Western Swing that begins in the rarefied air at Bandimere Speedway before moving on to Sonoma, Calif., and, usually, Seattle, Wash.
Five Top Fuel drivers previously “swept the Swing.” However, Torrence not only has an opportunity to join the august company of Joe Amato, Larry Dixon, Cory McClenathan, Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher, he also can become the first and likely only Top Fuel driver to sweep the Denver-Sonoma-Pomona, Calif., combination that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Torrence has won all the individual events comprising this year’s “swing,” but winning them all in the same year has been challenging. His best result came two years ago when he won Denver but was upset by his dad, Billy, in a Capo Contractors’ semifinal showdown at Sonoma. He then was runner-up to rookie Austin Pro at Seattle.
“There are so many variables in these race cars,” Torrence said. “It’s amazing to me that so many guys have been able to win three straight weekends in all the different conditions starting with Denver’s altitude.
“The Capco Boys are the best in the business,” he said, “and I know we’ll go out there with a race car that can get the job done. Having said that, it’s just tough to be perfect that many times in a row.”
Winner of 44 events in a Top Fuel career that took off when he formed his own team in 2012, Torrence is seeking his fifth win of the current season on a track on which he is the record holder for speed at 330.31 miles per hour.
Although he starts the Swing 215 points ahead of his nearest rival, Torrence is quick to point out that, unlike last year when the pandemic compelled the NHRA to cancel the Countdown portion of the season, this year’s championship will revert to a format in which the points will be adjusted before the final seven races.
As a result, whomever is the point leader at the end of the Dodge U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, no matter how large or how small the advantage, will start the Countdown with a 20-point lead.
Torrence, who won the last three regular season championships (there was no such thing a year ago), is trying to become just the seventh driver in pro drag racing history to win as many as four consecutive NHRA championships.
See the Mile High Nationals qualifying today at 1 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), and the finals on Sunday, also on FS1, starting at 3 p.m.
Next weekend, it’s off to Sonoma, Calif., for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.