DENVER – Steve Torrence is known for facing challenges head-on, whether it’s battling Hodgkins’ lymphoma as he did as a Texas teenager or chasing drag racing history as he’s done the last three seasons at the wheel of the 11,000 horsepower, 330 mile-an-hour Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster.
The reigning Mello Yello Champion and current point leader, Torrence is the only driver to have won NHRA series championships in both the Top Alcohol and Top Fuel categories, the only driver in any category to have swept the six races comprising the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship and only the second driver (after Tony Schumacher) to race in eight consecutive Top Fuel finals.
He’ll try to extend the latter streak this weekend at Bandimere Speedway where he competes starting Friday in the 40th annual Dodge Mile-High Nationals, a race he won in 2015 and in which he started from the No. 1 qualifying position in both 2013 and 2016.
See coverage of this weekend’s NHRA finals on Sunday at 2 p.m. on Fox (regular Fox, not FS1).
The Mile-High Nationals is the most rigorous test of man and machine on the circuit. It is contested on an all-concrete track 5,600 feet above sea level, higher by 3,500 feet than any other in the series. The thin air creates unique problems for those tuning high performance engines that rely on the perfect mixture of fuel and air.
“Every track presents a different challenge,” Torrence said. “That’s one of the great things about this sport. You’re confronted with new problems every race and you have to figure them out. Fortunately, (crew chief) Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana (Jr.) and these Capco boys are the best in the business.”
For Torrence, though, Denver is significant for more than just its uniqueness.
“It’s the first race in the Western Swing,” Torrence said, “and obviously if you don’t win Denver, you can’t ‘Sweep the Swing.’”
Winning back-to-back-to-back at Denver, Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. is one of the few remaining items on the champ’s competitive bucket list and having won seven of the last eight events and 13 of the last 19, there would seem to be no better time to address it than the present.
Although there have been only seven sweeps in the 20-year history of the Western Swing, five have come in Top Fuel courtesy of some of the category’s biggest names: Joe Amato (1991), Cory McClenathan (1997), Larry Dixon (2003), Tony Schumacher (2008) and Antron Brown (2009).