Torrence in car

Steve Torrence will be back at the wheel of the Capco Contractors dragster this week in pusuit of the Top Fuel title at the 66th annual Denso Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. Torrence won the race in 2017 and has been runner-up on three other occasions.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Whether the NHRA series is four races, or only 11, as apparently it will be in this COVID-19 shortened season, the one event every pro and every sportsman racer invariably wants to win more than any other is the U.S. Nationals, contested this weekend for the 60{sup}th{/sup} consecutive year at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Certainly, it is an event especially meaningful to Kilgore’s own Steve Torrence, the two-time reigning Mello Yello Top Fuel champion, who won it as a sportsman racer in 2005 (in the Top Alcohol Dragster class) before driving his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster into the winners’ circle as a pro in 2017.

“It’s the holy grail of drag racing,” he said, “the one that everyone wants to win. You can win a championship, but if you don’t win Indy, your career is not complete.”

Since he is one of the 13 Top Fuel drivers who has won both an NHRA points championship and its biggest single event, one might think the 37-year-old Texan had nothing more to prove. That would be mistake.

“We are racers,” Torrence said of his motivation. “It’s what we do. It brings us happiness. The competition fuels our fire. It has been a very emotional couple of weeks (for our team), but we couldn’t think of anywhere else we’d rather be (this week) than at the U.S. Nationals competing (for bookend win in the world’s most prestigious drag race).”

This is Team Capco’s fourth race in the last two months at Lucas Oil Raceway and despite the fact that it celebrated in the winners’ circle after two of the previous three events, this week definitely is different.

“Even though only a handful of our fans will get a chance to attend in person, there’s still a different atmosphere going into the Nationals,” Torrence said. “It’s the Big Go and if you can’t get excited about the U.S. Nationals then you need to be doing something else.”

Now, though, he is in position to race to a new plateau. A victory this week would make him just the eighth Top Fuel driver with multiple wins in the U.S. Nationals.

Nevertheless, more than most, he understands the difficulty of such an achievement having himself settled for runner-up honors in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Bidding this year to become just the third Top Fuel driver to win three consecutive NHRA championships (after Joe Amato and Schumacher), Torrence rolls his car to the starting line trailing Doug Kalitta by 83 points in a season in which the NHRA has suspended its Countdown playoff format.

Although he has won two of the four races he has contested this year including last month’s Dodge Indy Nationals, Torrence has struggled to retain bragging rights within his own pit compound. The only driver to beat him to the finish all year occupies the adjacent pit space.

Dad Billy Torrence, who was runner-up to Kalitta at last year’s U.S. Nationals, beat his son in an all-Capco semifinal at the first of this year’s events at Lucas Oil Raceway (the E3 Spark Plugs Nationals) and in a first round match in the subsequent Lucas Oil Summernationals on the same track. Billy Torrence enters the Nationals in fourth place in points after finishing fifth a year ago.

Between them, the Torrences have won 28 of the last 53 Mello Yello tour events and become the first father-and-son to face off in multiple Top Fuel finals. Until last year, the only father-son final in Top Fuel history was between the late Scott Kalitta and his dad Connie at Gainesville, Fla., in 1994.

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