Steve Torrence has used one philosophy to his advantage during his breakout season in NHRA Top Fuel competition, and it has worked to perfection for the Kilgore, Texas, native.
Torrence is determined to keep his focus centered in the moment and not start looking too far ahead.
He claimed three victories in five final-round appearances, earned two No. 1 qualifying positions, and finished the 17-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series regular season fourth in the points standings. He’s hoping for a similar performance in the six-race Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“Our approach to the Countdown is the same one we’ve used all year,” he said. “We won three races and were runners-up twice with it. We would definitely be in championship contention if we could do the same thing in the final [five] races. We want to maintain our consistency and momentum and take everything one race at a time.”
Torrence will try to earn his first playoff victory at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, Sept. 20-23, at legendary Texas Motorplex. Defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event are Bob Vandergriff Jr. (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Michael Phillips (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The race, the second of six playoff races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Torrence, whose home is just up the road from the Motorplex, is excited about having the chance to grab a victory in front of his family and friends.
“The second race of the Countdown is going to be very important for us ... heck, they all are if you want to win the championship,” Torrence said. “But this one is very, very special because the Motorplex is my home track, and we want to do well there. It’s where I started racing.”
A first-round loss at the playoff opener in Charlotte pushed Torrence to eighth in the standings, but there is plenty of time for the driver of the Capco Contractors dragster to make a rebound. He hopes the home-track advantage works in his favor.
“It’s really cool to be contending for the championship and having one of the Countdown races there,” Torrence said. “We are looking forward to it because we will have a lot of Capco people, friends, and fans there supporting us.”
As a former NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national champion in Top Alcohol Dragster, Torrence has competed plenty of times at Texas Motorplex and is looking forward to racing there with so much on the line in the Full Throttle Series.
“I have a lot of good memories of racing at the Motorplex, and I hope to add another one this time,” Torrence said. “The best one so far is when I clinched the 2005 Top Alcohol Dragster championship there. That was a big thrill.”
If Torrence is going to win the title, he’ll have to hold off points leader Tony Schumacher, a five-time winner at the Motorplex and a seven-time world champion. Other challengers include playoff top seed Antron Brown, Texas natives Spencer Massey and Brandon Bernstein, three-time season winner Morgan Lucas, and Charlotte winner Shawn Langdon.
In Funny Car, Ron Capps is leading the way in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger with a win in Charlotte and is being challenged by a host of talented Countdown contenders, including Mike Neff, Jack Beckman, Auto Club Ford Mustang driver Robert Hight, 24-year-old rookie Courtney Force, defending winner Pedregon, and seven-time Motorplex winner John Force.
In the 200-mph Pro Stock class, Tennessee Mopar driver Allen Johnson continues to be at the top of the standings, but his lead is only three points over defending event winner Line. Charlotte top qualifier Vincent Nobile has emerged as a title threat, along with three-time season winner Erica Enders, of Houston. And you can never count out past champs Greg Anderson, Mike Edwards, and Jeg Coughlin Jr.
Andrew Hines has the Countdown momentum in Pro Stock Motorcycle after winning the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus and the playoff opener in Charlotte. His Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate, Eddie Krawiec, continues to lead the points standings after posting a runner-up finish in Charlotte. Together, they have won all 11 bike races this season, with Krawiec taking six and Hines five. Other challengers in the two-wheel category are the Lucas Oil Buell team of Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr., GEICO Suzuki rider Karen Stoffer, and past world champs LE Tonglet and Matt Smith.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 and 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, call 800-MOTORPLEX (668-6775) or log on to www.texasmotorplex.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes qualifying coverage at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 22, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 23.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 20, and eliminations begin at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 21 and continue through Sept. 23.