If Steve Torrence wins his first Mello Yello Top Fuel Championship, he’ll do it alone. Okay, I’m exaggerating; he’ll do it with co-crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana, along with the incredible Capco Contractors team that has helped Torrence collect eight Wallys this season. However, Torrence will race the final two events of the season without his dad, Billy Torrence, following the younger Texan’s wreck at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.
“We collectively sat down and talked, and Dom Lagana did really well blocking for us in the past, but you know, as a whole, Torrence Racing got to where we were at by ourselves,” Steve said. “So, we’re confident that we can keep moving forward doing it as we have. We’re going to have to win or lose this championship on our own.”
Steve will race in the brand-new Morgan Lucas Racing chassis the team pulled out for the semifinals at the FallNationals and use the car his dad raced with as a backup for the final two races of the season. The Capco Contractors team plans to test on Friday in Indy to get the new pipe ready to go for the upcoming NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas.
Torrence doesn’t have much reason to be concerned about racing without a blocker. Five of the Texan’s eight victories came without a blocker on track (Dom raced seven times this season, while Billy competed in just one event), and Torrence holds a 57-point lead over Brittany Force. He’s not getting comfortable, but previous results speak for themselves.
“We bring our a-game every time, and when you do that it forces those guys to race you harder than they typically would, and that… as much as confidence it is for us, it’s unsettling for them,” said Torrence, who won last year’s Fall Las Vegas event. “We have a car that they know, unless everything goes perfectly for them, they’re not going to beat.”
That confidence for Torrence has shown up in his reaction times, which remain the best in the category. His .059-second average gives him a leg up on anyone who gets sleepy at the tree; and what’s perhaps most impressive is that he’s just gotten better as the season has gone on.
“It’s all just mental,” said Torrence. “I had a bad weekend in Reading and an off-light in Charlotte. There are situations where you know that you’re late. I’ve pushed those behind me and moved forward, but it’s 90 percent mental. I don’t work on the practice tree, or do some of these things that other guys do. Hell, I just go home, go to work, and then go race.”
That strategy seems to be working out just fine for Torrence so far. He’s reached 11 final rounds this season, the most of his career, while posting a 54-14 round record (10-3 in the Countdown). For context: Last season, Brown went 55-17 last season en route to winning a second-straight championship while notching a 16-3 Countdown mark.
Torrence says he’s racing with more confidence than he ever has. If his team can get that new dragster into fighting shape in time for the final two races, the Texan will be tough to beat. Don’t take it from me, though; Torrence says it better.
“Without being cocky, my team and I are confident enough going to that line every time that we race, that those guys are going to have to beat us,” he said. “I feel like right now, and this is a pretty outlandish analogy, but I feel like the Schumacher of years past where the guy just goes up to the line and beats everybody. And I’m not comparing myself to him, but I just remember racing cars like that in years past, racing Antron and Tony, and thinking ‘damn, I gotta beat this guy.’ I don’t have that mindset now. I think: That guy has to beat me.”