Even though he entered this year’s Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals as the tour’s most recent winner after his victory a month ago at the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals, also contested here at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, when it comes to racing in Indy at “The Big Go,” everything changes for Steve Torrence. Everything matters more.
Having tasted victory in the sport’s ultimate class at its ultimate event in 2017 as Top Fuel winner, he’s been to the mountaintop to join the immortals of the sport, and, while not discounting the value of his win here a month ago, it’s clear that the two-time Top Fuel world champion holds the U.S. Nationals far and above any other event to be held at famous raceplant, and there already have been three this season.
“You think about all the people who’ve hoisted that Wally trophy at Indy: “Big Daddy” (Don Garlits), Shirley Muldowney, (Don) Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Antron (Brown), Tony (Schumacher)," said Schumacher, who will take on Kyle Wutzel in round one. "That’s a Hall of Fame list right there and to be there, too, is really humbling.
“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. 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.
It took Torrence four attempts to win a Top Fuel final at Indy, scoring runner-ups in 2013, 2014 and 2016, so when he was able to finally capture the win, besting his upstart fellow Texan Kebin Kinsley in the final, he’s paid his Indy dues.
Torrence had previous won the U.S. Nationals in Top Alcohol Dragster, way back in 2005, and had been trying to win it in Top Fuel since 2008.
Torrence is one of just a handful of drivers to have won Indy in both a Mello Yello class and a Top Alcohol class. Darrell Gwynn was the first to pull off the unique double, winning in Top Alcohol Dragster in 1983 and in Top Fuel in 1989. Pat Austin won in Top Alcohol Funny Car (four straight 1988 through ’91 and ’95) plus once in Top Fuel in 1993. Morgan Lucas won Top Alcohol Dragster in 2003 and Top Fuel in 2015 and Ashley Force Hood followed her 2004 Top Alcohol Dragster win with a pair of Funny Cars titles in 2009 and 2010.
If he can duplicate his early-August success in early September and win in Top Fuel chain, he’ll become just the eight driver to win Top Fuel at Indy more than once, joining only Schumacher (10) Garlits (8), Larry Dixon (4), Joe Amato (3), Gary Beck (3), Prudhomme (3), and Cory McClenathan (2) as multi-time U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winners.
With dad Billy having won this year’s first race at Indy back in July and Steve its third and most recent, you have to like the Capco team’s chances. Steve just needs to stay away from his father, who has beaten him in two of the three times they’ve squared off his season, including twice in Indy. In fact, he’s the only driver to beat Steve this season, but they can't race one another until the final round.
Which would be just perfect with both of them.