NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Think Torrence Racing is just Top Fuel? Think again. They also love sportsman racing

Best known for winning back-to-back Top Fuel titles, the Torrence Racing/Capco Contractors team remains faithful to their sportsman racing roots with their own line of Super Comp and E.T. bracket dragsters.
15 Aug 2020
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor

Long before Billy and Steve Torrence combined to win 43 races and two Mello Yello world championships in Top Fuel, they were die-hard sportsman racers and despite their success, that mentality hasn’t changed. The first two wins of Billy’s career came in the Super Comp category and no matter how many additional victories he racks up in his 330-mph Capco Top Fuel dragster, he will always have a soft spot for the 8.90 class and the dedicated racers who compete there. To that end, the Capco team is building its own line of Super Comp/bracket dragsters which will soon be for sale to the general public.

The project is part of a collaboration between the Capco team and Lucas Oil Fabrications, their next-door neighbor in Brownsburg, Ind. The cars are being built as a tribute to the Undercover Chassis brand. Billy has long been a fan of Undercover cars.

“The Lucas Oil fab shop cloned my old Undercover Super Comp car,” said Torrence. “As a model, Lucas builds the chassis and we assemble them here in our [Capco Racing] shop. I’ve talked with [Undercover chassis founder and former world champion] Kurt Damron and got his blessing to use the Undercover name and logo. It’s basically an Undercover dragster but we added a bit of a Top Fuel stigma to these cars. We’ve got some nice touches like a better windscreen and we had Aerodine build what I think is the nicest carbon fiber body you can get for one of these cars.”

The Capco Super Comp project has been in the works for a while, but the downtime caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has given the Capco team a chance to redouble their efforts on the project. The first car is almost done and scheduled to be raced, most likely by Billy, at the upcoming Denso U.S. Nationals. Additional cars should be finished in the coming weeks and months.

“I don’t really see us getting into the car business, but this is a good project especially with all the downtime we’ve had this year,” said Torrence. “I don’t see us building 20 of them, but maybe 10-12 a year depending on demand.”

Billy recently raced in Super Comp at the Division 5 double-header in Topeka and also competed in the Division 4 race in Houston earlier this season. When asked about his love for sportsman racing, Billy doesn’t need much prompting. He’s happy to explain his long-standing attraction to drag racing’s grassroots.

“I really love sportsman racing; all kinds of sportsman racing,” he says. “When I’m home in Texas, you might see me load up a truck and small trailer and just go off and run bracket race somewhere. That style of racing is so competitive it’s hard to imagine if you’ve never done it. It’s a challenge and I really enjoy that.”

Billy’s affection for sportsman racing has rubbed off on many members of the Capco team including longtime crewmember Gary Pritchett.  A licensed Top Fuel driver who has also driven a Top Alcohol Funny Car, Pritchett also doesn’t mind wheeling an eight-second dragster and certainly doesn’t see it as a step backward.

“I went with Billy to the Topeka race and we had a blast,” said Pritchett. “You can tell he loves Super Comp just as much as Top Fuel and that attitude is contagious. I think most of us here have the mentality that any day you can spend at the races is a good day.”

Pritchett recently got an offer too good to pass up when world champion Shawn Landon offered up the seat of a second dragster for one of the sport’s premier bracket races, the annual World Super Pro Challenge at the Mid-Michigan Motorplex. With a $50,000 top prize, the event attracts the best E.T. bracket racers in the country, so it might not have seemed like a formula for success for someone with limited experience, but Pritchett more than held his own.

“I won a bunch of rounds but it’s so tough out there,” said Pritchett. “After I lost in the big race, I wasn’t sure if I should buy-back in. Then Shawn told me, ‘I’m not trying to tell you how to spend your money but the way you’ve been driving and as good as that car is, I’d go ahead and do it.’ I managed to get down to the last 18 cars, which is a big accomplishment. I got a check and I’m going to frame it.”

Pritchett will likely have an opportunity to race more often since the Capco team plans to have one or two “house dragsters” that could be raced by team members when time allows. To that end, he’s looking forward to more opportunities at big-money events.

“I’d like to race in the [Peter Biondo and Kyle Seipel promoted] Spring Fling or Fall Fling races or one of the Million races; I have an opportunity to race with Shawn and Bones [sportsman ace Todd Ewing] and they’re a great crew to work with. It’s a huge challenge because I’m not used to a full Tree and I’m just learning to find my marks racing the finish line, but I enjoy a challenge.”