TORRENCE UP FOR COUNTDOWN CHALLENGE
After Misstep, CAPCO Driver Eyes Improvement at St. Louis
September 21, 2016 -- After a minor misstep in the Countdown opener last week at Charlotte, N.C., Steve Torrence tries to but his championship train back on track this week when the NHRA Mello Yello drag racing tour moves to Gateway Motorsports Park for the 19th annual AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals.
Although the talented Texan has not advanced beyond the second round in five previous appearances at the track across the river from St. Louis and even though his usually reliable Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition Top Fuel dragster was decidedly off its game a week ago, Torrence still is upbeat about his latest bid for the $500,000 Mello Yello Championship.
“You can’t win anything without overcoming some adversity,” he said. “We were a little off last week but I know we’re bringing a fast hot rod to St. Louis and I think everybody on this Capco team is looking forward to the challenge.”
The 33-year-old cancer survivor’s optimism is not without foundation. He returns to Gateway as the track record-holder (at 3.718 seconds) in the knowledge that his dad, Billy Torrence, drove a second Capco dragster into the semifinals a year ago before losing to reigning champion and current point leader Antron Brown.
Moreover, no one in the sport’s premier division has been more consistent at a higher level this year than has Torrence, a former Top Alcohol Dragster World Champion (2005) who is trying to become the first ever to win titles in both the Alcohol and Fuel divisions.
Eight times this season the Kilgore College graduate has started his hybrid from the front of the pack en route to a pair of victories and four runner-up finishes, the most recent just three weeks ago in the sport’s biggest event, the Labor Day Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.
Remarkably, he’s done all that despite suffering a minor heart attack that forced him to withdraw from the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio last June.
Although he excelled in taekwondo, works out every day and is the apparent picture of health at 5-7 and 150 pounds, Torrence left the gym after a particular strenuous workout feeling “really bad,” bad enough in fact to drive himself to the hospital where he received a diagnosis that stunned him and everyone else in the sport.
However, after a minor procedure, he was cleared to return to competition by doctors who attributed the incident to a vulnerability created by the radiation treatments he received during his teenage battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
For the seven-time Top Fuel event winner, it “wasn’t a big deal” but rather just a reminder to continue to live every day to the fullest because “nothing is guaranteed.”
Torrence brings some impressive performance credentials into Gateway where he will try to extend to 19 the number of consecutive races in which he has earned at least one qualifying bonus point. That’s the longest active streak in either of the two fuel categories.
In fact, in the 70 qualifying sessions in which he has made an attempt this year, Torrence has been quickest in 29. In three different events (Las Vegas, Denver and Sonoma, Calif.) he was quickest in EVERY qualifying session and his total of 123 of what the drivers call “little points” means that he has earned an average of seven out of a maximum of 12 points at every race he’s run.
“I’ve got a great team,” he said. “I know that every time I go to the starting line, I’ve got a car that can go low. That’s a huge confidence-builder for a driver. If I do my job this week, I know we’ve got a great chance to win, which is pretty gratifying when you’re going up against these multi-car teams and drivers like Antron and (Tony) Schumacher and Doug (Kalitta). That’s all the motivation I need.”
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