Father-son dynamic plays big role for NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence
Steve Torrence and dad Billy work together, live across the street from one another in Kilgore, Texas, and work together at Capco Contractors, Inc..
NHRA fans know well the story of Steve Torrence and dad Billy Torrence who work together, live across the street from one another in Kilgore, Texas, and work together at Capco Contractors, Inc., the pipeline construction and maintenance business dad established in 1995.
But this Father’s Day weekend, it’s hard to tell whether Steve Torrence is more reflective about seeking his sixth straight victory in Sunday eliminations at the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway or the feat the two of them pulled off the previous Sunday at Topeka.
Father and son raced for the trophy at Heartland Park Topeka a week ago barging their way through the Top Fuel field in their matching Capco Dragsters. Steve won and that triumph opened a significant lead in the standings.
Billy put himself into contention for the Countdown to the Championship. And with his 11th victory in the past 16 races, Steve put himself in position to equal his playoff sweep of six consecutive victories on his way to the series crown last season. Steve has won 24 of the last 53 races in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. To put that in perspective, he has won more races during the past three seasons than any other four Top Fuel drivers. He has won more often than Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican – combined. Put another way, he has won more often any other mix-and-match group of four Top Fuel drivers – take your pick. And that includes inactive eight-time champion Tony Schumacher.
“It’s been truly remarkable to be able to go out and do what we do as a team,” Steve said. He advanced to the final round at this season’s opener at Pomona, Calif. but didn’t win that seventh straight after being perfect in 11 finals in 2018. Schumacher owns the NHRA record for most consecutive victories in the Top Fuel class with seven in 2008. That matched Don Prudhomme’s streak of seven in 1975-76. Pro Stock great Bob Glidden has the longest winning streak in the sport, with nine in a stretch that spanned 1978 and ’79. Dave Schultz powered to eight in a row in Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1994. So Steve is approaching an elite plateau.
“We’ve been really blessed to have the consistency and get the breaks when we needed them for the car to perform the way it has. We’ve seen drastically changing conditions, from cool weather to hot, greasy set-ups. So it’s a testimony to (crew chief) Richard Hogan and (car chief) Bobby Lagana (the crew he calls “the Capco Boys”) and how they adapt and make the right calls.”
Enjoying his successes with father Billy is even more stunning, considering that, in Steve’s words, “This is a family team supported by a family business. My dad races when he can, but this is a busy time of year for pipeliners.”
“We don’t make money drag racing. We do it because we love it,” he added. “And I think that’s what this sport was built on. What it’s all about is die-hard fans, people that want to work on their car in the garage and then bring it out to the track on weekends and race it and feel like they can relate to what we’re doing. That’s how my dad started. I grew up watching him race sportsman cars (in Super Gas, Super Comp, and Competition Eliminator), and that’s how I learned to love the sport. Drag racing was always something we did as a family.”
Spoiling his warm-fuzzy feeling about that was some ribbing – some good-natured and maybe some not-so-good-natured.
“I’ve caught a lot of flak that I was beating up on my dad,” Steve said. “Thing is, we’ve had some really, really good races over the last couple years, and I don’t think any of ’em have been more than a hundredth or a hundredth and a half (-of-a-second margin) at the stripe. It has been some really tight, close racing. And it definitely puts a hush to the naysayers that say we don’t race or that ‘he laid down,’”
Steve Torrence caught some good-natured flak after beeating his dad at Topeka.
“It was a special race,” he said of Topeka. “To be able to go No. 1 and No. 2 Friday and Saturday and then go back out there on Sunday and go all the way down to the final round ad have as tight a race as we did. It was probably one of those most memorable I’ve had in my racing career, to be able to say me and Billy ran the table on ’em, being one and two and finishing the way we started.”
This weekend, Billy is back home tending to Capco business. Steve said he plans to fly home quickly Sunday to fulfill his own responsibilities at Capco, which include bidding on jobs.
When Steve claimed his only Bristol victory on Father’s Day in 2013, his dad also was home because of business commitments. Said the son, “We’d like to carry this momentum that we’ve got right now and continue the streak and definitely send one of these Wallys home to Billy for Father’s Day.”
“Success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success,” adding he knows he has the team to do it.
“I’ve got a really good team, a really good group of guys. They are the reason for the success that we have. When you see teams that go out and do well and continually win, it’s guys that have been together for years and they just work well together. That’s what we have. We’re all blessed to be part of this team that we’re part of. It’s a band of brothers,” Steve said.
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