Will Steve Torrence run the table in this year’s NHRA Countdown to the Championship? So far he’s been invincible in the six-race playoffs, winning the first five races and earning his first national Top Fuel championship.
The tenacious Texan, who understands now how and why he lost the title on the final day of the 2017 24-race campaign, realized that maybe he wasn’t ready to be a champion last year. “I was angry; I had a chip on my shoulder; I had a point to prove.” Because his is a family team and not a multi-car conglomerate with feedback coming from other teammates – other than his father Billy, who occasionally (and last weekend) races a second CAPCO Contractors dragster – Steve Torrence had something to prove.
He well and truly did that this year – and has an opportunity to win a sixth Countdown race title when the series encamps for the season finale on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip next weekend. The win at Las Vegas, coupled with his championship, put some brash back in Torrence’s swagger as he earned his 10th Wally of the season and became NHRA’s 30th Mello Yello Top Fuel titleholder.
When second-placed, double-race-winner Clay Millican exited competition on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to a motivated Tony Schumacher in Round 2, Torrence knew he had to get past his dad and then take on Richie Crampton in the semifinals. Neither of his combatants in those prelims – nor Leah Pritchett in the final round – could match Torrence’s focus on the job at hand.
Just prior to the Top Fuel semifinal runs, when Torrence had the opportunity to end the title chase, already-eliminated three-time champion Antron Brown rode his bike to top end, hoping to be there in time to celebrate a title with his buddy Torrence. When Crampton’s Kalitta Motorsports Craftsman Tools rail went up in smoke, the celebration began.
Torrence and his team, despite winning five-times as many races as anyone else in the class, still had chips on their shoulders from the 2017. And they had something to prove, which they’ve done by racking up the wins race after race after race.
The small team that could, did. Being told he didn’t have a chance in hell to win a title because his team was so compact and he had no true teammate to push him, well, those were fighting words. And they were words one large team owner might have to eat at the season-closing banquet in two weeks.