Why Four-time Defending NHRA Champ Steve Torrence Refuses to Panic Despite Winless Season

·3 min read
Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster
Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster

A casual drag-racing observer might have wondered what’s wrong with four-time and current Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence and his Capco Contractors Dragster team this season because he and “The Capco Boys” aren’t totally flattening the competition every race, like they have for most of the past five years.

And Torrence, a 51-time winner who still is seeking his first 2022 victory, has said multiple times throughout the year that with the heightened intensity in the class this season, his team wants to elevate its performance level. And that takes time to experiment with various set-ups, parts, and other variants.

“The thing about this sport is that you can’t just stand still,” Torrence said. “You have to change or get left behind. Everybody we race out there is constantly trying to do something to get just a little quicker, a little faster. So, really, our biggest enemy is our own success, because when you get too comfortable you start to lose your edge.”

Besides, he isn’t slumping. Torrence has a favorable race-day record (15-10 in eliminations) through the 10 completed events. He led the standings after the April Las Vegas race, and he has been no worse than fourth in points. He has led the field in qualifying twice, and his worst starting position (once) has been seventh. He has qualified in the top three at seven of the previous nine races. Those are enviable statistics to most of his competitors.

He's third in the standings, a single point ahead of early Sunday dropout Justin Ashley (the winner a week ago at Bristol, Tenn.) and 109 points behind Salinas. But the question persists. And Sunday morning, after he eliminated dad Billy Torrence in the first round and lost to Leah Pruett in the quarterfinal, his annoyance spilled over.

Torrence said in his top-end interview, “Every time you interview me, it’s always something negative, asking about what we’re not doing or what do we have to do to win. We’re doing what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build our program. I’ve got all the confidence in these guys.

Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster
Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster

"We didn’t win four championships and just forget what we were doing. We’re trying to build a better set-up for ourselves. We got beat. We went (3.)80, and they went .79. She left on me. We got beat. We’re still in a good place. We’ve still got a great team. Everything’s going good. Just get tired of the same old questions every day.”

Only six races remain before the so-called “regular season” ends and the Countdown to the Championship begins with adjusted points to make the chase closer. Never a fan of the points-manipulated runoff system, Torrence has recognized that his chances for a fifth straight title aren’t harmed if he doesn’t blaze through the first 16 races with a bulging portfolio of victories.