GAINESVILLE, Florida – Top Fuel title contender Steve Torrence hasn’t exactly left the opposition quivering in fear over his past performance at Gainesville Raceway, site starting Friday of the 48th annual Amalie Oil Gatornationals.
Nevertheless, while he has little to show for seven previous starts at the iconic Florida track, the 33-year-old is not without confidence as he prepares to pursue another Mello Yello tour title this week at the wheel of the Capco Contractors dragster.
Ironically, the source of his confidence is the success racing rival Brittany Force enjoyed a year ago when she scored her first tour victory at the Gatornationals.
The reason Torrence has been empowered is that he shares with John Force’s second youngest daughter the tuning expertise of Alan Johnson, the many-time World Championship-winning crew chief, who is consultant to Torrence Racing crew chief Richard Hogan as well as to John Force Racing crew chief Brian Husen.
“The fact that Brittany won last year means that Hogan and Bobby (Capco car chief Bobby Lagana) have access to some really good data,” Torrence said. “We feel like we have a championship-caliber team. We have all the same people this year including AJ and that’s a recipe for success.
“We feel like we have a legit shot at the championship,” said the Kilgore College graduate and cancer survivor who last year finished third in Mello Yello points behind only Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta. “We think we have a car that can win on any given weekend so we’re really looking forward to getting back on the track this week.
“We’ve won the Winternationals, we’ve won the Summernationals and we’ve been to the finals two times at the U.S. Nationals,” Torrence said. “The Gatornationals is in that same category. It’s one you definitely want on your resume.”
Although he is off to a slower start than the one he enjoyed a year ago, Torrence still is sixth in points.
“You can’t just go with what worked last year,” he said. “You have to keep moving forward. We made some changes and it takes time to get everything right.”
Torrence enters the Gatornationals having qualified eighth or better in a category best 34 consecutive races dating back to the 2015 season.
“We’re not as consistent yet as we were last year (when he set the Top Fuel performance pace with eight No. 1 starts and final round appearances in a third of the 24 events in the series) but we’re getting there,” said the 2015 NHRA World Champion in the Top Alcohol Dragster class.
Of the success he has enjoyed since founding Torrence Racing in 2012, Torrence admitted that “it’s a little bit surreal. “From a kid who raced Super Comp to the driver for a Top Fuel team that can contend for the championship, we’ve been super blessed. We just have to keep working hard and keep trying to get better.”