NHRA RACING / TOP FUEL DIVISION

Torrence set to defend Route 66 title in Chicago

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CHICAGO – The biggest threat to Steve Torrence in his bid to repeat this week as Top Fuel champion at Route 66 Raceway may come from just across the dinner table.

“We’re both real competitive,” the 34-year-old said of his relationship with his dad, Billy, who this week will make his fifth appearance of the season, his first in the JEGS Route 66 Nationals, at the wheel of a second Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster.

“He wants to beat me as bad as I want to beat him,” Torrence said of the 57-year-old founder and CEO of Texas-based Capco Contractors against whom he has raced since he was a teenager.

They first opposed one another in Super Comp before Steve moved up to the Top Alcohol Dragster class where he won the 2005 NHRA championship. Now they have renewed their rivalry in the sport’s ultimate category.

“It’s a big deal,” Steve said of the battle for family bragging rights, “whether it’s getting off the starting line first or getting to the finish line first. You lose and you don’t only hear about it at work (both are active in the family-owned oil pipeline business) but you hear about it at dinner, too”

So far, to his great relief, the Mello Yello point leader has had his say at dinner, winning all three times he has raced his dad including in the opening quad of the inaugural Denso 4Wide Nationals at Las Vegas this year where he advanced but his dad did not even though they recorded identical 3.811 second times.

The cornerstone of the rivalry, however, was a semifinal meeting at the Arizona Nationals last February in which Steve emerged the winner in 3.722 seconds at 328.86 miles per hour over Billy’s 3.726 at 328.54.

“The only thing that would have been better was if it was in the final round,” mused the younger Torrence, who has finished third and second in Top Fuel points the last two seasons while winning a category-best 11 times. “Maybe we can make that happen this week.”

Although he has characterized himself as the “weak link” in the Torrence Racing operation, Billy Torrence actually is an accomplished racer in his own right with a pair of national event victories among five final round appearances in a Super Comp class in which he still is active when the schedule permits.

The only Top Fuel driver to have won more than once this year, Steve Torrence started qualifying on Friday 95 points ahead of Clay Millican and 125 in front of eight-time series champion Tony Schumacher.

See the finals of the Route 66 Nationals on Sunday at 4:30 p.m., on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).

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