POMONA, Calif. – There has been considerable speculation as to what might have motivated the “new look” Kilgore’s own Steve Torrence has been projecting since his spectacular 2017 season ended in bitter disappointment just three months ago.
Unfortunately for the conspiracy theorists, the 34-year-old isn’t channeling “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and pledging not to shave until he wins the championship, nor is he hoping to derive added strength from his long hair, a la the biblical Samson.
Instead, it turns out that his appearance has nothing to do with his racing career and everything to do with his job at Capco Contractors, the family-owned pipeline construction and maintenance business that provides sponsorship support for one of professional drag racing’s most successful teams.
“We’ve been so busy that I just haven’t had a chance to get a haircut,” Torrence said. “No, really, that’s all it is. We’ve been bidding jobs six days a week. It looks like it’s gonna be one of those fly-in-on-Thursday; fly-out-on-Sunday seasons, but that’s good. That means we’re laying pipe.”
Torrence finally will take a break from the rigors of his real job this week when he climbs behind the wheel of the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster for the 58th running of the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway.
Coming off a strong test last week at Phoenix, the talented Texan will be among the favorites Sunday in a race he last won in 2016.
He’ll start the new year with the same crew with whom he has celebrated in the winners’ circle 11 times over the last two seasons en route to second and third place finishes. That means close friend Richard Hogan again will make all the tuning decisions with help from Bobby Lagana Jr.
As for the car one which he will pin his new hopes for a championship, it is a Morgan Lucas Racing-built replica of the dragster in which he won a category-best eight times last year before crashing heavily at the Texas Motorplex and finishing the year in a back-up.
“We had a really good car last year but there’s no doubt we struggled after the wreck in Dallas,” Torrence said. “We were able to spend the off season massaging all the parts and pieces and going over everything with a fine-tooth comb, just trying to get back to where we were.
“We were trying a few things at testing but nothing that would deviate very much from our tune-up,” admitted the 16-time tour winner. “A couple of shutoff runs (in testing) probably would have been mid-60s, so we feel like we’re right where we ought to be.”
A former NHRA champion in the Top Alcohol Dragster class (2005), Torrence said last year’s disappointment won’t change the way in which he pursues the championship.
"We only know one way to race,” he said. “We’re still just going to go out and try to win every round,” he said. “It’s not possible, I know, but that’s still how we’re going to go at it.”