TOPEKA, Kan. – NHRA Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence tries to maintain an impressive every-other-race victory cycle this week when he drives the Capco Contractors dragster in pursuit of the TF title at the 30th annual Menard’s Heartland Nationals at Heartland Motorsports Park.
The only Top Fuel driver with multiple wins this year, the 35-year-old from Kilgore hasn’t hoisted a trophy at Heartland Park since the 2005 season, when he won both a national event and a Lucas Oil sportsman race on the way to the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster world championship.
Despite that 13-year drought, Torrence returns with confidence borne not only of his performance thus far this season but also of his runner-up finish to close friend and rival Antron Brown in this same race a year ago.
“We’re racing with confidence,” Torrence said. “(Crew chief Richard) Hogan is making great adjustments, the crew is bad ass and knowing I’ve got a car that can win every race, the driver’s doing his part, too. It’s fun now, but you can go from a hero to a zero pretty quickly in this sport.”
Nevertheless, the Texan’s current stint as one of the “heroes” of the Mello Yello tour spans at least the last 34 races and shows no sign of deteriorating any time soon.
Over that period, the cancer and heart attack survivor has taken the Capco hybrid to the final round in almost every other start (16 times in 34 races) and has won every third time out (12 times, most recently last month at Charlotte, N.C.).
As a result, it’s not surprising that he has led the driver points after 16 of the last 21 tour events including six of seven this year.
What is surprising is that he has qualified No. 1 just three times in the last 40 races and, on those occasions on which he did set the pace, he failed to reach the finals.
“That’s just a credit to the Capco guys being able to adapt on the fly,” Torrence enthused. “We may not be the fastest (quickest) at every race, but we usually figure things out by race day – and that’s how you win championships.”
See the Heatland finals on Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m., on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).