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Confident Steve Torrence Ready to Conquer Phoenix with Potent New Combination

Mark Rebilas photos

He hasn’t won a race in 2024, hasn’t qualified No. 1, and hasn’t even been in a final round, but entering this week’s 39th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Motorsports Park, it’s plain to see that Steve Torrence has regained much of the swagger he embodied during the four seasons he and his CAPCO boys totally dominated the world’s premier drag racing series.

Part of it is the fact that dad Billy is driving a second CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel Toyota this year as an every event teammate. But it’s more than just that.  

It’s the knowledge that after two seasons of struggle with inconsistency and sometimes middle-of-the-pack performance, the 11,000-horsepower hybrid he drives for CAPCO, Toyota, MAC Tools and Red Line Oil once again is one of the baddest boys on the block, one of only two cars to have broken 3.70 seconds at both previous events in the NHRA Mission Foods Series.

Not that the 40-year-old Texan was awful the last two years. He wasn’t. He finished sixth in the 2022 driver standings and last year took Doug Kalitta down to the wire before settling for second place. But, after winning 35 of 77 starts and four championships from 2018 through 2021, three wins in two years was hard to accept.

“Sometimes you gotta take a step back before you can go forward,” admitted the 54-time tour winner. “You can go from hero to zero out here pretty quick. We had peaked with what we were doing (performance-wise) and we needed to make some changes to stay relevant.”

So, after winning his fourth straight championship, he and crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr. scrapped the combination that had carried them to an unprecedented sweep of the races in the 2018 Countdown and started over.

 “That’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my career,” acknowledged the two-time Arizona Nationals winner. I think I went to Hoagie a couple of times (during the transition) and said, ‘What the hell are you doing? We had a really good race car, and now we can’t outrun our own shadow.’  

“But, bottom line, my dad taught me that you hire a guy, you put him in a spot, you support him the best you can, and you let him do his job’ and when you do that, more times than not, it pays dividends. It just took a little longer to figure it out than we thought it would.”

Before Steve Torrence tries to win his third Arizona Nationals in his last six appearances, his dad will race for the second consecutive event in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge as a semifinalist from the previous race.      

Qualifying for the Arizona Nationals will include a single session at 7:05 p.m., Texas time, Friday, followed immediately by the first round of the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. 

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Qualifying continues Saturday with nitro sessions at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Texas time, the former followed at 2:35 p.m. by the final round of the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge and the latter by the Tony Schumacher-Justin Ashley Winternationals final. Sunday eliminations in the Arizona Nationals begin at 1 p.m., Texas time. 

This story was originally published on April 1, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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