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S. Torrence Eyes a Bristol Bookend

Mark Rebilas photo

When you’ve raised the trophy at least once at every track in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, as has four-time Top Fuel World Champion Steve Torrence, some wins are memorable; others just memories.   

The Texan’s only victory in the Super Grip Thunder Valley Nationals, contested this week for the 23rd time at Bristol Dragway, has faded into the latter category, significant only because it occurred so very long ago.

In fact, at no other track has the 41-year-old Torrence and his CAPCO Contractors team gone longer without a tour victory than it has at Bristol.  

When the 54-time tour winner prevailed in 2013, it represented just the fourth time he had reached the winners’ circle as a Top Fuel professional.  

To put that in perspective, he’s run 237 races and won 50 times since last he celebrated a Bristol victory.  

Not that he hasn’t had his moments. He is, after all, the track record holder at 3.667 seconds and he has qualified on the drag racing equivalent of the “pole” three times in his last seven appearances. And, while he hasn’t won in more than 10 years, he was runner-up in both 2019 and 2021, losing both finals to Mike Salinas, who presently is on sabbatical and not competing in the Mission Foods Drag Racing Series.  

“It’s kind of crazy,” said the only driver to have swept the races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship (2018). “Thanks to Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana (Jr.) and these CAPCO boys, we’ve always had a car that could win at Bristol, but we just haven’t put everything together on Sunday. I think we’re ready to do that.”

Despite a second round exit last week at Epping, N.H., Torrence will start the Thunder Valley Nationals fourth in the Mission Foods Top Fuel driver standings behind Justin Ashley, Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon. He has a second opportunity this week to join the select company of drivers who have won as many as 500 competitive rounds in the series.  Torrence has won 498 rounds since turning pro.

As has been the case all season long, Team CAPCO will have two cars in contention at Thunder Valley, the second driven by CAPCO founder and CEO Billy Torrence and tuned by the tandem of Jason McCulloch and Joe Barlam.

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Although he is an eight-time Top Fuel winner and even though he’s finished as high as No. 3 in points, this is the elder Torrence’s first full-time bid for the Mission Foods Championship won by his son in four consecutive seasons starting in 2018.

This will be just his third appearance at Bristol Dragway, his first since 2021.

Qualifying for the SUPERGRIP Thunder Valley Nationals begins with a pair of nitro sessions at 4 and 7 p.m., Texas time, on Friday. Qualifying continues Saturday with nitro sessions at 12:30 and 3:15 p.m., Texas time. First round of Top Fuel will kick off eliminations at 11 a.m., Texas time, Sunday.

This story was originally published on June 6, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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