Upended in the second round of the Lucas Oil Winternationals two weeks ago at Pomona, Calif., a misstep that cost him the points lead, Steve Torrence tries to make amends this week when sends his CAPCO Contractors dragster after the Top Fuel championship in the fifth NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Although one would expect the four-time Camping World champion to get healthy this weekend based on his history in four-across racing, recent bouts of inconsistency have increased his vulnerability amid what has been characterized as the most competitive field in Top Fuel history.
“I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to dominate like we did before,” Torrence said, referencing his 43 tour victories in one five-year period (2017-2021), “but as long as I’ve got these CAPCO boys behind me, I expect to be in the mix.”
Indeed, no matter the quality of the competition, Torrence is certain to be the betting favorite this week, a status he owes to six wins in the very non-traditional four-wide format of which he initially was so critical.
“Yeah, I used to hate four-wides,” said the soon-to-be 40-year-old Texan (April 17). “It can be confusing looking at all those bulbs across four lanes (two times as many as usual). I remember, one of my first four-wide races, I was in Lane 3 looking at the wrong bulb, thinking someone needed to stage (to activate the Christmas Tree starting system), and the whole time it was me.
“But the thing is, you get more comfortable, you develop a routine and then, when you have the kind of success we’ve had (twice as many wins in four-wide races as anyone else), opinions change. Now, I wish we had more than just two.”
Since 2016, Torrence and his CAPCO Boys not only have taken their Top Fuel Toyota to six four-wide wins including two in four tries at LVMS (2018, 2021), they also were runners-up at the Vegas race a year ago (to the Brittany Force team) and have posted an overall 21-3 record in four-wide events the last six seasons.
This week, racing for the first time since celebrating daughter Haven Charli’s second birthday, Torrence will be trying to win his first race of the season, the 54th of his career. That process starts with qualifying sessions at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Texas time, on Friday. Pros will qualify at the same times on Saturday in advance of a 2 p.m., Texas time, start on race day.