It’s crunch time in the race for the 2023 Top Fuel World Championship, and although he is only third in the Camping World point standings, Steve Torrence figures he has his rivals right where he wants them.
Fifty-one points behind Doug Kalitta and four behind Leah Pruett, Torrence resumes his bid for his fifth series title in the last six years when he sends his CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel Toyota to the starting line this week in the 38th annual Texas Fall Nationals.
Contested on the all-concrete surface at the Texas Motorplex, the track Torrence and his CAPCO crewmates call home, the Texas Fall Nationals looms as the pivotal event in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Although Kalitta has a pair of Motorplex wins (2002 and 2013), regular season champion Justin Ashley has won the last two years and newly-designated Motorplex legend Antron Brown won in 2012 and 2016, no one has a better record at Billy Meyer’s Texas track the last eight years than Team CAPCO, which has had a car in the final round six times in that span.
Torrence won the race in 2018 and 2020, and his dad, Billy, himself a multiple national event winner in both Super Comp and Top Fuel, prevailed in 2019.
Furthermore, before he first climbed into a Top Fuel dragster, the younger Torrence distinguished himself in the Top Alcohol Dragster division, winning the Texas Fall Nationals in that category in 2005 on the way to a Lucas Oil World Championship.
He remains the only driver to have won NHRA series titles in both the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol divisions.
“There always are pros and cons to racing at home,” said the 40-year-old native of Kilgore. “The good thing is we’ll have a lot of friends, a lot of fans, and a lot of members of our CAPCO family out there supporting us. The downside is the distractions that come with all that. You can’t let all the extra attention keep you from doing what needs to be done You have to prioritize, manage your time and keep things in perspective and that’s not always easy to do.
“That’s where these CAPCO boys give us the advantage,” said the 54-time NHRA tour winner. “We’ve been down this road together a lot of times, and we know what it takes to win. We just have to focus and do what we do.”
Although he has won just once this season (in the Flav-R-Pace Northwest Nationals at Seattle, Wash.), Torrence has won more playoff races over the course of his pro career than anyone in Top Fuel other than Brown and is the only driver in any category to have swept the races in the Countdown (2018).
Qualifying for the Texas Fall Nationals begins Friday with two nitro sessions, one at 5 p.m., Texas time, and a second at 8 p.m., Texas time. Two more sessions, one at 2 p.m. and the other at 5 p.m., Texas time, on Saturday, will set the lineups for single elimination finals beginning Sunday at 12 noon.