Although Mike Salinas narrowly beat him to the finish in the final round of the 54th annual Amalie Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, Steve Torrence didn’t look like a loser Sunday; didn’t talk like one, either.
Coming off a season in which he won “only” two times and placed an uncharacteristic sixth in the Top Fuel driver standings, the 39-year-old Texan had nothing but praise for a new and improved CAPCO Contractors dragster and the team that put it together.
“How about them CAPCO Boys?” he smiled, alluding to a crew led by Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr. that put beneath him a car reminiscent of those that carried him to four consecutive championships and an historic sweep of the races in the Countdown to the Championship in 2018.
“We finally got our consistency back,” he said. “When you make big changes like we did last year, there always are issues you don’t anticipate. It takes time, but these guys never lost focus. They kept after it and we’re obviously headed in the right direction now.
“Give Mike (Salinas) and those guys all the credit because they had a great weekend, too, but after how our car ran, I can’t wait to get to Phoenix (for the final running of the NHRA Arizona Nationals, March 24-26).”
How good was Torrence’s Top Fuel Toyota? Well, it averaged 3.742 seconds on seven trips down the 1,000 foot course with times ranging from a best of 3.689 to 3.779 seconds. More important to Torrence and his crew chiefs, though, was a career best top speed of 334.32 mph in a first round conquest of Scott Palmer.
“I don’t know if anyone can dominate like we did (from 2018 through 2021),” Torrence said, “but I think we’ll win our fair share. There are a lot of good teams out there, but I wouldn’t trade these guys for anyone else.”
While he regularly defers his crew, Torrence proved again Sunday that he remains one of the sport’s top drivers. After losing the choice of lanes to Salinas for the final round, the 53-time tour winner grabbed a .032 of a second starting line advantage that kept him in front for the first 900 feet. The margin of victory for Salinas a the end was .022 of a second.