EPPING, N.H. – Steve Torrence heads to New England Dragway, the site of this weekend’s seventh annual NHRA New England Nationals, as the defending event winner and the defending Top Fuel world champion.
Both were impressive parts of an incredible 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, but Torrence seems set on topping himself in 2019.
The standout has been on a torrid pace through the first half of this year, winning half the 12 races and advancing to eight final rounds in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster. Torrence also received a Best Driver nomination at the 2019 ESPY Awards, putting him on another remarkable path this year. But despite the outstanding winning percentage heading into New England Dragway, Torrence, who has a massive points lead, isn’t looking too far ahead.
“That’s pretty good odds, but I really don’t want to think about that,” said Torrence, who has 33 career Top Fuel wins. “We’ll look at the points and the stats at the end of the season, and probably not look at them too hard then. That’s probably something you’ll look at when you finish your career and try to relish those moments. For now, we just want to keep moving forward. We just want to stay on our ‘A’ game and try to run with that through the end of the year.”
Torrence (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) were last year’s winners of the event, including live finals coverage starting at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the 13th of 24 races during the NHRA season, and Torrence will look for a repeat win in Epping while trying to stay dominant in the talented-filled Top Fuel class.
Torrence has been a step ahead of everyone thus far, winning six of the past seven races, posting 12 wins in the last 18 events dating back to the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. He’s won 25 times since 2017, praising a team, led by crew chief Richard Hogan, that has given him a consistent car for the last several years. Mike Salinas stopped his five-race win streak in Bristol, but Torrence shrugged it off and rebounded with a victory at the most recent race in Norwalk, showing the type of resolve that’s necessary to compete at the top in the class.
“It didn’t do anything to us mentally,” Torrence said of the final-round loss in Bristol. “You know at some point something’s going to happen even if everyone does their job perfectly. It’s racing. We just took the punches and came back out here. That’s all you can do. You go back out and race. We want to win every race we go to. You’re not trying to play strategy and get into the top 10. We want to win all of them. That’s the mindset that we have.”
That’s been clear as Torrence continues to rack up accolades, including becoming the first driver in NHRA history to win all six playoff races. As impressive as that was, Torrence is far from satisfied with what he wants to accomplish. In Epping, there will be a host of stars trying to keep him from the winner’s circle, including Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown, Clay Millican, Terry McMillen, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, rookie Austin Prock and Richie Crampton. But Torrence has plenty of lofty goals remaining as he seeks to defend his world title in 2019.
“You still want to win championships and we’re still motivated to go out there,” Torrence said. “Yeah, we’ve set some records and done some things that are neat and prestigious, but there’s always those guys that are ahead of you. There’s still a long ways to go and a lot of success we need to try to achieve to be in those ranks with Tony Schumacher and John Force, and the legends of the sport. We’re going to do as much as we can and enjoy it because at some point this ride will come to an end. We’re going to try to have a good time doing it.”