POMONA, Calif. — With 28 wins the last three seasons and back-to-back NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships, Top Fuel star Steve Torrence has put together one of the most impressive stretches in recent memory.
Torrence has no plans of slowing down, but even he remains blown away with what has transpired since the start of the 2017 season.
Torrence will get the chance to continue his remarkable pace as the 2020 NHRA season starts Feb. 6-9 with the annual iconic opener, the 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, his sights set on his third win at the historic facility. The Texan will begin the charge for a third straight world title in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster, realizing full well he’s accomplished a great deal the last two seasons.
“It’s been kind of surreal,” Torrence said. “You look back at the last couple years – and really the last three years – and see the success we’ve had and what the team has been able to accomplish, and it’s a big confidence-booster. We’re probably more relaxed than we were 4-5 years ago. But we just want to go to Pomona and do the best we can do. You don’t really think about all of it and what it means, you just go and do it.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the Winternationals. It is the first of 24 events during the NHRA season and Torrence will look to pick up right where he left off during last year’s championship season.
That’s only possible thanks to a team that has stayed intact for a number of years. Crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana lead the charge, but it’s been a truly cohesive group for the last several seasons. It’s kept Torrence ahead of a talented Top Fuel field, but also able to work his way out of trouble when adversity hits.
The team has weathered any storm in outstanding fashion the last two seasons and the results have proven that. He swept the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs in 2018, becoming the first driver in NHRA history to do so, and followed that with a dominant stretch of eight wins over a nine-race span in 2019.
“As a team, our ability to stay focused and overcome obstacles, it’s been pretty impressive,” Torrence said. “We’ve won the championship in two completely different ways, and we’ve overcome a lot of things to win them both. I’ve been pretty proud of how well we’ve continued to prevail with whatever’s been thrown at us. We’ve all been together 5-6 years and we know each other well. These guys are 100 percent behind me, and we’re the epitome of team and family.”
As much as Torrence hopes to continue his run, things won’t come easy in Top Fuel. Defending race winner Doug Kalitta has two straight wins in the opener and also won the season-finale in Pomona last year, finishing just three points behind Torrence in a heated championship chase.
Other top-tier contenders include 2017 world champ Brittany Force, three-time world champ Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, Terry McMillen, Torrence’s father, Billy, and Shawn Langdon, but Torrence is once again ready to tackle the challenge starting in Pomona.
“I would like to think we’re confident we can continue this,” Torrence said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t continue to do well, but everything has to fall into place to win a title. It’s a difficult thing to do. You have to try to be as perfect as possible. We’re excited to get to Pomona. At the end of the day we have fun and enjoy what we do, so we’re looking forward to it.”