Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence has made a name for himself by beating the odds.
At 17, he faced cancer and walked away a survivor.
Torrence entered Top Fuel after winning a Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster championship and though he lost his major financial backing and ride, never gave up hope that he’d challenge one day for a title.
Torrence did return to competition and when his rented ride didn’t produce the desired results, he and his supportive parents underwent the challenge of forming his own team.
Three races after debuting, he was on the way to the final race of the season in Pomona, Ca., adversity struck again. Torrence had hoped to make a statement but instead it was the California Department of Transportation [Cal-Trans], who did the talking for him. His race hauler exceeded 53-feet and therefore was illegal to haul on the California highways. Instead of racing, his trailer was loaded onto a flat-bed trailer and towed to the state line.
Still, Torrence never faltered in his optimism.
This is why, on a humid Sunday afternoon at the NHRA Summit Southern Nationals, when he faced the overwhelming challenge of a driver with an army’s worth of momentum, he never flinched.
Torrence drove his family-supported CAPCO dragster 3.893-seconds at 320.66 miles per hour to repel a determined Tony Schumacher, who smoked the tires and slowed to a 4.913, 169.44.
“The Army car has been the pinnacle for years,” said Torrence. “Tony Schumacher is a machine. I knew that I had to be on my game. Richard gave me the car to do it. It’s a little intimidating but going into that round we had lane choice and I knew I had a really good car. I was confident in myself and felt like I had the better race car to be honest.”
Torrence, after receiving his championship trophy, was approached by Schumacher in a congratulatory manner.
“We talked and agreed [before the race] that no matter the outcome, we were still going to have a good time,” Torrance said. “We will both give the glory to God and without Him, we couldn’t do anything. He walked over to me and told me, ‘Proud of you kid.”
Torrence’s first victory only puts an exclamation point beside his lifelong desire of wanting to be a Top Fuel driver.
“Ever since I was a kid, it was my dream,” explained Torrence. “I used to come to the track and see all of these drivers behind the ropes and I aspired to want to be back there. To get the opportunity to race with Evan Knoll, run as a teammate with JR Todd and run that car for a few years, and then to run this car with my family is huge. What else can you do from there?”
Torrence entered the show as the No. 2 qualifier and defeated former teammate JR Todd, Bob Vandergriff and Brandon Bernstein to reach the finals.
For Schumacher, his race winless streak extends to 30.
While Schumacher struggles to correct his once winning machine, Torrence hasn’t fully come to grips with what transpired at Atlanta Dragway.
“I don’t think the win has really set in, we’ve been working our tails off since last year at this race,” said Torrence, who embarked on his current, family-owned team following the 2011 event. “To get our first win here is a big deal to us. We’re ten races into this new team and with [crew chief] Richard Hogan, I have all of the confidence in the world.
“I’ve been practicing a lot on my driving and the seat time in a good car has helped me a lot. Getting this first win is unbelievable, and to do it in Atlanta is awesome. This track was great. The emotion just hasn’t caught up to me yet.”
With the win, Torrence is now qualified for the Traxxas Shootout at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Labor Day weekend.
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