Steve Torrence's Top Fuel pit was the gathering place Saturday for athletes from several different sports -- and Torrence was converting them into drag-racing fans. Thurl Bailey, the former NBA forward/center with the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves who has become a broadcast analyst and actor/songwriter, joined golfer Brett Wayment in hanging out with the Kilgore, Texas, team owner-driver of the Capco/Torrence Family Dragster. Wayment had attended the Denver race in July with Torrence, but Bailey is enjoying his first spectacle at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "It's always fun to bring out rookies to the drag race. Once you get the drag-racing bug, you’re hooked," Torrence said. As the 5-foot-7, 150-pound driver posed for a photo with the 6-11, 215-pound Bailey, Torrence tried to stand on a step to look taller but gave up and said, "I think I'm in the armpit there."
Kidding aside, the No. 8-raked Torrence said he hasn't made much of a splash during the Countdown because "we had some stuff change in the bell housing and we've been chasing our tails on that deal. We're getting a bigger inventory of used parts. That's something we knew we were going to have a problem with. We just didn't know when it would happen, and it has happened during the Countdown. That's just some of the learning curve and the mistakes that you've got to battle going through the first year."
Looking back on this season, he said, "I think we did better than anybody thought we would do -- including myself. I didn’t think I'd go out and go to five finals. I thought maybe one final, two finals and if we won one of them, great. If not, we got there. So it has been a great season, for sure.
"We've set the bar, and we're going to work from there. We don't want to regress. We want to progress and keep moving forward. We have a good race tem here and an opportunity for anybody who wants to come on board to be aligned with a real professional team," Torrence said. "We've set our own bar at professionalism and competitiveness. If we're not going to be competitive and professional about it, there's no sense inbeing here. Nobody wants to be part of somebody's that just halfway doing it."
He said accomplishing all that has required "hard work, dedication, and good people." He acknowledged running a team also requires a lot of funding, but he said, "You can go out and spend all the money you want, but if you don't have chemistry, don't have the right people in place, it doesn't matter. I've got a great guy -- a great friend -- in [crew chief] Richard Hogan."
Torrence said he and his team will stay at Las Vegas and test Monday and Tuesday, then take off Wednesday for Montana for a hunting trip. Torrence, a skilled bow hunter, will be tracking antelope, elk, and mule deer.
He said he went to the allergist Tuesday before coming here because he has had problems with swollen eyes. He said he learned he is allergic to a curious grouping beef, grapes, and black pepper. Said Torrence, "I can eat venison still, so I'm good. And elk tastes a lot like beef. I'm good with it."
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