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Torrence Ready To Resume Countdown

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 19 2017

Steve Torrence crashed his Top Fuel dragster at 330 mph last weekend. He says he is feeling better and is roaring to race.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Steve Torrence’s pursuit of his first NHRA Top Fuel world championship will resume in Round 5 of the Countdown to the Championship in a new Capco Contractors dragster and the full support of his family.

Forty-eight hours after smacking the concrete guard wall at Texas Motorplex in Ennis at more than 320 mph and reducing his car to scrap iron, Torrence returned from the chiropractor “feeling like a million bucks,” relatively speaking.

“I am sore,” Torrence said in a statement from his residence in Kilgore in East Texas.  “Hell, I crashed into a wall at 330 miles an hour.  That hurts!  But considering everything, I’m good.  If I was a cat with nine lives, I guess I’d be down to six now _ cancer, heart attack, crash.”

The grinding accident was the result of a blown rear tire that dropped the left side of his dragster onto The Plex’s all-concrete surface and sent it slamming into the left guard wall during Sunday’s eliminations of 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.

The incident unfolded in the left lane moments after Torrence had defeated Richie Crampton in the quarterfinals. Upon impact, the car’s front clip collapsed and detached from the driver’s section and rear wheels, which continued skidding across the track behind Crampton’s car before stopping. As the smoke and debris settled, Torrence exited the wreckage under his own power and raised his hands to show the fans and live FOX Sports 1 television audience that he was not injured.

An eight-time national event winner this season, Torrence won the round with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.724-seconds at 302.62 mph, while Crampton ran 3.711-seconds at 325.53 mph.

Torrence will continue his pursuit of a Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title against point runnerup Brittany Force, Doug Kalitta and three-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown during the 17th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 27-29. Torrence will compete in a new Capco dragster after driving his backup car during a semifinal loss to Force.

“That was a pretty dadgum bad wreck,” Torrence, 34, said moments after the incident. “It’s just part of racing. It’s not a fun part, but it happens.  I was so proud of how this team responded, but not surprised.  We’re battle-tested.  When you go through something like that and respond like we did, you know you can handle any challenge out there.

“Sunday was just a little speed bump _ well, a big speed bump, really _ but we’re going to continue to pursue this championship with all we have.”

Force moved from third in the standings into second, 57 points behind Torrence, with her final-round victory over 2013 world champion Shawn Langdon of Kalitta Motorsports. Force covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.681-seconds and 326.87 mph in her Monster Energy dragster to Langdon’s pass in 3.693-seconds and 326.56 mph. Force defeated Kalitta, then second in the standings, in the quarterfinals to begin her point move. Force, who also won the Countdown race at Reading, Pa., on Sept. 24, now has six career victories.

Under NHRA rules, Torrence was allowed to continue in Ennis with a backup car that had not been run previously in the event. That rule prevented Steve from driving the car his father, Billy, had qualified and raced during a first-round loss to Crampton. Steve Torrence was medically cleared to continue while his team, lead by crew chief Richard Hogan, completed a major thrash of a new Morgan Lucas Racing chassis.

Torrence and his crew were saluted by the crowd as they rolled to the starting line to race Force, who ran 3.685-seconds at 327.43 mph. Torrence, racing this time in the track’s right lane, ran 3.728-seconds at 323.35 mph before his car’s engine exploded in a ball of fire to end a very expensive day.

“That was tough,” Force said of the Torrence wreck. “I was standing at the top end when it happened and it was scary. Steve Torrence is a good friend of mine _ we were teammates last year _ and the important thing is everybody is safe.”

Torrence began the weekend with a 42-point lead, basically two rounds of racing, over Kalitta of Kalitta Motorsports. Kalitta won his first-round race against Arlington’s Kebin Kinsley but was knocked out of the event by Force in the quarterfinals.

Torrence, who finished a career-best third in points in 2016, started the day as the Top Fuel pole-sitter after qualifying at 3.682-seconds and 327.51 mph Saturday. It was his third pole of the season, 16th of his career but first at former Funny Car driver Billy Meyer’s stadium-style facility. Torrence easily defeated Blake Alexander in the first round with a pass in 3.683-seconds and 327.59 mph. Alexander ran 4.110-seconds at 217.28 mph.

“We’re still that lone car competing against the powerhouses,” Torrence said of his family-owned and sponsored team. “They’re all lined up across from us in the pits and it motivates you. I like to kick butt and talk trash while we’re doing it. Any time you go up against anybody with all that data and all that stuff…we’re doing everything we can to stay ahead of ‘em. With this Countdown, you have zero room for error.”

Sunday’s event was Round 4 of the six-event Countdown to the Championship playoffs involving the top-10 competitors in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Meanwhile, Steve and his parents addressed NHRA Nation in a letter provided by public relations representative Dave Densmore:

To our friends in racing:

First of all, we want you to know that we understand the dangers of drag racing and we accept them. We’ve been drag racing our whole lives.  It is a sport full of passion and great people.  It’s one of the things that has kept our family close. Saying that, we love the thrill of victory and accept the agony of defeat.

After the deaths of Blaine Johnson, Eric Medlen and Scott Kalitta, the commitment of NHRA officials and team-owners to a higher level of safety is most likely the only reason Steve was able to walk away from Sunday’s accident at the Texas Motorplex.  We cannot thank the NHRA enough for the rules that made that possible.  And God bless the Safety Safari. 

Thanks to everyone who asked about Steve’s condition and offered to help us out.  It is wonderful to be surrounded by so many compassionate and caring people.

Every team that participates in NHRA drag racing believes that it has a great crew but that does not begin to describe the type of team that we have. We’re not just an ordinary team, we are an extraordinary team that is blessed with the opportunity to race competitively at the top level of the world’s most extreme motorsport.

Our love for drag racing and for one another far surpasses what you see at the racetrack and is what has put us in a position to compete for the sport’s ultimate prize.  God indeed has blessed us.

Above and beyond Steve’s crew, we would like to thank all of those who contributed to the Herculean effort that enabled us to bring a car back to the starting line for the semifinals: Scott Palmer Racing, Nitro Ninja Racing, Billy Torrence Racing, Aaron Brooks, Todd Paton and anyone else that we might have overlooked in all the turmoil.  A special thanks to our chassis builder, Morgan Lucas Racing, and Richie Crampton for fabricating a quick, fast but very safe race car.

Unfortunately, despite everyone’s efforts, we didn’t win the semifinal round but we did leave with the points lead and when everyone gathers in Las Vegas in another week, we’ll be ready to re-join the battle for the Mello Yello Championship.

Thanks so much.

Steve, Kay and Billy Torrence

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 19 2017
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