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Dad Works For Son In Torrence Family Victory

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 22 2019
Billy Torrence lent a helping hand to son Steve during Sunday’s NHRA finals at the Texas Motorplex. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

ENNIS, Texas – On those rare occasions when reigning NHRA Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence exits a national event early, father Billy Torrence doesn’t wait long to receive his marching orders.

That was the case Sunday, when Steve was upset by Shawn Reed during Round 1 of the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex. 

“This is ‘Mama Kay’s’ race team, so I know it’s by invitation only,” said Billy Torrence, referring to his wife. “Whenever Steve went out she came in the lounge and she said, ‘Well, you’ve been wantin’ to help Steve. Now’s your chance.’ ”

The elder Torrence thereupon upheld the pride of “them Capco Boys” from Kilgore, emerging as Top Fuel winner in Round 4 of NHRA’s six-event Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Billy Torrence rallied from a poor start to defeat rookie Jordan Vandergriff in the final _ an outcome that preserved Steve’s point lead and cost the younger Torrence lunch on Monday.

“It was a very unusual deal,” said BillyTorrence, who eliminated Reed during their second-round matchup; record-setting No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force in the semifinals en route to the final against Vandergriff. Torrence and his dragster covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.775-seconds and 319.67 mph. Vandergriff, a 24-year-old appearing in his first Top Fuel final, drilled Billy off the starting line with a quicker reaction time (0.060-seconds to 0.319-seconds) before spinning the rear tires on his Bob Vandergriff Racing/DA Lubricant Dragster.

“I was going to deep-stage to get a little better light and it threw my concentration off. I was sitting there long enough to see the other guy leave and I just said, ‘Hold my beer and watch this shit!’^” said Torrence, 61-year-old founder/CEO of Capco, the Kilgore-based oil-and-gas pipeline and maintenance company. “We caught him pretty quick, 300-feet or so. I made a pretty dumb mistake in the final but I had a good enough car and team behind me to prevail.  I think we’re probably the second-best car in the country, with Steve having the first-best. “

To that point, Billy scored the 25th combined win for the Torrence family over the last 46 NHRA national events contested during 2018-19. “It’s humbling to be a part of it,” Billy said after his fourth win of the season and fifth in his professional career.

Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective categories at the 22nd of 24 events during the 2019 season.

Steve Torrence began the weekend with a 30-point lead over Doug Kalitta, who was defeated in the first round by rookie Austin Prock. Steve will take a 33-point lead over Kalitta into Round 5, the 19th annual NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Oct. 31-Nov. 3. Billy Torrence moved from sixth to fourth in points, 71 behind his 36-year-old son.

Billy Torrence won for the second time in the Countdown and first time at The Plex as a professional, improving his record to a Countdown best 9-2. Billy also moved from sixth to fourth in points after starting from the No. 10 position.

As a part-time racer, Billy acknowledged that “blocking” for his son is part of the deal. ”Well, that’s what I’m here for,” Billy said. “Originally they got my car out here for an R&D car and that’s primarily what they do with it _ they’ll try different things on my car and keep the data that’s good. Well, I think I can quote Kay because the last couple of races I’ve not done as well as I needed to do.

“We’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have the success we’ve had.  We’ve got a great group of guys on both cars _ part-time guys on my car and a few fulltime guys and they all work together. So I’ve had the benefit of basically having a team-and-a-half to keep my car up. Whenever I come out I certainly have a good car. That’s a testimony to the great team Kay’s put together, the great people. We use store-bought parts. We primarily use Alan Johnson parts and these guys work very hard. It’s humbling to be a part of it. I get to come out and basically just show up and race.”

With points-and-a-half available at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif., next month, Billy was reminded he remains a legitimate title threat to his son.

“Oh, my Lord!” Billy said in his East Texas twang. “We’ll go out there and race and be a support team for Steve and he for ours and do the very best we can. Steve always is a little better than I am at the Christmas Tree because he’s about 25 years younger and he’s a little better driver and they seem to have a little performance advantage on me. I’ve been able to beat him a couple of times with treachery and that kind of deal, but he’s difficult to deal with. And I probably couldn’t beat Steve often.”

And if he did manage to overhaul Steve for the title?

“I would probably have to move from my home,” said Billy, with “Mama Kay” standing nearby. “That would be mixed emotions. You know how these moms are with these sons. That’d go bad. I’ve been very blessed and fortunate and I’m really lucky. If you didn’t know it before today you know it now.”

Despite his second opening-round loss of the Countdown, Steve Torrence managed to retain the point lead he has held after 49 of the last 58 races. “It looks like it’s going to come down to the Finals,” Steve said. “No excuses. We had a little mechanical issue but it went out and ran 3.73 and got we just got beat. Dad ran 3.73 in the same round and won (over Terry McMillen).

“We know we’re gonna get everybody’s best shot when they pull up beside us, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. We know we’ve got a good hot rod going to Las Vegas. So, we’ll just buckle up and get after it again.”

Billy Torrence, a two-time NHRA national event winner in the Super Comp class, didn’t climb into a Top Fuel car with his son’s encouragement and instruction until 2013. Since then, he has raced 45 times, never failed to qualify and won five events.

 “We love to race here,” said Billy, referring to the Motorplex’s all-concrete surface. “We’ve raced here our whole racing career in all the Sportsman classes. We have a lot of fan base here. We have a lot of friends and family, people that work with us and work for us. We entertained at least 200 people here this weekend (and) I think a good time was had by all. There’s no place better to race for us than Dallas, Texas.”

Meantime, there was the Torrence victory lunch tradition, with Steve picking up the tab. “We drive over to El Charro on the Ridge in Tyler,” Billy said. “Every time we win those folks will have us set up when we get there about 11:15. And I’ll ask Steve, ‘When was the last time you rode with the guy who won Dallas?’ And he’ll say, ‘Last year!’^” 

Hagan earned his third Funny Car win of 2019, covering the 1,000-foot distance in 3.909-seconds at 327.59 mph in his Dodge SRT Hellcat. That lap beat Bob Tasca’s 3.928 at 323.12 in his Ford Shelby Mustang. It was Hagan’s 32nd career win and third at Texas Motorplex. He knocked off Blake Alexander, reigning world champ J.R. Todd and point-leader Robert Hight, beating Tasca in a side-by-side race. Hagan also moved to fourth in points.

“We had a great race car today,” said Hagan, of Don Schumacher Racing. “Qualifying was pretty tough, but to turn on four win lights was pretty huge. Bob is a great driver and those guys are good, so I’m glad things turned out the way they did. We’re just trying to keep some momentum going, keep doing our job and control what we can control. It was a pretty special weekend. We’ve just got to keep digging and keep working. I love this sport and it’s been a big part of my life for 10 years. I knew (crew chief) Dickie Venables was tuned-in and you could see he was confident, and that builds confidence in me.”

Tasca beat Jonnie Lindberg, Jack Beckman and No. 1 qualifier/16-time world champion John Force to reach his 16th career final. Hight maintained the point lead, with “Fast Jack” the nearest competitor at 70 points back.

In Pro Stock, Anderson ousted longtime rival Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final, covering the quarter-mile in 6.609-seconds at 209.75 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to Coughlin’s 6.610 at 207.56 in his pink JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Camaro. The outcome gave Anderson three wins this year, 94 overall and five at Texas Motorplex _ tying him with mentor Warren “The Professor” Johnson for most in “Factory Hot Rod” class history at the facility.

Anderson reached the finals with wins against KB Racing teammate Jason Line, point-leader and Houston native Erica Enders and Deric Kramer, meeting Coughlin for the 102nd time overall and 21st time in a final.

“We’ve had so many titanic clashes with so much on the line, and I knew it would be close,” said Anderson, a four-time world champ who is seventh in points. “It’s a total team effort and that’s what it takes to win a national event in Pro Stock right now. You’ve got to have perfection every time out there. We made a lot of changes this week and we hit on it. It showed it on Saturday and I knew coming into today we had a chance. Now it’s a matter of if I can drive the car well enough. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this thing because everybody right now can beat everybody else.”

Coughlin, now third in points, qualified No. 1 and beat Richie Stevens, Aaron Stanfield and Matt Hartford to reach the final for the 109th time in a career featuring five world titles. Enders stayed in the points lead, but saw it slip to just 28 points over Hartford.

Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Savoie posted a quarter-mile lap of 6.881-seconds at 195.90 mph in the final aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki to knock off Eddie Krawiec and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson FXDR and claim his third win in 2019. Savoie also earned his second win in the Countdown, closing to within 94 points of leader/five-time world champion Andrew Hines and his factory H-D.

Savoie, 60, reached his fifth straight final in Ennis with wins against Jianna Salinas, Karen Stoffer and Hines, picking up a key victory against the point-leader before knocking off four-time world champ Krawiec in a pivotal final pairing.

“It was a great day and we knew we had a good bike coming in,” said Savoie, a 12-time winner in his career. “We said if we held our composure we could win this thing. For the most part, tracks favor certain riders and we’ve been blessed here. Bottom line, I want a championship just as bad as anybody else, so whoever is in my way I’m going to do everything I can to try and beat them. I felt good and we’ve got a great team. To me, this win gives you more hope and means a lot. This gives you that window of opportunity where you could win a championship again.”

An alligator farmer from Cut Off, La., Savoie won the Pro Stock Bike title in 2016.

Krawiec reached his 47th final after wins against Ryan Oehler, No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith and Angelle Sampey _ the latter a pair of three-time world champions. Hines’ points lead grew to 81 over Stoffer.

###

Final results Sunday from the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex. The race was the 22nd of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and fourth of six in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs: 

Top Fuel  _Billy Torrence, 3.775-seconds, 319.67 mph def. Jordan Vandergriff, 4.299 seconds, 246.03 mph. 

Funny Car _ Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.909, 327.59 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.928, 323.12. 

Pro Stock _Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.609, 209.75 def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.610, 207.56. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle _Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.881, 195.90 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 195.62. 

Top Alcohol Funny Car _Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.499, 268.54 def. Shane Westerfield, Camaro, 5.508, 266.58.

Top Alcohol Dragster _Megan Meyer, 5.299, 273.88 def. Buddy Domingue, 5.296, 271.19. 

Factory Stock Showdown _Chris Holbrook, Ford Mustang, 7.977, 172.74 def. Leah Pritchett, Dodge Challenger, 8.017, 171.16.

Competition Eliminator _Joey Tanksley, Dragster, 6.924, 186.69 def. Brian Browell, Dragster, 7.702, 140.49.

Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com _Kamron Wright, Chevy Camaro, 6.626, 204.29 def. Bengt Blomberg, Pontiac Firebird, 6.834, 204.29.

Super Gas _Casey Plaizier, Chevy Corvette, 9.913, 160.16 def. Tim Nicholson, Chevy Camaro, 9.922, 106.16. 

Super Stock _Vic Penrod, Chevy Camaro, 9.882, 136.36 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, Foul/Red Light. 

Super Comp _Don Nichols, Dragster, 8.932, 166.66 def. Christopher Dodd, Dragster, 8.934, 177.11. 

Super Street _John Leibham, Chevy Camaro, 10.802, 151.87 def. Jim Burrell, Ford Torino, Foul/Red Light.

Midwest Pro Mods _ Aron Wells, Ford Mustang, 3.730, 205.69 def. Justin Jones, Chevy Corvette, 4.845, 110.22.

Stock Eliminator_Brandon Bakies, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 11.387, 113.78 def. Dale Hulquist, Chevy Camaro, 10.930, 118.57. 

Point standings (top-10) following the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex:

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 2,394; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,361; 3. Brittany Force, 2,348; 4. Billy Torrence, 2,323; 5. Leah Pritchett, 2,290; 6. Austin Prock, 2,278; 7. Mike Salinas, 2,266; 8. Antron Brown, 2,247; 9. Richie Crampton, 2,228; 10. Clay Millican, 2,210.

Funny Car _1. Robert Hight, 2,437; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,367; 3. John Force, 2,363; 4. Matt Hagan, 2,325; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,315; 6. Ron Capps, 2,302; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,274; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,243; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,239; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,188.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 2,395; 2. Matt Hartford, 2,367; 3. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2,330; 4. Jason Line, 2,327; 5. Deric Kramer, 2,323; 6. Bo Butner, 2,321; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,296; 8. Alex Laughlin, 2,239; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,217; 10. Val Smeland, 2,124.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Andrew Hines, 2,464; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,383; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2,370; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,365; 5. Matt Smith, 2,297; 6. Hector Arana Jr., 2,274; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,248; 8. Angie Smith, 2,181; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,159; 10. Hector Arana, 2,128.

2019 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Playoffs Schedule/Results

Sept. 12-15 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa. Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Sept. 27-29 _ AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Shawn Langdon (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Oct. 11-14 _NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals, zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock), Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Oct. 17-20 _ AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Texas Motorplex, Ennis, Texas. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Oct. 31-Nov. 3 _ Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Nov. 14-17 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 22 2019
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