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NHRA Slaps Torrence With Big Fine

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 26 2019
Steve Torrence’s big push resulted in a big penalty from the NHRA.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Steve Torrence’s second NHRA Top Fuel world championship now carries an asterisk, courtesy of a five-figure fine.

NHRA officials docked Torrence $25,000 for a physical altercation with Cameron Ferre after their first-round pairing during the season-ending 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif., on Nov. 17. Torrence, involved in a championship chase with Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta, was upset that part-time competitor Ferre had deep-staged against him at Auto Club Raceway in a bid to record a quicker starting line reaction time.

Torrence won that round and then walked over to talk to Ferre, who was exiting his car nearby. When they finished talking, Torrence shoved Ferre in the face with the palm of his gloved right hand. Ferre began to charge Torrence, who had raised his right arm as if to strike Ferre.  Both drivers were quickly separated by members of Torrence’s family-owned Capco Contractors team.

The fine was disclosed on the NHRA website last Friday _ but not disseminated to media via news release _under the headline “Statement of Action Against Participant:”

“The following action has been taken against Steve Torrence regarding an incident that occurred during the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on November 17, 2019 regarding an altercation with a fellow competitor. Torrence publicly apologized for his conduct at the season-end awards ceremony on November 18, 2019. Torrence has been fined twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) and must complete anger management sessions.  The fine will be dedicated to enhancing the capabilities of the Safety Safari.  The action is appealable.”

Torrence _ who apologized to Ferre later in the day at Pomona _ did include a public apology to Ferre during his eight-minute-plus speech at the NHRA Awards Ceremony the following evening inside the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, Calif.

“Yesterday was not one of my prouder days,” said Torrence, sporting a black tuxedo, bowtie and cowboy hat on-stage. “So Cameron Ferre _ you’re somewhere over here, I hear your fans hollering for ya _ I’m sorry, brother. In the heat of the moment I got out of line. It’s probably more tough to stand up here and admit that if front of y’all than y’all probably know. But I was out of line and I apologize to you, brother. That was wrong. Again, I want to apologize for my actions.

“I also got to say that as Capco we sponsor a lot of Jr. Drag Racers and a lot of those kids look up to me. I see a lot of kids with Capco on their car; I’m sorry to all those families and all those kids. I give all the glory to God and I fall short a lot.”

The incident unfolded directly in front of an NHRA official. Before the second round, Torrence was summoned to the track’s control tower for a meeting with Josh Peterson, NHRA Vice President, Racing Administration. While clearly in violation of Section 1.3.1 of the NHRA Rulebook pertaining to Participant Conduct, Torrence was not docked any championship points.

Torrence _ who finished the season three points in front of Kalitta _ also could have faced a disqualification or suspension. However, NHRA officials reserved the option to issue a postseason penalty to the Texan in the form of a monetary fine.

Torrence took exception to the deep-staging technique of Ferre, a 34-year-old resident of Huntington Beach, Calif., who qualified 16th and last. Torrence clearly was distracted by Ferre’s deep-staging tactic, evident by an uncharacteristic 0.142-second reaction time off the starting line.

A driver is deep-staged when, after staging, he or she rolls a few inches forward, which causes the pre-stage light on the NHRA Christmas Tree to go out. In that position, the driver is marginally closer to the finish line but dangerously close to a foul start.

Torrence won the round by covering the 1,000-foot distance in 3.734-seconds and 327.82 mph. Ferre ran 4.040-seconds at 294.82 mph for car-owner/crew chief Terry Haddock.

Torrence was visibly upset and terse when he exited his car but began his televised interview by saying Ferre had a bright future in the class. Torrence added, ”You want to act like a little kid, you’ll get treated like a little kid.” Moments later, Torrence walked over to speak to Ferre. The two were shown clenching right hands during a conversation dominated by Torrence.

Torrence managed to regain his composure at Pomona and clinched the 2019 championship with an all-or-nothing victory over Force, the 2017 world champ from John Force Racing, in Round 2. After using an 0.026-second starting line advantage and a 3.749- second elapsed time to beat Force, Torrence admittedly lost focus in the subsequent semifinal and was trailered by Richie Crampton.

Torrence took full responsibility for the confrontation with Ferre on race day. “Tensions are high. There’s a lot of crap going on out there, but there’s still no excuse for me acting that way,” said Torrence, a 36-year-old resident of Kilgore, Texas. “I apologize to every fan, all my racing friends and racing rivals. It was a heat-of-the moment reaction on a day when emotions were high, especially in the Capco camp.  I talked the Cameron and we’ll just put it behind us and move on.

“I mean, I’ve been in that guy’s spot where you do anything you can to win. He did what he could to win and it just…there’s a championship on the line and tensions get high and emotions get high. It’s just…I apologize to everybody. Brittany and that whole (Advance Auto Parts/JFR) team have done an unbelievable job all year. They’re right there every time to kick our butt. Brittany’s a great driver. I’m just thankful and blessed. But I’m sorry to my friends and everybody for being an idiot.”

Torrence joined a short list of back-to-back Top Fuel title winners that includes “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Joe Amato, the late Scott Kalitta, Gary Scelzi, Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, Larry Dixon and Antron Brown.

Torrence won the 2018 title via an historic sweep of the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Torrence again was in control for most of the 24-race 2019 schedule. He finished with nine Top Fuel wins, including a dominant stretch of eight wins during a nine-race span.

Torrence, who won 11 races a year ago en route to his first title, also advanced to 14 final rounds in 2019 and now has 36 wins and 55 finals appearances in his career. His playoff victory at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., on Oct. 14 gave him the point lead for good, as Torrence’s path to the championship included three finals in the Countdown.

Kalitta went on to beat Kalitta Motorsports teammate Crampton in the final. The result marked Kalitta’s fifth runnerup finish for the Top Fuel championship. A 55-year-old resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., Kalitta also finished second in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2016.

“Doug, I hate to say it but I was rooting for you more than anybody,” Torrence said during the awards ceremony. “You are my hero, man. I think you fell in luck repellent or something. Because it should be you here. Great job to that whole Mac Tools team and Doug Kalitta _ thank you for being a good role model for all of us.”

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also claimed world championships in their respective categories at the final event of the 24-race season. Torrence included shout-outs to all three 2019 world champs, and Rookie of the Year Austin Prock (Top Fuel) during his awards ceremony remarks.




2019 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Playoffs 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. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Nov. 14-17 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock), Jianna Salinas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 26 2019
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