Torrence To Begin ‘Drive-for-Five’ at Pomona

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 18 2022

Steve Torrence will be gunning for a fifth NHRA Top Fuel championship in 2022.

Native Texan Steve Torrence will resume his bid to revise drag racing’s Top Fuel record book Friday afternoon beginning with Round 1 of qualifications for the season-opening 62nd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.

Torrence _ NHRA’s four-time/reigning Top Fuel world champion _ will launch a rare “Drive-for-Five” at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., during the first of 22 races on the 2022 Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule.

Torrence is poised to become just the fourth professional driver in NHRA history to win as many as five consecutive titles. A 38-year-old resident of Kilgore, Texas, Torrence is eager to capitalize on the new-for-2022 technical alliance between his Capco Contractors team and OEM Toyota.

“I feel like this new partnership will only improve what Torrence Racing can do on the track,” said Torrence, a 51-time tour winner.  “I’ve seen first-hand that the drivers associated with Toyota (including rival Antron Brown) aren’t just part of a roster, but part of a family and that’s what appealed to me.”

Leah Pruett (Top Fuel), two-time/reigning world champion Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) were winners of the 2021 Winternats, which took place in a summer slot due to health concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. But drag racing’s historic opener has returned to its traditional February calendar slot.

This weekend’s event, which also will mark the 900th race in Pro Stock, will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including three-hours of same-day/delayed final eliminations action Sunday at 10 p.m. (EST). FS1 is scheduled to carry 90 minutes of Friday’s qualifying at 10 p.m. (EST) and additional time trials at 7 a.m. on Sunday.

Torrence rolled to the 2021 title on the strength of 11 wins, including one in Pomona to close out the season. Torrence heads into 2022 as winner of half the races he has started over the last two seasons (15-of-30) and the tour’s dominant driver since 2016 with 46 victories _ 28 more than anyone, regardless of category. 

But the new season will feature a pair of multiple Top Fuel champions determined to derail the “Capco Boys.” Tony Schumacher, an eight-time world champ, has returned to fulltime competition for the first-time since 2018 in a trimmed-down version of his father’s Don Schumacher Racing. Tony Schumacher is the all-time leader in Top Fuel wins with 85.

Brown, a three-time Top Fuel world champ, will contest the schedule as owner/driver of fledgling AB Motorsports.

“There’s definitely guys coming after us,” Torrence said, “but that’s what makes it fun. It’s all about the competition.  The longer you’re on top, the harder it is to stay there and that’s our challenge this year _ to stay on top.

“But it’s not just me and Tony. Now that he has his own team, Antron will make a strong run. And since A.J. (Alan Johnson) landed over at Kalitta’s, you know Doug will be back in the hunt.  Brittany (Force) will be strong again and so will Leah, Clay (Millican) and Shawn Langdon.”

Brit Force, of John Force Racing, defeated Torrence for the 2017 Top Fuel title. Pruett exited DSR after the 2021 season and now is driving for her husband, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, as part of the new Tony Stewart Racing team.

The contenders also include California businessman/racer Mike Salinas, who finished a surprising third in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs last year in just his fourth full season.

“Mike Salinas?  He was bad-ass last year, especially on the lights,” Torrence said. “So, that’s a half-dozen really good drivers and teams before you even start talking about the Josh Harts and Justin Ashleys and Austin Procks of the world.  It’s gonna be a battle from the first week to the last.”

Torrence will counter with Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana Jr. again making the tuning decisions on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. A former Top Alcohol Dragster world champ (2005), Torrence has won 81.6 percent of his Top Fuel matches over the last five years (263-59).  In 2021, Torrence authored one of the 20-best seasons in the sport’s long history by posting a 60-9 won/loss record _ the best mark in any pro class since 2008.

“These Capco Boys are unbelievable,” Torrence said. “The best in the business, bar-none.  No matter how many races I wind up winning, it won’t be because of anything I’ve done.  The Capco Boys do all the work and I’m just the guy who’s lucky enough to drive the best race car out there.  We’ve won 51 times, but all that means to me is that 51 times I didn’t screw it up.  I’m going to go out and try and make it 52 this weekend and we’ll go on from there.

“We know that target on our backs grows bigger each and every year. But I’m glad I’ve got this team standing with me to keep pushing.”

Winternationals qualifying is scheduled to begin with a single nitro session Friday evening followed by a pair of rounds on Saturday afternoon.


Ron Capps will launch defense of his 2021 Funny Car world championship in the brave, new role as team-owner/driver.

NHRA’s 2016 Funny Car world champ, Capps earned his second title last season by a margin of 37 points _ less than two rounds of racing _ over three-time world champ Matt Hagan in a battle of Don Schumacher Racing aces. Ironically, both exited DSR at season’s end, with Capps forming Ron Capps Motorsports and Hagan joining the first-year Tony Stewart Racing organization.

A native of Southern California, Capps has enjoyed plenty of success at Pomona, including winning the Winternationals last season in its non-traditional summer schedule slot. Capps returns as driver of the Dodge Charger tuned by Dean Antonelli and John Medlen.

“To say this is the most excited I’ve ever felt heading into the Winternationals would be an understatement,” Capps said. “Obviously 1997, making my debut as a rookie, driving for Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme was pretty exciting and overwhelming. But coming into this season as a team-owner and driver, defending our championship, and then you add in everything that’s been going on in this very short offseason, plus having the backing of NAPA Auto Parts and GearWrench…it just gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

With the bulk of his DSR team returning, Capps is confident he can maintain the championship momentum.

“Preseason testing went great,” said Capps, referring to last weekend’s PRO Nitro Spring Training in Chandler, Ariz. “We had tremendous success with what we wanted to try. Guido (Antonelli), Medlen and our entire NAPA AutoCare team had a plan. We went to Phoenix, made the runs we wanted to make and now we’re set for Ron Capps Motorsports to make its first official NHRA appearance and begin our Camping World Series championship defense. It’s going to be a lot of fun this year.”

In addition to Hagan, the loaded Funny Car class includes 16-time world champion John “Brute” Force and teammate/three-time world champ Robert Hight and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon.


While Pro Stock will be celebrating the 900th event in its history this weekend, five-time/reigning world champ Greg Anderson is chasing a personal milestone. Anderson passed mentor Warren “The Professor” Johnson to become the all-time wins leader among Pro Stock drivers last season en route to his fifth title. Greg, who led the point chase for the entire 17-race Factory Hot Rod schedule in 2021, now is aiming for his 100th career victory.

“Every year when you go into Pomona, at least me, I’m very apprehensive and ask myself, ‘What have the other teams found?’^” said Anderson, driver of the Chevrolet Camaro SS fielded by KB Racing. “We’ve had almost three months to find some gains _ and we’ve worked awfully hard _ but you have no idea until you get to the first race what the other teams have done.

“You can only control what you’ve done to prepare. I know we’re going to be every bit as good or better than last year, and I have my hands full trying to beat my own team cars. The competition out there is incredible; the talent level is incredible. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how we stack up.”

Anderson’s rivals are led by four-time world champ Erica Enders of Oklahoma-based Elite Motorsports, 2017 world champ Bo Butner and reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year Dallas Glenn of KB Racing.

“Back from retirement again. Can’t wait,” said Butner, who returns fulltime after a two-year hiatus. Butner won his title in 2017 with KB Racing but now is driving the Johnson’s Camaro SS fielded by the Elite stable.

Butner is a 27-time national event winner in Pro Stock, Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Gas and Super Street.

“I was at the point where I was one of the younger-to-middle guys,” Butner said. “Now, (at age 47) I’m one of the older guys. I can’t wait to get back out and go head-to-head with Greg and that (KB Racing) team and go head-to-head with some of these young people. I wish them all success, but I can tell you it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever tried to do on a consistent basis and to try to turn on win lights. I was told that before and I laughed, but I believe it now.” 

Enders, who won her world titles in 2014-15 and 2019-20, finished 107 points/five-plus rounds of racing behind Anderson last season.

The Winternationals also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills.



Feb. 17-20 _ Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, Pomona, Calif.

Feb. 25-27 _ NHRA Arizona Nationals, Chandler, Ariz.

March 10-13 _ *AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.

April 1-3 _ NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Las Vegas

April 22-24 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil, Baytown, Texas

April 29-May 1 _ NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C.

May 13-15 _ Virginia NHRA Nationals, Richmond

June 3-5 _ NHRA New England Nationals, Epping, N.H.

June 17-19 _ NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.

June 23-26 _ Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, Ohio

July 15-17 _ Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Morrison, Colo.

July 22-24 _ NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, Calif.

July 29-31 _ Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals, Kent, Wash.

Aug. 12-14_ Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor, Topeka, Kan.

Aug. 18-21 _ Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn.

Aug. 31-Sept. 5 _ *Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis


Sept. 15-18 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Reading, Pa.

Sept. 23-25 _ NHRA Carolina Nationals, Concord, N.C.

Sept. 30-Oct. 2 _ NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill.

Oct. 13-16 _Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas 

Oct. 27-30 _ Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Las Vegas

Nov. 10-13 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

*NHRA Allstar Shootout

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients has included Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 18 2022
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