Father’s Day may still be a week away, but the Torrence family was able to celebrate a few days early.
Steve Torrence, who has done just about everything there is to do in the sport, checked another box off his list of firsts when he met his father, part-timer Billy Torrence, in Sunday’s Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties. It was the first time the father-and-son duo have met in an NHRA final as the younger Torrence continued his hot streak with his fifth straight win Sunday at Heartland Motorsports Park.
“This is something that will probably stand out forever,” Torrence said. “We have always raced together. I raced my dad growing up and watching him race is what made me want to do this. So to be able to compete with him at this level in Top Fuel, to go first and second in qualifying and in almost every session and carry that momentum through race day, was amazing. He drove so well. It is expected that I do well, but (my dad) gets in the car every now and then and kicks butt.
“I think that this final will probably be one of my most memorable, aside from my first final ever and first race win. This is right up there at the top, if not above it.”
After qualifying first and second on Saturday, the duo made easy work of the competition on Sunday, leading to their first-ever final against one another. The father and son team had met several times prior in earlier rounds, with Steve dominating those races, and Sunday’s race proved no different.
In a very close drag race, Steve Torrence took the victory over his father with a 3.750-second pass at 326.16 mph in the Capco Contractors dragster, while Billy Torrence crossed the stripe just a few feet behind with a 3.768 at 326.00 mph.
So, after a close race and the first final between the two, were there any words shared at the top end?
“Not really,” Torrence said. “We are both competitive. Nobody was upset, but he wanted to win. I wanted to win. I just had a better racecar and I went a little quicker. He left on me and he was trying to get that win. We don’t have any team orders, (my dad) was trying to end the streak quicker than anybody.
“We didn’t talk much before. I said, ‘I am fixing to kick your butt, I will see you here in a little bit.’ He said the same thing. It was fun. We go up there and went head-to-head and we really raced each other tough.”
While the action on the track was certainly fierce, the intensity on the starting line might have been even greater. While father and son were squaring off, the woman connecting the two was left – quite literally – divided between them.
“I saw (mom) before the run. I saw her on dad’s side and then she walked over to my side and acknowledged me. Then she went up there and stood in the middle,” Torrence said. “I don’t know who she was rooting for. I am hoping for the baby boy, but it could have been for the old man. I don’t know.”
Either way, she had to have been proud of both.
Torrence reached his sixth final of the 2019 season with wins over Terry Totten and Antron Brown, earning a bye in the second round thanks to a short field. The short day led Torrence to his fifth victory in a row and 32nd of his career, winning at one of only four tracks on the NHRA schedule he had yet to win.
“I had not won here ever in Top Fuel, so strike this one off the list,” Torrence said. “It is all about being consistent. We have to go to Bristol next week and we will try to qualify and then take it one step at a time. That has been our motto the past two years, one step at a time. And we have to try to maintain that consistency if we want to remain on this path. Every week it is the same story, don’t look at the end goal, let’s look at what is ahead of us right now. The end goal will handle itself.”
Billy Torrence, making only his sixth start of the year, reached his second final of the season and the third of his career with wins over Lex Joon, Richie Crampton and Austin Prock.
The success of both cars on Sunday, combined with the team’s impressive tally of 18 wins in the last 34 races – winning more than half of the races run over that span – has left all eyes on the small, family-run operation out of Texas. While racing on par with many of the great racing teams in all of motorsports over the past decade, to Torrence and his team, he is just enjoying the ride and refuses to acknowledge that success until later – much later.
“I had this discussion with my dad yesterday. We have been very dominant, yes, but we have been very fortunate and blessed. We are just a family-run, sometimes two-car team that goes to show that a lot of hard work, dedication, perseverance and just sticking with it when it sucks, will get you there,” Torrence said. “We have a huge support group with this race team and everybody involved with it, especially those guys back at Capco. They take great pride in Capco and this race team and that is a lot of motivation to do well. I know that what they are doing day in and day out keeps us out here, so I appreciate that.
“When you do take a step back and get out of the box and look at what we have been able to accomplish, it is pretty amazing. It is something I never thought could happen. When you are a kid you want to be able to do this, but then you get a bit older and you realize, well, I don’t know how achievable that is. Then you get the opportunity and you think, I want to win a race. And you win a couple of races and then you want to win a championship. And we were able to do that.
“We’ve achieved pretty much every goal we have set out to do, but deep down you are still a competitor. You want to be in that moment and have that competition and that feeling. So we try not to look at all of that stuff right now. We can look at it some other time when we are not racing. When some people step back and look at what they are doing they lose focus. We just have to go one round at a time and, eventually one day, we will look back and say we were pretty good at one time.”
Torrence will look to make it six-in-a-row in one week when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series travels to Bristol Dragway for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019