Reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence confirmed persistent rumors on Wednesday that he and his Capco Contractors team will not participate at this weekend’s season-opening Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
Torrence did not cite specific reasons for his absence, stating via Twitter: “Due to untimely circumstances beyond our control, it’s in the best interest of Torrence Racing to not participate in this weekend’s season opener in Pomona, California. We cannot thank our fans enough for their continued support and understanding at this time.”
While mere conjecture, some pundits have suggested Torrence’s decision as a demonstration in opposition of the NHRA’s recent changes to the Countdown to the Championship format that allows any team that competes at every “regular season” race a spot in the championship lineup, regardless of whether it finishes inside the top ten. Torrence’s father, Billy, made headlines last season when he raced to a fifth-place finish despite entering just 10 of the season’s first 18 races. His feat is thought by many to have, in part, precipitated the NHRA’s controversial adjustments to the Countdown.
Fellow Top Fuel competitor Scott Palmer, as well as southern California-based Funny Car racer Jeff Diehl, both of whom receive support from the Torrence organization, have also withdrawn from the Winternationals and intend to make their season debuts in Phoenix.
“Not sure if everyone realizes how much the Capco team and Torrence family helps smaller teams out there,” Palmer began in a statement via social media. “The Torrence family and team personally wired and plumbed our new car, and worked with Rick Ducusin, Will, Alex, Eddie and Warwick to finish and test this new car for us. Here at SPR and also JDR we don’t feel comfortable going to Pomona running without them there for advice and support, so we will start the season here in Phoenix in a few weeks.”
Diehl added, “We need to let you know we are sorry but JDR will not be able to make it to the Pomona race this week. With the new car, body, etc., we are just not ready. On top of this we get a lot of help from the Lagana’s (Bobby and Dom) and the Capco and SPR teams/families — with them not going to this race makes it even harder on us. We are shooting for the Phoenix race and we’re sure we will be all set by then. We just can’t do this to ourselves, our crew, sponsors and fans to come out there and not be ready and be a hot mess. I’m sure you guys can understand. See you all at Phoenix.”