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‘Western Swing’ Offers New Challenge

DENVER, Colo. – Steve Torrence is known for facing challenges head-on, whether it’s battling Hodgkins’ lymphoma as he did as a Texas teenager or chasing drag racing history as he’s done the last three seasons at the wheel of the 11,000 horsepower, 330 mile-an-hour Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster.

The reigning Mello Yello Champion and current point leader, Torrence is the only driver to have won NHRA series championships in both the Top Alcohol and Top Fuel categories, the only driver in any category to have swept the six races comprising the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship and only the second driver (after Tony Schumacher) to race in eight consecutive Top Fuel finals.

He’ll try to extend the latter streak this week at Bandimere Speedway where he competes starting Friday in the 40th annual Dodge Mile-High Nationals, a race he won in 2015 and in which he started from the No. 1 qualifying position in both 2013 and 2016.

The Mile-High Nationals is the most rigorous test of man and machine on the circuit. It is contested on an all-concrete track 5,600 feet above sea level, higher by 3,500 feet than any other in the series. The thin air creates unique problems for those tuning high performance engines that rely on the perfect mixture of fuel and air.

“Every track presents a different challenge,” Torrence said. “That’s one of the great things about this sport. You’re confronted with new problems every race and you have to figure them out. Fortunately, (crew chief) Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana (Jr.) and these Capco boys are the best in the business.”

For Torrence, though, Denver is significant for more than just its uniqueness.

“It’s the first race in the Western Swing,” Torrence said, “and obviously if you don’t win Denver, you can’t ‘Sweep the Swing.’”

Winning back-to-back-to-back at Denver, Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. is one of the few remaining items on the champ’s competitive bucket list and having won seven of the last eight events and 13 of the last 19, there would seem to be no better time to address it than the present.

Although there have been only seven sweeps in the 20-year history of the Western Swing, five have come in Top Fuel courtesy of some of the category’s biggest names: Joe Amato (1991), Cory McClenathan (1997), Larry Dixon (2003), Tony Schumacher (2008) and Antron Brown (2009).

(After 13 of 18 races leading into the Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship)

1. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 1278
2. Doug Kalitta, Saline, Mich., Mac Tools dragster 799
3. Antron Brown, Pittsboro, Ind., Matco Tools dragster 781
4. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Advance Auto Parts dragster 777
5. Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Scrappers Racing dragster 732
6. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster 730
7. Leah Pritchett, Danville, Ind., Mopar Dodge dragster 651
8. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., DHL/Kalitta Air dragster 612
9. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Intimigator dragster 576
10. Scott Palmer, Cassville, Mo., Magic Dry Organic dragster 563

12. Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster 493

So far, so good…. (A season summary)

Date Site Qualifying position and race detail Points

Feb. 10 Pomona, CA 1. Beat Steve Faria, bye, Mike Salinas; lost to Doug Kalitta. 2nd
Feb. 24 Phoenix, AZ 14. Lost to Antron Brown 4th
March 10 Gainesville, FL 3. Beat Dom Lagana; lost to Doug Kalitta 3rd
April 7 Las Vegas, NV 2. Lost in 2nd Quad 3rd
April 14 Houston, TX 2. Beat Kebin Kinsley, Austin Prock; lost to Antron Brown 3rd
April 28 Charlotte, NC 6. WINNER over Clay Millican (Terry McMillen, Leah Pritchett) 1st
May 5 Atlanta, GA 2. Beat Luigi Novelli, Scott Palmer, Shawn Reed 1st
and Brittany Force
May 19 Richmond, VA 4. Beat Todd Paton, Scott Palmer, Billy Torrence 1st
and Antron Brown
June 2 Chicago, IL 3. Beat Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton, Antron Brown 1st
and Mike Salinas
June 9 Topeka, KS 1. Beat Terry Totten, bye, Antron Brown and Billy Torrence 1st
June 16 Bristol, TN 3. Beat Pat Dakin, Clay Millican, Don Lagana; lost to Mike Salinas 1st
June 23 Norwalk, OH 5. Beat Jordan Vandergriff, Doug Kalitta, Brittany Force 1st
and Pat Dakin
July 7 Epping, NH 9. Beat Austin Prock, Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton 1st
and Scott Palmer

The Champ at Bandimere Speedway:

Last year at the Dodge Mile-High Nationals: racing from the No. 3 starting spot, Steve beat Bill Litton before running afoul of Blake Alexander in round two.
Starts/Final Rounds/Wins/No. 1 Qualifier: 9/1/1/2
Steve’s quickest time at Bandimere Speedway: 3.775 seconds, July 21, 2017
Steve’s fastest speed at Bandimere Speedway: 325.45 mph, July 20, 2018
Steve’s won-lost record at Bandimere Speedway: 11-8
Steve’s best moment(s) at Bandimere Speedway: In 2015, racing without crew chief Richard Hogan during a brief estrangement, Steve qualified fourth and climbed to the top of the mountain with wins over Jenna Haddock, Richie Crampton, Larry Dixon and Tony Schumacher.
Track records: 3.733 seconds by Leah Pritchett, July 22, 2017; 327.59 mph by Clay Millican, July 22, 2018.

* * * *
Dominant Performance
NHRA Top Fuel Victories (2016-Present)

Steve Torrence, Capco Contractors dragster 29
Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster 12
Brittany Force, Advance Auto Parts dragster 10
Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools dragster 7
Leah Pritchett, Mopar dragster 7
Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster 4
Sean Langdon, DSR dragster 3
Clay Millican, Parts Plus dragster 3
Blake Alexander,Pronto dragster 2
Richie Crampton, DHL/Kalitta Air dragster 2
Terry McMillen, Amalie Intimigator dragster 2
Mike Salinas, Scrappers Racing dragster 2
Billy Torrence, Capco Contractors dragster 2
J.R. Todd, Kalitta Air dragster 1

* * * *
Looking Ahead

July 28 31st NHRA Sonoma Nationals Sonoma, Calif.
August 4 31st Cat Spot NHRA Northwest Nationals Seattle, Wash.
August 18 38th Lucas Oil Nationals Brainerd, Minn.
Sept. 2 65th Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals Indianapolis, Ind.
Sept. 15 35th Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Reading, Pa.
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