‘Ridiculous’ NHRA Top Fuel Playoff Format Won’t Distract Attention From Continuing Steve Torrence Story
Steve Torrence is chasing a fourth consecutive NHRA Top Fuel World Championship tying a record against a field including his father, Billy, in a playoff format that both Texans deem “fundamentally ridiculous.”
Safe to say, the playoffs are tough for Kilgore-based teammates heading into the 36th annual NHRA Texas Fall Nationals this weekend at Texas Motorplex. The event at the Billy Meyer Drag Racing Hall of Fame facility in Ennis is the fourth round of the seven-race countdown to the championship.
“You mean, ‘The Losers Appreciation Tour? “, Asked Billy Torrence, rhetorically. “People who follow the sport closely, I don’t know anyone who agrees with this ‘Loser Appreciation’ program. If you show me someone who does, I’ll show you a loser.
Those who follow the sport closely know that Steve Torrence – the reigning three-time NHRA Professional First Class Champion – is a big winner. With wins in eight of this season’s first 13 national events, the 38-year-old cancer survivor has established himself as the runaway “regular season” champion with 411 points ahead of Brittany Force.
Steve led the standings after 12 of the first 13 races in the Camping World Drag Racing Series. But when the points among Top Fuel’s Top 10 drivers were recalibrated to start the countdown, Steve’s lead over Brittany was reduced to 20 points – a race round.
Points were also reset among Top 10 Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle riders. The intention of the NHRA is to open the championship among eligible drivers; increase fan interest / ticket sales for promoters like Meyer; improve television ratings for FOX network partners and Fox Sports 1 and provide better value for money to corporate sponsors.
“On the contrary, I think it has taken a lot of people away from the sport,” said Billy Torrence, who has competed in nine of the first 13 races and all three so far in the countdown. “It just belittles the championship and it’s fundamentally ridiculous. And I am also a very good “sponsor”.
Billy and Steve work for the family-owned Capco Contractors Inc., a full-service oil and gas industry pipeline company in East Texas. Capco is the main sponsor of its two 11,000 horsepower / 300 mph dragsters.
“We go out there and run for fun,” said Billy Torrence, who won Top Fuel at the Plex in 2019. “I mean, it’s something we’ve always done as a family. making a lottery out of it and trying to make performers _ I guess NHRA feels like it brings entertainment value _ we’re not performers, we’re runners.
Indeed, Billy, 63, won the opening countdown game in Reading, Pa. On September 12 on a part-time basis. Steve regained the lead in the playoff points with his victory in Madison, Ill. On September 26.
“I heard an analogy from a friend,” said Steve, who beat Billy in the Motorplex final last year. “It’s like running a marathon and 75 percent of the marathon, they stop the leader, make him stand there, let the rest of the runners catch up and let him start again. It penalizes teams that work hard all year round; it takes away from them what they worked for.
Steve Torrence will head into the first of two qualifying rounds on Friday with a 36-point lead over Force, the 2017 world champion. Billy Torrence is third, 90 points behind his son. Two more time trial heats are scheduled for Saturday and the final eliminations on Sunday.
“While I don’t agree with the point system, it doesn’t look like they’re going to change it just yet, so you’re kind of going to do what you have to do,” Steve said.
Despite their problems with the format, it turned out to be profitable for “the Capco Boys”. Steve earned $ 500,000 each for his titles in 2018 and 2019 and $ 70,000 after last year’s COVID-19 impacted season.
Steve now aims to become the seventh driver in professional drag racing history to win up to four consecutive NHRA championships. This list includes Kenny Bernstein (Funny Car), John “Brute” Force (Funny Car), Bob Glidden (Pro Stock), Don “The Snake” Prudhomme (Funny Car), Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Lee Shepherd from Fort Worth. (Pro Stock).
“You know, it’s something you try not to think about,” said Steve, a 49 career national event winner. “When you list these names, they’re the biggest. These are the guys who have drawn attention to sports. These are the guys who led the way, who really made their mark. And when you list them and say I have the opportunity to be mentioned with them, it’s very humbling.
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