Steve Torrence, the 10-time NHRA Top Fuel winner, has plenty of sticks. Driving a 3.6-second, 330-mile per hour, fuel-burning dragster has proven time and time again, Torrence also has stones.
Torrence admits he doesn’t want to break anybody’s bones, but their focus and confidence is another thing.
Torrence is all about psychological warfare, and it’s not personal.
“I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings by saying anything bad about them, I’d just rather do it on the racetrack,” Torrence admits. “We’ve had a really great race car, and it’s given me a bunch of confidence. It’s all intended for good fun, and humor and even stirring the pot a little bit. I’ve even ruffled some feathers. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t intend on doing that in a non-malicious way.”
Some of Torrence’s best one-liners include a double-whammy aimed at the current point leader by referring to her team’s dragster as the pizza-delivery vehicle and a vague reference as “gold-digger” playing off of the old phrase digger for dragster which is gold. Then there’s the other meaning of gold-digger where he just smiles and remains silent.
Torrence has even nicknamed uber-successful Top Fuel veteran Tony Schumacher, a play off of the successful action figure known for its Kung Fu grip, GI Joe, clearly something the U.S. Army-sponsored driver has held on the nitro dragster division for almost two decades. Schumacher’s decision to sport a similar beard only adds credence to Torrence’s dig.
And, in some ways, Schumacher might be in the way of Torrence’s bid to prove the eight-time champion’s father Don Schumacher wrong. Torrence claims it was the elder Schumacher who told him some years ago, a harsh reality of a single team having unwinnable odds.
Torrence admits it’s a coincidence the two teams he’s targeting are part of Don Schumacher Racing. It’s no coincidence he’s pulling out all the stops to winning it all, even if there’s a bit of psychological warfare intermingled with low elapsed times and holeshots.
“We’re in an all-out war for a championship,” Torrence said emphatically. “I think we’ve got 18 races left to go so this is going to be a long, hard-fought battle. I think that we’ve got a good opportunity to go out and prove that you can compete as a single-car team. It may be more difficult, but the parity in the class is at an all-time high. You don’t have the same guy going out and winning championships and winning races week in and week out without a little bit of luck. This is not the same top fuel racing that it was 10 years ago. Not even five years ago.”
Torrence understands he’s got his work cut out considering Pritchett has won three of seven 2017 events, and Schumacher has been in four finals, winning one of them. For his part, Torrence has held his own against his adversaries winning twice in four meetings with Pritchett, and holding a two-to-one advantage against Schumacher.
“I didn’t think that when I was racing top alcohol dragsters that I would even be driving a top fuel car,” Torrence admitted. “It’s surreal to be able to, not only be a top fuel driver but we’re running a family-owned race team. When you take a step back and look at what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short period of time, it’s taken a lot of hard work to get there, but I’m really proud of what my guys have done. That’s humbling.
“You work really hard, and eventually you look up when you’re having some success, and it makes you proud. It makes you go out and beat on your chest a little bit and throw those little jabs out there to some of those other teams that are a little more established with a bigger budget with way more personnel. It makes you proud and race with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder when you think, ‘Heck, I’m outrunning these guys. We’re beating them.’
“We’re just a bunch of old hillbilly rednecks from Kilgore, Texas.”
Intermingled within the gaggle of rednecks from Kilgore is someone close to Pritchett, her husband Gary, who is Torrence’s clutch guy.
“He has worked on Torrence Racing since day one,” Torrence said. “He’s an OG, an original gangster of the crew and one of my best friends. He’s a great friend of mine, I’ve known Leah for a long time. If you can’t talk more trash than ever to somebody that’s your friend, then something is wrong with you. I don’t know if she’s mad at me, but she’s been talking trash to me too. I can dish it and take it. I’m just waiting.”
Torrence believes Schumacher has a few digs for him in response.
“He’s come up with a few nicknames for me,” Torrence said. “He just hasn’t said them where everybody else can hear them. I’ll leave that to him. He’s got a couple of his own little throwbacks. I guess in his mind they’re funny.”
While Torrence has no problem engaging two of the three DSR dragster racers, there’s one he’s just fine leaving out of the mix. The last person Torrence wants to engage is defending NHRA champion Antron Brown, a racer he’s only beaten once in his career, trailing the Matco Tools-sponsored driver by 21 victories.
“I’m not going to stir the pot with him. I’ll stir it with everybody else though,” Torrence said. “I don’t need for him to have any more reason to kick my butt.”
Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus