MORRISON, Colo. — Steve Torrence already knows he has a winning recipe for the unique racing conditions of Bandimere Speedway.
However, doing it one more time at this weekend’s 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on the FOX national broadcast network would be another feather in Torrence’s cap, in what is shaping up to be the best season of the Top Fuel standout’s career.
Racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 feet throws an incredible curveball directly at 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters, but Torrence and his team were dialed in on the unique combination a year ago and won for the first time at the scenic track.
This weekend’s race, which once again kicks off the famed Western Swing, will be broadcast live on FOX for the first time in NHRA history.
Sunday gives Torrence and his Capco Contractors dragster a chance to showcase what has already been a banner season in front of a huge television audience, and the two-time 2016 winner is excited for the opportunity.
“(Crew chief) Richard (Hogan) has just successfully developed a tune-up that still has a great deal of power in the conditions we’ll have,” said Torrence, who is third in points. “But it also doesn’t sacrifice the engine. We’re not just running it hard and tearing up the car. There are a couple things we’ve found that are conducive to racing up there that have been an advantage for us.”
“I’m not bragging on ourselves, but we’ve had one of the best cars in Denver the last few years. As far as our gameplan, we’re going to continue to do what we’ve been doing. We have a good baseline (for Denver) and we’re not going to deviate from that.”
Races in Sonoma and Seattle follow the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals to finish off the Western Swing, but just as importantly, only four events will be contested after Denver before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins.
Torrence appears to be headed to the six-race NHRA playoffs with as much momentum as he’s had in his standout career, advancing to three final rounds and earning six No. 1 qualifiers in 2016. His third career No. 1 qualifier came at Denver in 2013 and team has only honed in on their Bandimere Speedway combination since then.
Torrence knocked off eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher in the final round a year ago and have since added famed tuner Alan Johnson to the mix as a consultant. That effect has already been evident in 2016, as Torrence gears up to go after his first career Top Fuel world championship.
“I think as far as me making strides, it’s the confidence this team has given me,” Torrence said. “I’m just confident in this car and this team does their job flawlessly. I cannot give them enough credit for giving me the confidence to drive this car. Everybody has been together a minimum of two years and that cohesiveness has been a huge part of it. Richard is more confident than ever and Alan is just the best in the business. To have him at your disposal for consulting or a question or advice, that’s a huge benefit.”
Torrence also believes he has a dragster that is only going to get better, but he knows it has to be if a Denver win or a world championship is in his future.
He’ll have to thwart off a number of star competitors in the loaded Top Fuel class, including reigning world champion and points leader Antron Brown, who won the most recent race in Chicago, and Doug Kalitta, a three-time winner this year.
Both are ahead of seven-time winner Torrence in the point standings, something he is going to work hard to change before the Countdown to the Championship.
“We’ve been digging deep and working as hard as we can,” Torrence said. “We’re in a fight for a championship and everything you do has to count moving forward. You can’t stand pat and sit idle to win a championship in this class. The parity is better than it has ever been. We’re trying to get up there and close that gap and maybe open up the gap with the people behind us. The higher you start in the Countdown, the easier you make it on yourself.”
As far as succeeding in Denver, Torrence is confident based on previous results. The challenges of the Western Swing are immense and teams are immediately immersed in them at Bandimere Speedway, but the rigorous schedule seems to bring out the best in Torrence.
“You change everything for this race,” Torrence said. “Basically what you do is run this tuneup, take it out and don’t run it again until next year. But when you feel confident with what you’ve got, it’s a good feeling.”
“It’s a lot of racing in a short time. When you get into that zone and mode, you can get worn out and lose focus. But it always keeps you in your routine. It’s a double-edged sword. But I like it that way. It keeps me sharp.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications