The 37-year-old Texan drove his Capco Contractors dragster into the final round at the season-ending 20th annual Dodge Finals but couldn't add the icing to the championship he celebrated with family and crew including injured teammate Dom Lagana, who texted congratulations from his hospital bed in Indianapolis.
Torrence clinched the very first Camping World championship in somewhat anticlimactic fashion when his principal rival for the title, veteran Doug Kalitta, lost a heartbreaking first round race to Rookie-of-the-Year Justin Ashley.
That rendered moot the myriad other possible title scenarios and made Torrence just the third driver in NHRA history (after Joe Amato and Tony Schumacher) to win as many as three consecutive championships in the sport's signature category.
"I am excited to win our third championship" he acknowledged, "(but) I'm a big Doug Kalitta fan. I know what it takes to get here, what it takes to be in this position and how hard every one of those guys over there (at Kalitta Racing) work and how hard Doug's worked.
"The amount of time that he's spent out here, to come up short, not just one time, but so many times, it's a mixed emotion for me," he said. "I know where his head's at right now. I know how he feels. I'm happy for my team and myself, but I was saddened for Doug and that whole Mac Tools team. They fought so hard. They had a great car."
Congratulated at the end of the racetrack after winning his first round race against fellow Texan Kebin Kinsley, Torrence was told that the TV crew had received a text message from Lagana, a revelation that promptly re-ignited a roller coaster of emotions for the 40-time pro tour winner.
Lagana was injured in a car crash in Brownsburg, Ind., following a Torrence victory last August in the Dodge Indy Nationals. The accident and aftermath were difficult for the entire Capco team, but Torrence hit an personal low two weeks later when, while he was trying "to win one for Dom," lost in the semifinals of the sport's biggest single event, the Labor Day U.S. Nationals.
"You want nothing more than to win that race for him (but) I went up there and lost on a holeshot (to Leah Pruett). I didn't take it well," he admitted. "I didn't do my job that race but, fortunately, we were able to redirect our focus.
"(Through) nothing short of a miracle and the grace of the Good Lord, Dom is recovering," he said of the younger brother of car chief Bobby Lagana Jr. "He's gonna be banged up, in bad shape, but we're gonna do whatever we have to do to get him back out here with us"
"It's not my driving (that has improved), it's my outlook on everything else," he said of three dominating seasons. "You grow as a person. You can be mature in business and you can be mature in your everyday life, but competition brings out a different side of you (and) you have to be able to harness those emotions.
"I've gotten a lot better. (I know) I've dug myself a hole with a lot of people," he continued. "You only get one chance to make a first impression and I screwed that up with a lot of folks. We try to do the best we can. We do this as a family. Yes, it's a job, but it's what we do as a family for fun with every one of these guys. You go out there, put your best foot forward and maybe try to change people's perceptions.
Even though he contested only 10 of the 11 events in the abbreviated Camping World Series, Torrence went to seven finals, won four times and finished 193 points ahead of Kalitta, whom he beat by a mere three points in 2019. Billy Torrence, Billy Torrence, the No. 1 qualifier as driver of the second Capco Contractors entry, finished third in points.
Chasing History (Best four-year runs)
Steve Torrence -Tony Schumacher-Joe Amato
(Steve Torrence's 2020 Top Fuel championship was his third in succession. He joins Tony Schumacher and Joe Amato as the only Top Fuel drivers to win as many as three straight NHRA titles. Below is a comparison of each driver's four best consecutive seasons.
Tony Schumacher (2006-2009) Races Finals Wins No. 1 *Low ET W-L Standing 2006 23 8 5 13 13 41-18 CHAMPION 2007 23 6 6 12 3 32-17 CHAMPION 2008 24 18 15 9 3 76-9 CHAMPION 2009 24 7 5 2 2 47-19 CHAMPION TOTALS 94 39 31 36 21 196-63 (75.6%) *Indicates quickest elapsed time during eliminations Schumacher was 36 when he started his four-year run and 39 when it ended Schumacher went to the final round every 2.41 races from 2006-2009 Schumacher won every 3.0 races from 2006-2009 Steve Torrence (2016-2019) Races Finals Wins No. 1 *Low ET W-L Standing 2017 24 11 8 3 0 56-16 2nd 2018 24 11 11 3 4 58-13 CHAMPION 2019 24 14 9 5 6 60-15 CHAMPION 2020 10 7 4 3 2 29-6 CHAMPION TOTALS 82 43 33 14 12 203-60 (77.2%) *Indicates quickest elapsed time during eliminations Torrence was 34 when he finished second in 2017. He now is 37. Torrence has gone to the final round every 1.93 races from 2017 to the present Torrence has won every 2.44 races from 2017 to the present Joe Amato (1989-1992) Races Finals Wins No. 1 *Low ET W-L Standing 1989 19 7 4 4 4 39-15 2nd 1990 19 10 6 6 7 47-13 CHAMPIION 1991 18 8 4 5 6 39-14 CHAMPION 1992 18 5 3 1 1 32-15 CHAMPION TOTALS 74 30 17 16 18 157-57 (73.3%) *Indicates quickest elapsed time during eliminations Amato was 45 when he started his four-year run and 49 when it ended Amato went to the final round every 2.48 races from 1989-1992 Amato won every 4.35 races from 1989-1992
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