In the racing movie “Talladega Nights,” Ricky Bobby uttered the famous line, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
Fortunately for Kilgore’s Steve Torrence, he is in first in the NHRA Top Fuel points standings heading into this weekend’s NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis.
Torrence was in Tyler on Wednesday to meet with the media in advance of the event.
Just a year ago, Torrence was in the same position, holding the Top Fuel points lead heading to Ennis. However, Torrence had a crash at 300 mph. He went on to win the race, but had to use a backup car against Brittany Force, who ended up winning the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title with 2,690 points, just ahead of Torrence at 2,609.
“It’s been a really remarkable season,” Torrence said. “Not only to have the success we had last year and then the catastrophe that we had, but to be back in this position, leading the points and coming here back at home racing in front of fans, family and friends while racing for a championship is awesome. To do it two years in a row is surreal.
“We’re excited to be back in Texas, and we’ve got a lot of Capco people we work with that will be cheering us on. We would like to have a different outcome than we had last year. I think the car is doing well, and all of the guys are doing well, and I’m glad to be back home.”
Torrence spends his weekdays working at Capco Contractors in Henderson. On the weekends, it’s all about performing on the track.
Torrence is looking for his first professional win at Texas Motorplex, but he did win twice at the track in 2005.
Torrence said it’s not always about being the fastest car, but sometimes avoiding mistakes can be the difference between a win and a loss.
“I’ve won a lot of races by not making mistakes when other guys have,” Torrence said. “In Reading, (Pennsylvania), for example, a guy outran me, but I was better off the line and got to the finish line first.”
Torrence knows all about adversity. At the age of 17, Torrence was diagnosed with cancer. In 2016, he suffered a heart attack. But Torrence hasn’t let anything stop him from doing what he loves. Instead, it’s fueled him to cherish it even more.
“It’s just the mentality of being a competitor,” Torrence said.
Coming off a win in St. Louis on Sept. 23, Torrence has 2,346 points — 70 points ahead of Clay Millican, of Drummonds, Tennessee. After this weekend, there will be three more races in the playoffs.
Qualifying in Ennis will be at 2:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, qualifying will be at 1:15 and 4:30 p.m. Elimination races begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Many of the weekend’s events will be televised on Fox Sports 1.