Steve Torrence Walks Away From Devastating Crash in Dallas
Over the past few months as Speed Society has become more active in the NHRA, we’ve ...
Over the past few months as Speed Society has become more active in the NHRA, we’ve formed friendships and relationships that extend beyond our professional dealings with our team drivers. We quickly learned that many of these teams have intimate dynamics that tied everybody together and form a brotherhood that is as strong as any familial bond.
A perfect example of one of these relationships is Team Speed Society driver Leah Pritchett and her husband Gary, who is a member of Steve Torrence’s CAPCO Contractors team. As we have seen throughout 2017, there is a fierce rivalry between these camps, but at the end of the day, these guys are all one big family. We’ve grown to feel like a part of the Papa Johns team throughout the season, and as such, we’ve gotten to know Leah and Gary on a personal level, which has led us into the CAPCO pits throughout the year, giving us the opportunity to meet Steve and his crew as well. Steve is a great guy who has welcomed us many times with a firm handshake and a grin as big as his home state of Texas, and I personally consider him a friend and believe he’d return the sentiment. Standing on the wall at Texas Motorplex yesterday, I watched Steve layd down a solid 3.72 elapsed time in the second round of eliminations. However, as the car reached the 1,000 foot mark, one of the rear tires let go, and I was left nauseous and stunned at what unfolded just a few hundred feet away.
There’s a bit of a causational uncertainty regarding what caused the left side rear tire on the CAPCO dragster to blow as Torrence streaked through the finish line at over 300 MPH, but whether something on the track cut the tire or if the slick itself failed at speed, the few moments following the crash were some of the most intense I’ve ever experienced. As soon as the tire let go, the huge crowd of spectators let out a collective gasp, then an eerie silence fell across the facility as Steve’s car skidded to a stop against the guardrail in the opposite lane. He’d gotten to the stripe mere feet ahead of Richie Crampton, turning on the win light for the round, as the tire let go, pushing him into the left retaining wall. That impact folded the car in half, a purposeful design feature that allows the front half of the car to absorb energy while preserving the driver’s cockpit. Even knowing the car was designed that way, it was still literally sickening to watch as Steve was little more than a passenger after the nose was sheared off the car. The rear half of the car crossed to the right side and skidded to a halt, and as myself and the entirety of the crowd on hand held our breath. It took Steve only a couple of seconds to leap from the car, throwing his hands in the air in triumph and letting everyone know he was okay.
Uncannily calm following such a harrowing incident, Steve’s focus was lucid: the 2017 points championship is still on the line and every round matters. The first thing he wanted to know after climbing from the wreckage was if he’d won, and his focus immediately turned to preparing his brand new chassis for the semifinals. In the pits, as his team – joined by members of several other teams – thrashed to ready the backup car, Torrence took time to speak one-on-one with his dad Billy, who was also competing in Top Fuel this weekend, as well as his mother, known to all simply as “Mama T”. He also shared a long embrace with his girlfriend Natalie, who was visibly shaken but showed unwavering support for Steve and his decision to hop right back into the cockpit.
The team managed to basically build the new car from a rolling chassis to race-ready rocketship in approximately 33 minutes, firing the car in a cloud of nitro that brought tears to the eyes of all watching on in the pits, whether they were hit by the fumes or not. They rolled the car into staging in time for the semifinals, where third-place points earner Brittany Force waited. While many teams would plan to make a safe A-to-B pass against a team running a brand new, untested car that was assembled in a half hour, Force’s team knew the CAPCO car would not come to the line simply looking to make a showing for the fans. Brittany laid down a stellar 3.68 elapsed time and needed every bit of it to outrun Torrence’s solid 3.72 ET. As he crossed the stripe, the engine fireballed, destroying the carbon fiber injector and leaving Steve scrambling to get the Safety Safari on hand to put out the stubborn flames after he brought the car safely to a stop.
For the CAPCO crew to build a car in the pits and go out and make a run that would have won against most any other run in competition says so much about how dedicated these guys are to what they do, and the fact that Force’s team knew what it would take to win show’s they had a healthy respect for Torrence and his guys. After watching this saga unfold and speaking with Steve a couple of times myself yesterday, I have a whole new level of respect for him and his crew myself. This was a horrifying, amazing, enthralling day of racing, and I’m glad to have been there to watch it up close and personally. Steve leaves Dallas sitting atop the points, poised to close out the season and take home his first championship. With this kind of competitive spirit, we’d say he’s certainly earned it.