Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster
The self-contained Capco Constructions Inc./Torrence Racing organization dipped its toe into uncharted waters Friday at Bristol, Tenn.
Resolutely independent, the Top Fuel team of three-time champion Steve Torrence and top-five in the Top Fuel points and father Billy Torrence has agreed to a technical alliance with Toyota that will begin with the 2022 Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
“I’ve been blessed to have a lot of success in my NHRA career,” Steve Torence said, “but I feel like this new partnership with Toyota and TRD will only improve what Torrence Racing can do on the track. I’ve seen first-hand that the drivers and teams associated with Toyota aren’t just part of their roster but part of a family. They are a special manufacturer that puts people first, and that’s the type of partnership our team is excited to be a part of starting next season.”
In an announcement prior to the opening session of qualifying for the Thunder Valley Nationals, Paul Doleshal, Group Manager of Motorsports and Assets for Toyota Motor North America, said, “We have incredible drivers and team partners in the NHRA landscape. The addition of Steve and Billy Torrence will only enhance that outstanding lineup. It’s going to be the start of a great relationship. With them being from Texas and our headquarters in Plano, Texas, there’s some nice connections we can make.
Photo credit: TRD
“For us, it was not expected. It kind of came around organically from our relationships here that we’ve built with NHRA. We’re excited to get them into the family. They’re a great family-run team, and they really take that to heart. And that’s kind of how we try to come to track, especially at NHRA events. So it should all work together nicely,” he said. “They’ll be a great addition and will help us continue to engage with the fans here.”
Both sides said Steve Torrence initiated the partnership.
“He was appreciative of how we participate as part of the racing community and was excited to see if there was a way we could join together and do more in the sport and just be part of the family,” Doleshal said. “We were able to make that work.
“It’s humbling, too,” he said. “We just come here every weekend to try to help participate, help the sport grow, help our teams, not jut win trophies. Trophies are fantastic. We all like winning races and championships, don’t get me wrong. But we really try to come in here into NHRA’s space, and the access is amazing. So we try to partner with teams that really understand that and get it that the fan is top priority. That’s how we want to build our family here, the Toyota family, when it comes to racing in NHRA. The fit is superb. They’re a great family-run organization, run a great business. And to have them want to be part of our program is humbling and means maybe we’re doing a little something right.”
Toyota provides its NHRA teams with tow vehicles, along with engineering, technology and trackside support through TRD (Toyota Racing Development).
“We’ve been in NHRA for 20 years with a lot of great teams,” Doleshal said. They include the current lineup of Antron Brown Racing, Del Worsham’s DC Motorsports, and Kalitta Motorsports.
“We approach it pretty gingerly, I think, who we expand out to,” he said. “We respect the relationships we current have with the teams we have. We want to make sure that we don’t damage those in any way b increasing the size of our footprint. But this one just worked really well when it came together very naturally. And that makes it very comfortable.
“Now,” Doleshal said, “it’s just continuing to learn more about each other, them learning about our brand and how we operate – not only from a racing program point of view but also from our manufacturing and our dealer body – how we work as partners. All of that is done to benefit the consumer. When it comes to racing, how do we benefit the NHRA fan and how do we make their experience better? How do we bring them closer to the action and closer to the things that they want to learn about, whether it be technical or access to the drivers? How can we do that in a way that also talks about Toyota and our family? Generally, that’s how we try to approach NHRA.”
The Toyota executive said, “I think NHRA’s in a growth position. The sponsors that can come in here and do a lot of great things, we would want to be supportive of that. I think there’s a lot of openness to doing things at this point within the sanctioning body. And we’re excited about that and what the future holds here. Hopefully we can look toward building another 20 years with activity at NHRA.”
Having the Torrence team on board will be a major boost for Toyota’s presence in the sport.
“I’m five-foot-seven,” Torrence said. “I’m not a big guy. But when I put that helmet on and the adrenaline starts to flow, I turn green, my clothes rip off, and I think I’m ‘The Hulk.’ That’s what you have to do, because whoever’s in the other lane is trying to take away what you’ve worked so hard for. You’ve got to convince yourself, because if you don’t believe we’re the baddest ones out there, ain’t nobody else gonna believe it.”
Toyota believes, and that’s why they’re thrilled to add the Torrence team to their already outstanding portfolio.