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2016 NHRA season in review: Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence

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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence.

2016_Steve_Torrence_Action

2016_Steve_Torrence headshotDriver: Steve Torrence

Age: 33

Hometown: Longview, Texas

Team: Torrence Motorsports

Sponsor/car: Capco Contractors

Crew chief: Bobby Lagana, Richard Hogan

2016 season finish: Third in Top Fuel.

2016 season statistics: 23 races, 3 wins, 5 runner-up, 2 semifinals, 8 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier eight times. Round-by-round record: 39 wins, 20 losses.

Career statistics: 166 races, 12 wins (8 Top Fuel, 4 Top Alcohol Dragster), 13 runner-up (11 Funny Car, 2 Top Alcohol Dragster), 19 semifinals, 52 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 13 times. Round-by-round record: 154 wins, 154 losses. Four DNQ.

What went right in 2016: Torrence had the best year of his Top Fuel career. … In addition to his own talent, much of the credit for Torrence’s surge in success and performance in 2016 was master tuner and 11-time champion Alan Johnson (who also tuned fellow Top Fuel driver Brittany Force’s dragster to a sixth-place finish in 2016). … Torrence gave it his all to try and wrestle the Top Fuel title away from eventual champ Antron Brown and runner-up Doug Kalitta, but came up 181 points shy of Brown and 51 points behind Kalitta. … He also became one of the most prolific top qualifiers in the class, taking No. 1 honors in one-third (eight) of the season’s 24 races.

What went wrong in 2016: Torrence did not start at Norwalk, which ultimately cost him eventually in the point standings. Who knows what may have happened to his championship bid if he had made the Norwalk show. … Losing in the first round during the six-race Countdown to the Championship at St. Louis and in the second round at Charlotte 2, Reading and Pomona 2, also greatly impacted Torrence’s overall points total earned in the season. … Three consecutive first round losses early in the season at Phoenix, Gainesville and Las Vegas 1 also hurt him greatly.

What to look for in 2017: If 2016 was Torrence’s breakout season, then 2017 could be his championship breakthrough season. It doesn’t get much better with Johnson tuning your race car, and Torrence and Johnson have formed a potent duo (with Brittany Force, who is also tuned by Johnson, a defacto teammate of sorts to Torrence). If there’s anything Torrence has to work on, it’s his consistency, particularly early in the season. If he can get over that hump, he has a good chance of battling for the championship next season.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Juncos Racing to field single car entry in Indy 500

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Part-time NTT IndyCar Series entrant Juncos Racing will announce their attempt to qualify for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 within the next few weeks, according to RACER.

The team, which made its Indy 500 debut in 2017, ran 12 of the 17 IndyCar Series races last season, but has only made a start in one of the four events so far in 2019, finishing 18th in the inaugural running of the IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas with Kyle Kaiser behind the wheel.

Though no driver has yet to be announced for the single-car entry, Kaiser is expected to be the leading candidate for the ride. The 23-year-old Californian has raced for the team since 2014, where he won the 2017 Indy Lights championship.

One of the top teams in the Road to Indy ladder system, Juncos Racing has over 50 wins between Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 competition. The team’s most recent victory came in the second Indy Lights race at St. Petersburg this year with Rinus VeeKay behind the wheel.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter