(Photo courtesy Getty Images) (Other photos courtesy NHRA)

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.

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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

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.