Statistics show that approximately 94 percent of the new jobs created over the past 10 years were contract-based or freelance. That's just one reason an estimated 44 million people in the U.S. have a side hustle. (Establishing a side hustle is easy; it only takes a few hours to set up your own small business.)

Think side hustle and you probably think coding or consulting, side gigs in which efficiency and speed are critical. The faster you deliver results, the better your prospects for success.

But, by hitting speeds of more than 330 miles per hour, Steve Torrence has the fastest side hustle of all.

At his day job, Steve is part owner and operations manager/estimator of Capco Contractors, a family-owned oil and gas pipeline construction company. 

On the side, he's the 2018 NHRA Top Fuel world champion, winning 11 races this year as well as becoming the first driver to sweep all six events in the Countdown to the Championship (in essence, the sport's playoff series).

Steve works during the week, races on the weekends, and flies home on Sunday nights so he can be in the office before 6 a.m. on Mondays.

Because, as I found out when I talked with Steve, even with all the on-track success, racing really is just a sideline.

Describe your day job. What's a typical weekday workday for you?

I'm in the office by 5:50 a.m. Our people are out the door by 6:15. So, if I'm not there    early ... 

My dad started the company. I worked here after school, every summer, through college. Other than racing a car, this is the only job I've ever had.

I've done pretty much every aspect of the job: manual labor, driving big trucks, operating equipment. The only thing I can't do is weld. I'm not a very good welder. [Laughs]

Now, my father and I do all the estimating, and I handle the project manager role for our different projects. With 350 people, we're a decent-size company, but since we try to keep our overhead low, there are only seven people in the office. Which means we all stay pretty busy. [Laughs]

So, do you see yourself as a drag racer who also helps run a company, or a company executive who also drag races?

I'm a company guy who also drag races.

I love racing. It's always been my passion. But we work so we can drag race. Drag racing, for us, is not a way to make a living.

Capco is the race team's primary sponsor. What kind of return does that generate?

It definitely helps generate leads and customers, but it's more of a relationship-building tool. We're able to cultivate great working relationships through racing. Take people to the races for two or three days, spend that time with them, you'll build a much better relationship than going to lunch 30 times. 

The race team is a huge asset in that respect.

Plus, people get invested in what we do; we do a lot of work for a company in Houston and they pretty much shut their whole high-rise building down to come to the Dallas race.

It also lets us interact with clients and customers in a more genuine way. I'm a country guy: button-up shirt, jeans, cowboy boots. I can put on a suit and go up the 57th floor [laughs], but I'm a lot more relaxed when I'm in my own element. 

And the people we bring to races, so are they.

How do you balance out your time?

To be honest, I don't know. I don't know anything different. This is just how I live.

But it really helps that we have such great people. The people at Capco are awesome. The people at the race shop are awesome. They take care of business.

Together, they all make the wheels turn.

Anyone who wants to do what I do, the first thing you must do is surround yourself with great people. Or it will never work.

Many drivers view driving as a full-time job. Since you can't, what has to give?

Nothing has to give. In terms of performance, the best thing I can do is stay focused on something else and just go race the car for fun. 

I'm not the kind of person who can sit in the simulator and practice on a practice tree [starting lights] every day. That doesn't work for me. I've tried it, and I think it made me worse. [Laughs]

Repetition, running lap after lap, being comfortable in the car, that's important, but you can also get to the point where you're overthinking. At least, I can. 

While it sounds far-fetched, one thing that benefits me most in terms of driving is long-range target shooting. It requires a ton of focus and concentration. It requires controlled breathing. There are a number of similarities to being on the starting line. You can't let your heart rate go up, you have to keep your breathing down, stay calm, stay focused, and just react.

If you're calm and relaxed on the starting line, if you simply react instead of making a conscious effort, that's when you're quick. If you're thinking about it and worrying about it and making sure you're not late, you'll definitely be late. [Laughs] 

If you had to pick one thing, what is the difference between a good driver and a great driver? 

Controlling your emotions, and being able to perform when the pressure is on. Of course, that's so easy to say and yet so difficult to actually do.

Tony Schumacher is the best at it: He produces, time and time again, in high-stress situations.

Last year [2017] made a huge difference. We were able to learn how to win a championship even though we didn't actually win. We won twice as many races as the other teams, I think we had the best car and the best team, but we just couldn't do it through the countdown.

A lot of it was because I got nervous. But that made me a better driver, and I think the whole experience made us a better team. And, in 2018, when the crunch time came, we stood up even taller. 

And we're just as hungry going into next year. In 2018, we had something to prove. In 2019, we want to drive it home. It will be harder, but we have the confidence and the mindset. We've done it. And if we do our thing, we can do it again. 

Last question. Some people are driven by a love of winning. Others hate to lose. Which are you?

I hate to lose. I hate to lose. 

But the nature of your sport means you will naturally lose way more often than you win.

True. But even so.

Winning is great, but winning is what we expect to do. That's the goal. Every team goes to the track wanting to win. That's how you're supposed to feel -- no one makes it to this level of the sport if they don't have that kind of drive and passion for what they do.

When we win, it does feel awesome, but that's what we expect from ourselves.

So, yeah: I hate to lose.

Published on: Dec 17, 2018
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