NHRA Story
National Dragster presents Tricky Tipster's Seattle picks
Thursday, July 31, 2014


For more than five decades, the National Dragster staff has tested its prognosticating skills prior to each national event, putting odds on the top eight racers it thinks have the best shot at victory in Tricky Tipster, which is first posted on NationalDragster.net the Wednesday before each event, then on NHRA.com the following day. This week, Tricky Tipster handicaps the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries. Seattle Logo
TOP FUEL
Funny Car I Pro Stock I Top Alcohol Dragster I Top Alcohol Funny Car
  
Khalid alBalooshi KHALID ALBALOOSHI
Al-Anabi Racing
The Sonoma winner gained traction with crew chief Jason McCulloch’s newfound philosophy geared toward an emphasis on maintaining traction. It may not make him the quickest driver everywhere, but it’s a solid approach during the similar tricky-when-hot conditions in near-sea-level air that we’ll see in Seattle. 5-2
  
Shawn Langdon SHAWN LANGDON
Al-Anabi Racing
One race with a new car took him from struggling to eyeing the Nos. 1 and 2 spots with three races left until the start of the Countdown. 3-1
  
Antron Brown ANTRON BROWN
Matco Tools
His five wins thus far in 2014 make the 2009 winner a favorite to go the distance at any stop on the tour. To paraphrase a line from “Posse on Broadway” by Sir Mix-a-Lot, a guest of Brown’s at this race, his dragster is gettin' good grip from the Goodyear slicks. 4-1
  
Doug Kalitta DOUG KALITTA
Mac Tools
The points leader hasn’t reached the semifinals at the past four events, but the Mac Tools dragster is the same strong presence that it has been the entire season. 5-1
  
Tony Schumacher TONY SCHUMACHER
U.S. Army
He dominated this event during his Alan Johnson era, winning 19 of a possible 20 rounds between 2004 and 2008. His car of late has performed better than it has in the last year. 7-1
  
Brittany Force BRITTANY FORCE
Castrol Edge
She almost won Denver and was No. 1 qualifier in Sonoma. Her win-waiting-to-happen status is still in effect, and she may get it down where sister Courtney scored her first Funny Car victory two years earlier. 8-1
  
J.R. Todd J.R. TODD
Optima Batteries
This is the toughest team in drag racing to predict from race to race. Nothing is preventing him from reaching the winner’s circle again like he did in Denver. 10-1
  
Steve Torrence STEVE TORRENCE
Capco Contractors
The 2012 winner is the only Top Fuel winner from the last four seasons that is still racing full time in the category (Cory McClenathan, Del Worsham, and Morgan Lucas are the others). 11-1
 

FUNNY CAR
John Force JOHN FORCE
Castrol GTX Ford
We’ll ask the same question we did last week: Would you want to line up against him right now? Neither would we. This car has been the class of the field for several races. 3-2
  
Robert Hight ROBERT HIGHT
Auto Club Ford
His car has proven capable of big things, and we’re guessing motivation to do well is quite high with the Denver champ after an unusual starting-line miscue in Sonoma. That can be a very scary combo with this team. 4-1
  
Tim Wilkerson TIM WILKERSON
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
Wilkerson definitely has the winning formula for this racetrack. He won three straight, from 2009 through 2011, and he was a semifinalist last year, missing another final on a foul start. 5-1
  
Courtney Force COURTNEY FORCE
Traxxas Ford
Coming into the event at which she won her first Professional title with momentum after going the distance in Sonoma. Had some great moments in California but was also off a few times, so we’re not quite ready to move her to the top. 6-1
  
Matt Hagan MATT HAGAN
Mopar/Rocky
Boots Dodge
The defending event champ has been pretty solid as of late. The last time he lost in the first round was Epping, and he’s coming off a semifinal finish. Add in back-to-back finals the last two years here, and we like his chances. 8-1
  
Ron Capps RON CAPPS
NAPA Dodge
We admit to having some reservations in dropping him down this much in the rankings, but this class changes so rapidly, and he is coming off a first-round loss in Sonoma. His team is definitely more than capable of rebounding in a major way. 9-1
  
Cruz Pedregon CRUZ PEDREGON
Snap-on Toyota
This car still seems to have issues with consistency, but we can see there is real potential here. He was the No. 2 qualifier and ran low e.t. of eliminations in Sonoma. 10-1
  
Tommy Johnson Jr. TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Make-A-Wish
Dodge
We considered putting Alexis DeJoria here after her semifinal run in Napa Valley, but TJ still appears to have a better overall entry with slightly quicker runs than her most of the time, so for now, he remains among our top eight. 12-1
 

PRO STOCK
Jason Line JASON LINE
Summit Racing
Chevy
Winning cures everything ... or in this case, at least a new engine block from GM goes a long way. Line was nearly unstoppable last weekend in Sonoma, first serving notice in qualifying and then being the quickest car each round of eliminations. Tipster source says Jason headed to NorCal thinking he would win next two races. We believe him. 2-1
  
Jeg Coughlin Jr. JEG COUGHLIN JR.
JEGS.com/Mopar
Dodge
Nearly every time Tipster starts to have some faith in the yellow car it falters on Sunday. There is still plenty of reason to be high on this team, though, as we head to the Northwest. Plus, in a class where the margin of victory is often beyond razor thin, your reigning world champ can get it done from the seat. He was runner-up here last year, and a repeat is likely. 4-1
  
Dave Connolly DAVE CONNOLLY
Charter
Communications
Chevy
D.C. has now been to at least the semi’s at five straight races. That type of consistency is extremely impressive among a group of factory hot rods that can be temperamental from day to day, as well as from track to track. He was a few ticks behind the lead pack in wine country, but there are only two reasons to bet against him in Seattle — and their names both begin with J. 9-2
  
Greg Anderson GREG ANDERSON
Summit Racing
Chevy
Do you want the good news or the bad news? Starting with the positive, Greg made Tipster look wise with his improved performance last weekend and won his 600th round of racing. On the flip side, he has now lost to Jeg five times in 10 races this season (and Connolly at three others!). Perhaps getting by the yellow car could provide enough momentum to propel Anderson into the winner’s circle for the first time since 2012. 6-1
  
Allen Johnson ALLEN JOHNSON
Team Mopar/
J&J Dodge
We’re just about ready to throw our hands up here. Your guess is likely as good as ours regarding which A.J. will show up to race in the shadow of the Space Needle. When this car is on, it is really on. Other weekends, the Dart misses the mark and he’s out early. We’ll split the difference and predict two rounds. 8-2
  
Vincent Nobile VINCENT NOBILE
Mountain View
Tire Chevy
It almost pains Tipster to put the defending event champion this low. None of Vincent’s college textbooks probably prepared him for that first-round loss last weekend. We can’t possibly imagine anything like that happening again this time. You’re with us on this, right? Last year, he beat teammates A.J. and Jeg en route to the Wally, and he might have to beat his 2014 teammates to get another one. 9-1
  
Shane Gray SHANE GRAY
Gray Manufacturing
Chevy
We could just say “See last week’s notes” for a prediction on Shane. Tipster’s Sonoma comments included a probable second-place qualifying position and concerns about the car’s ability to go rounds on Sunday. [Insert applause]. They may have overnighted an engine to California, but mailing in four wins is nearly impossible against the group listed above. 11-1
  
V. Gaines V. GAINES
Kendall Oil Dodge
That’s right, we’re calling it now — V. Gaines is back ... sorta. Sure, Jonathan Gray or Chris McGaha easily could have been slotted eighth this week. However, we just love the way V.’s car looks. Picking football teams based on the color of their helmets works for some, so we think it applies here as well. Gaines will get at least a round-win, and that’s good enough for now. 13-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
CHRIS DEMKE
Peen Rite/OSI/
Boost Performance
Demke has won this race on all the even years since 2010. His performance of late gives us no reason to think that he won't keep that trend going. 3-1
  
JOEY SEVERANCE
J&A Service
The 2011 winner had a surprise DNQ in Norwalk. He’d like to pull off the same feat as Mike Strasburg, who missed the field in Chicago and rebounded by winning the next event. 4-1
  
MARK TALIAFERRO
Markco Machine Works
Eventually, the hard-running Texan is going to run out of ways to lose in the final round. The Norm Grimes-tuned car is overdue for a win. 5-1
  
GARRETT BATEMAN
HipLink Solutions
Rick Henkelman’s powerful A/Fueler nearly pulled off the win here last year. They’re coming off a West Region event win at Woodburn Dragstrip. 6-1
  
SHAWN COWIE
Mundie’s Towing
The defending event champion has regained the performance level with which he won the event last year in what amounted to one of the most heartwarming comeback stories of all time. 7-1
  
JOHNNY AHTEN
Island Renovations/
Combust Filters
The Southern California firefighter runs exceptionally well in the oxygen-rich air of the Pacific Northwest. He’ll contend for No. 1 qualifier as well as the event victory. 8-1
  
MEGAN MCKERNAN
Truck-Lite/Davco
She reached her first national event final at this event in 2011. Car owner Jerry Darien has tuned a host of successful drivers to their first wins, including Courtney Force at this very race in 2009. 10-1
  
CAMERON FERRE
Nitrohead.com/Popeye Energy/JBS Ltd.
He has won a national event in Super Comp and is making his debut in Larry Miersch’s A/Fueler that reached the semifinal round at the season opener. 12-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
CLINT THOMPSON
Thompson Racing Chevy
The defending event champion has won this race three times. He has come into his own as a driver and tuner who is a threat to win at every event. 3-1
  
NICK JANUIK
Plan B Motorsports Chevy
The most improved driver of 2014 has been a force to be reckoned with. He scored his first win in Las Vegas and has been in the hunt ever since. 4-1
  
SHANE WESTERFIELD
CP-Carrillo/BBR Chevy
The Houston winner ran a 5.56 at this race last year. He always seems to find a way to get it done on race day. 5-1
  
BRIAN HOUGH
Hough Racing Ford
The Oregon resident won this race in 1997, 2006, and 2008. He began the year with a pair of victories and knows this track like few others in this field. 6-1
  
JAY PAYNE
Peak Motor Oil Ford
This is Payne’s worst-luck racetrack. He has never reached a final here in Top Alcohol Dragster or this class, and it has sometimes been rooted in strange or unfortunate circumstances. He’s still one of the best alcohol racers of all time, so he can’t be counted out. 7-1
  
DOUG GORDON
MB Cabinets Chevy
He won here in 2001 and 2009. Daughters Madison and Macie have won events this year racing Jr. Dragsters. Dad’s turn might not be too far around the corner. 8-1
  
MIKE DOUSHGOUNIAN
Pro Cal Truck Repair Chevy
”Mike D.” hasn't lost a round yet. The former Pro Mod racer dropped a Miner Bros. engine in the car he bought from Frank Manzo at the end of last season and won in his class debut at the West Region event at Woodburn Dragstrip. 9-1
  
SEAN BELLEMEUR
MasterCAM/Lucas Oil/NGK Chevy
This event has been kind to first-time winners in this category, though Bellemeur might not agree after a narrow defeat in last year’s final. His day will come. 10-1