NHRA Story
National Dragster presents Tricky Tipster's Houston picks
Friday, April 25, 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. This week, Tricky Tipster handicaps the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries. SpringNationals Logo

TOP FUEL
Funny Car I Pro Stock I Top Alcohol Dragster I Top Alcohol Funny Car I Pro Mod
Antron Brown ANTRON BROWN
Matco Tools
He always reaches the final round at Royal Purple Raceway on even years. After consulting several high-level mathematicians, Tipster has confirmed that 2014 is, indeed, an even year. 5-2
  
Doug Kalitta DOUG KALITTA
Mac Tools
He’s on top of the points for a reason. Team Kalitta would love to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of Scott Kalitta's Funny Car win here by putting one of their drivers in the winner’s circle. 3-1
  
Shawn Langdon SHAWN LANGDON
Al-Anabi
Racing
The champ looked like his old self again in Charlotte. He nearly won this event last year. 4-1
  
Tony Schumacher TONY SCHUMACHER
U.S. Army
The changes made to his car since his Chicago win last June finally seem to have the Las Vegas winner back in the mix. 5-1
  
Steve Torrence STEVE TORRENCE
Capco Contractors
The Texan driver reached the semifinals at the first four races of the season and is highly motivated to win at this track for the first time in his career. 6-1
  
J.R. Todd J.R. TODD
JJFU/Optima
Batteries
Connie Kalitta’s new driver has done well enough in limited appearances this year to be in the top 10 despite being on the sidelines during two of the five races. 8-1
  
Khalid alBalooshi KHALID ALBALOOSHI
Al-Anabi
Racing
The wealth has historically been spread at this event with 19 different Top Fuel winners in 26 years. The Pomona victor has a strong enough car to make it an even 20. 9-1
  
Bob Vandergriff Jr. BOB VANDERGRIFF JR.
C&J Energy
Services
The reigning event champion has had a much better car this season than his round-win tally indicates. He's doubling his chances with a Larry Dixon-driven dragster. 11-1
 

FUNNY CAR
Robert Hight

ROBERT HIGHT
Auto Club
Ford

It really is a coin toss right now between Hight and Alexis DeJoria, but the 2009 world champ has four straight finals to his credit and is coming off a win, so he gets the nod this time. 5-2
  
Alexis DeJoria ALEXIS DEJORIA
Patron XO Café
Toyota
With an up-and-down record entering Charlotte, we were still a little cautious about this team before the Four-Wides, but Tommy DeLago and crew made us firm believers in them with steady 4.0s in eliminations at zMAX Dragway. 3-1
  
John Force JOHN FORCE
Castrol GTX
Ford
It doesn’t seem to matter where he qualifies, the 16-time world champ is going to be a factor on race day. Despite his bottom-half start, Force ran low e.t. of eliminations and was runner-up in Charlotte. 4-1
  
Tommy Johnson Jr. TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Make-A-Wish
Dodge
Some may consider a ranking this high wishful thinking, but his car looked really strong in Charlotte, where he was the best overall flopper in qualifying and ran a couple 4.1s in eliminations. 6-1
  
Ron Capps RON CAPPS
NAPA Dodge
Was fighting a problem with the car in Charlotte, but a 3.99 in testing leads us to believe Rahn Tobler has found and corrected the issue. If they qualified No. 1 with issues, what can they do without them? 7-1
  
Del Worsham DEL WORSHAM
DHL Toyota
Was part of a strong 1-2 punch from Kalitta Motorsports at zMAX Dragway, and though he came up just short of making the final there, we believe his car is capable of getting to a title round and winning. 9-1
  
Tim Wilkerson TIM WILKERSON
Levi, Ray & Shoup
Ford
Didn’t make it to the Four-Wide final by accident. His car is showing signs of being a serious contender. The fact he was runner-up here last year certainly doesn’t hurt either. 11-1
  
Matt Hagan MATT HAGAN
Mopar/Rocky
Boots Dodge
The decision for this final spot was again a difficult one, coming down to defending event winner Cruz Pedregon and Hagan. Hagan’s Charlotte performance, which included the second-quickest run of the first round, gave him the slight edge. 12-1
 

PRO STOCK
Erica Enders-Stevens ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS
Elite Motorsports
Chevy
Unlike a year ago, where her championship hopes began a descent after this race, E.E.’s trajectory is currently pointed to the sky. Her red Camaro has been the perfect mix of power and consistency, giving her the car everybody else is chasing. 2-1
  
Jason Line JASON LINE
Summit Racing
Chevy
Both KB Racing cars now have wins in 2014, and Line would like to add to that total by defending his 2013 victory in Houston. The dividing line between the best cars and the next group in the class is drawn here at the moment. 3-1
  
Allen Johnson ALLEN JOHNSON
Team Mopar/
J&J Dodge
AJ was crushing the competition when his new Dart debuted in Florida last month. Since then, he’s come back to the pack a bit. A win in Texas is still possible, though, if either of the above pair slip just a fraction. 5-1
  
Chris McGaha CHRIS McGAHA
Harlow Sammons/
Southwest
Performance
& Machine Chevy
So close, and not so far away. He’s been low qualifier at two of the last four national events; now McG needs to string four rounds together on Sunday and get that first Wally. Doing it in Texas would make it even bigger. 6-1
  
Dave Connolly DAVE CONNOLLY
Charter Communications
Chevy
In a class where milliseconds make a difference, D.C. and teammate Shane Gray are inching closer at each event. When this car starts running as well on race day as it does during qualifying, watch out. 9-1
  
Jeg Coughlin Jr. JEG COUGHLIN JR.
JEGS.com/
Mopar Dodge
Jeg’s first win in 2013 didn’t come until Topeka — and the year turned out just fine for him. That said, we expected more out of the champ by this point. Maybe he can stir up memories of ’97, when he won his first Pro Stock race at this track. 10-1
  
V. Gaines V. GAINES
Kendall Oil
Dodge
After starting the year strong, Gaines has struggled at the last few events. Things could change this weekend with the debut of his new Dart as he looks to sink those "Mean Teeth" into the competition. 13-1
  
Greg Anderson GREG ANDERSON
Summit Racing
Chevy
There aren’t many guys who can miss the first five races of the season and step right into Tipster’s top eight, but Anderson has the heart to do it. Driving the car that won at the last event should help the four-time champ get back up to speed quickly. 16-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
DUANE SHIELDS
Peak Motor Oil
This track has been good to the Las Vegas resident with four career wins here. Another victory would give him a sweep of the national and regional events held in Houston. 3-1
  
MIKE STRASBURG
J&A Services
He's driving the car that won 11 of a possible 12 rounds at this event over the past three years. He's in the best position he's ever been in to try to win a national event. 4-1
  
MARK TALIAFERRO
Markco Machine Works
The guy who tuned the aforementioned winner of 11 of 12 possible rounds in Houston is now with Taliaferro. The West Texas native is in good position for his first win in 17 years. 5-1
  
SHAWN COWIE
Mundie's Towing
He came on strong during his storybook return last summer. The Canadian driver and new father knows how to get it done. 6-1
  
RANDY MEYER
Meyer Truck Stops
He has a 5.2-second tune-up again that gets more consistent with every pass. He's also fielding another dragster with Chase Copeland driving. 7-1
  
ALAN BRADSHAW
Doucette Racing
He made the quickest A/Fuel run of 2013. It will be interesting to see what the Doucette team does with an extra percent of nitro in their first action of 2014. 8-1
  
BRANDON PIERCE
Snowman Racing
He had barely been given the nod to drive for this team last season before advancing all the way to the semifinals at this event. 10-1
  
JAMES THOMPSON JR.
Pepper Express
The longtime part-time racer is always a threat when he pulls into the gates. 12-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
ANNIE WHITELEY
J&A Services/YNot
Racing Ford
She had the wildest ride of her racing career at the regional event here and showed great poise to hop right back in the car the next week in Gainesville. 3-1
  
JAY PAYNE
Peak Motor Oil Ford
His last win occurred at this event two years ago, and he has a stronger car now than he did then. 4-1
  
DALE BRAND
Goalsetter/Co-Line Chevy
One of the only active racers with a winning record over Frank Manzo was tough to beat when he only ran a couple times per year and is getting even better now that he's taken his show on the road. 5-1
  
NICK JANUIK
Plan B Motorsports Chevy
Following the Bob Newberry adage, "If your car's fast, travel; if it ain't running fast, stay home," the Las Vegas winner is taking his show on the road. 6-1
  
SHANE WESTERFIELD
CP-Carrillo/Fluid Sealing
Products Chevy
The Southern California native doesn't mind trading his flip-flops for cowboy boots after scoring his first national and regional event wins in Texas last year. 7-1
  
JOHN LOMBARDO JR.
NAPA/Lucas Oil Ford
He staged a great final at this race last season against Rick Jackson's team, which he is currently aligned with. 8-1
  
TODD VENEY
Permatex/Follow A
Dream Chevy
It sure looked like it was going to be shades of Steve Gasparrelli winning Dallas in 2005 when Veney was making a run at the Wally from the No. 16 spot in Charlotte. 9-1
  
MICKEY FERRO
Ryco Hydraulics/Green
Stuff Chevy
A win near his sponsor's U.S. headquarters would be the shot in the arm that the 2010 victor could use. 11-1
 

PRO MOD
RICKIE SMITH
IDG Camaro
Defending champion reportedly ran some big numbers during a recent test session. 3-1
  
MIKE CASTELLANA
Al-Anabi Camaro
Began the season with a win in Gainesville. Would love to keep that momentum going. 5-1
  
DANNY ROWE
Agave Underground Camaro
Had the best car in Gainesville but got ambushed in the semi’s. That’s not likely to happen twice. 6-1
  
MIKE JANIS
Jan-Cen Camaro
Can qualify in the top half almost anywhere, but like most Pro Mods, consistency is an issue. 7-1
  
TROY COUGHLIN
JEGS.com Corvette
When this car isn’t doing mid-track wheelstands, it is capable of going the distance. 9-1
  
DON WALSH
Precision Turbo Camaro
Even if he doesn’t win the race, this car is a good bet to claim the top spot in qualifying. 11-1
  
RAY COMMISSO
Dimmi Bar Camaro
It’s going to take some time for him to regain his form after a year off, but it will come. 13-1
  
JIM LAURITA
Switzer Dynamics Camaro
Right now the nitrous cars appear to have an edge, and this is one of the best. 15-1