NHRA Story
National Dragster presents Tricky Tipster's Gainesville picks
Thursday, March 13, 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 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Gainesville Logo

TOP FUEL
Funny Car I Pro Stock I Pro Stock Motorcycle I Top Alcohol Dragster I Top Alcohol Funny Car I Pro Mod
Doug Kalitta DOUG KALITTA
Mac Tools
The points leader and two-time Gators winner is on top of his game. 3-1
  
Antron Brown ANTRON BROWN
Matco Tools
He finally won this landmark event last season. He showed in Phoenix how this team gets stronger in the late rounds. 7-2
  
Shawn Langdon SHAWN LANGDON
Al-Anabi Racing
He has that No. 1 on his wing for a reason. He's never failed to qualify in the top half or go rounds at this event. 4-1
  
K alBalooshi KHALID ALBALOOSHI
Al-Anabi Racing
He's still carrying momentum from his big win to open the season. He's tasted success here before in Pro Mod. 5-1
  
Steve Torrence STEVE TORRENCE
Capco Contractors
Two semifinal finishes in two starts isn't a bad way to start the season. No reason he won't be a factor here. 7-1
  
Tony Schumacher TONY SCHUMACHER
U.S. Army
The four-time Gators winner will quadruple his round-win output if he makes it five. He seemed to turn the corner in Phoenix. 8-1
  
Brittany Force BRITTANY FORCE
Castrol Edge
She reached the final round for the first time in Phoenix and delivered her best run of the event to fall just shy. We think she'll have more opportunities. 9-1
  
Leah Pritchett LEAH PRITCHETT
Gumout
Recording a career-best pass on three consecutive runs is the definition of a team on the rise. 10-1
 

FUNNY CAR
John Force JOHN FORCE
Castrol GTX
Ford
Would you bet against the 16-time champ? Yeah, neither would we. He may have stumbled a little on Sunday in Phoenix, but the seven-time Gatornationals winner still has the car to beat. 2-1
  
Robert Hight ROBERT HIGHT
Auto Club
Ford
Being overshadowed by his boss right now, but the 2009 world champ has had a very good car so far, evidenced by his two three-second runs in Pomona and runner-up finish in Phoenix. 3-1
  
Tommy Johnson Jr. TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Make-A-Wish
Dodge
Has had one of the steadiest, most consistent entries in the entire class so far this year. Plus, this is the car and team that won this race last year, so that has to count for something. 5-1
  
Alexis DeJoria ALEXIS DEJORIA
Patron XO Cafe
Toyota
Made the Tipster look like a fool for not including her in our Phoenix rankings. We won't make that mistake again, especially with how good the car ran en route to the Wally in Arizona. 6-1
  
Jack Beckman JACK BECKMAN
Sandvik Coromant
Dodge
After a very rough start to the season, this team made huge strides in Phoenix, where he clocked three 4.05s and a couple of 4.1s, showing real potential moving forward. 8-1
  
Matt Hagan MATT HAGAN
Mopar/Rocky
Boots Dodge
Went to the final in Pomona, but we can't shake the feeling that something may be going on with his car after bottom-half qualifying efforts at the first two events. 9-1
  
Del Worsham DEL WORSHAM
DHL Toyota
Had a little bit of an up-and-down weekend in Phoenix following his Pomona semi, but we still believe his team is a win just waiting to happen. 11-1
  
Ron Capps RON CAPPS
NAPA Dodge
Very sporadic so far, but he's also shown incredible potential (4.01 on that engine boomer in Pomona), getting him the nod for our final slot over Courtney Force and Cruz Pedregon. 12-1
 

PRO STOCK
Allen Johnson ALLEN JOHNSON
Team Mopar/
J&J Dodge
AJ made Tipster look good in Phoenix when we all but guaranteed he'd make a run to the final. Just as impressive as the win, though, was how quick the car was all weekend. Now comes the real test, when the J&J team will be rolling out one of the new Dodge-bodied Pro Stockers. Even though the aerodynamics are supposed to be better, will the new car be completely race ready? Until he falters, Johnson remains the man to beat. Did we mention he's also the defending event champ? 3-1
  
Jason Line JASON LINE
Summit Racing
Chevy
Will the return of Greg Anderson to the Summit pits be a distraction of any sorts? Of course not! Besides, Line's car has been extremely consistent this year, and if not for running into AJ in the second round last time out, he may have claimed his second straight Wally. A win in Gainesville wouldn’t be surprising either; this driver visited the Gators winner's circle in 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011. 7-2
  
Erica Enders-Stevens ERICA
ENDERS-STEVENS
Elite Motorsports
Chevy
Through three rounds of qualifying in Phoenix, EE looked like she had one of the elite cars in the desert (pun alert!). Then, low e.t. of round one made her look even stronger. Even after old nemesis Dave Connolly took her out in round two, it didn't fully stop the momentum of this group. If either of the above two cars falter in eliminations, Enders-Stevens could return to a Gainesville final for the first time since 2006. 5-1
  
V. Gaines V. GAINES
Kendall Oil
Dodge
Leading the points for the first time in his career, Gaines seems to have the magic touch right now. Back-to-back final rounds to open the 2014 campaign have certainly given him a boost of confidence, yet the Yabba Dabba Doo man will likely need more than luck to complete the hat trick in Florida. His car hasn't been consistently quick, so he'll need to find a little more power at a track known for being kind to the top Pro Stock teams. 6-1
  
Vincent Nobile VINCENT NOBILE
Mountain View
Tire Chevy
These guys are close. Although they weren't running with the lead pack in Phoenix like they did in Pomona, Nobile still managed to post his second consecutive semifinal finish. As noted above, teammate Jason Line has had incredible success at this track over the last 10 years. Now under the KB banner, perhaps Nobile's crew can glean just enough insight to help squeeze a little more e.t. and mph out of his purple Camaro. 13-2
  
Dave Connolly DAVE CONNOLLY
Charter
Communications
Chevy
This team has been itching to have a true breakout performance in 2014, and the Gatornationals could fit the bill perfectly. Following a bit of musical chairs, Connolly will now be in the Charter Camaro previously driven by Shane Gray (who received a new Jerry Haas-built ride). DC's car was just a step behind the lead pack in Phoenix but was flying during testing heading into the Gators. Bring that combo on race day, and this could be where Connolly lands in the money round for the first time since late 2012. 7-1
  
Jeg Coughlin Jr. JEG COUGHLIN JR.
JEGS.com/Mopar
Dodge
There's no dodging the fact; the champ is struggling. After charging to the title in 2013, Coughlin has qualified poorly (8th and 10th) and notched only one round-win in the new year. While debuting a new car might be a tough task for a driver looking to once again be a challenger, this team is battle tested. Overall, we're predicting a feast-or-famine weekend, as Coughlin looks to avenge the disappointment of his Mopar fans. He’s either going to be bounced in the first round again or go darting into the final. 13-1
  
Chris McGaha CHRIS MCGAHA
Harlow Sammons/
Southwest Performance &
Machine Chevy
With Little Jim in tow, McGaha and team silenced a few critics by claiming the top qualifying spot in Phoenix. The car was also among the three best on Saturday, before daydreaming at the starting line on Sunday sent them home early. When they can put it all together, look for the results McGaha was hoping for when he laid out all that cash in that off-season. 14-1
 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Matt Smith MATT SMITH
Nitro Fish/
Stockseth Buell
He's the reigning champion, so he deserves the top billing until someone proves otherwise. 3-1
  
Eddie Krawiec EDDIE KRAWIEC
Screamin' Eagle
Harley-Davidson
The Vance & Hines team has reportedly made big gains with their two-valve engines. Time to see how much. 4-1
  
Michael Ray MICHAEL RAY
Star Racing Buell
A few lingering questions regarding finances, but this is a combination that should contend. 5-1
  
Hector Arana Jr. HECTOR ARANA JR.
Lucas Oil Buell
Won this race last year, and there's no reason to think he won't challenge again. 7-1
  
Andrew Hines ANDREW HINES
Screamin' Eagle
Harley-Davidson
Probably should be a touch higher, but we're going to wait and see how good the V-Rods are. 9-1
  
Steve Johnson STEVE JOHNSON
Johnson Racing
Suzuki
New rules are expected to favor the Suzuki engines, and this is one team that should benefit the most. 10-1
  
Jerry Savoie JERRY SAVOIE
White Alligator
Suzuki
Another Suzuki team that is set to contend following an aggressive off-season R&D program. 12-1
  
John Hall JOHN HALL
Smith Racing Buell
Proved last season that he can win big races, and there are few bigger than the Gainesville opener. 14-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
CHRIS DEMKE
Peen Rite/OSI/
Boost Performance
Between dominating Pomona and having never lost a round in two career starts here, the self-proclaimed "trained monkey" is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla. 2-1
  
BILL REICHERT
Rislone
It's hard to believe that the five-time champ has never won this race in 11 starts. New rules for A/Fuelers should tilt the odds in his favor. 3-1
  
DUANE SHIELDS
Peak Motor Oil
The 2011 world champ is erasing memories of 2013 with strong performances. He won here back to back in 2009 and 2010. 5-1
  
MIKE STRASBURG
J&A Services/
YNot Racing
Tipster special. The Top Fuel driver will be behind the wheel of the dragster Jim Whiteley drove to the 2012 and 2013 championships. 6-1
  
RANDY MEYER
Meyer Truck Stops
He's scored one win here in three final rounds. The A/Fuel veteran will have twice the odds of winning with a second dragster driven by Chase Copeland. 7-1
  
RICH MCPHILLIPS
Audubon Service
The defending event champ has a consistent car and a veteran driver who is good on the Tree. 8-1
  
JEFF VEALE
Caledonia Tire
The Canadian driver found something in his combination last year and ran big speeds on injected nitro. 9-1
  
ROBIN SAMSEL
NGK/Goodson
The father-son team broke through for their first win in Reading last fall and should be in the mix here. 10-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
JAY PAYNE
Peak Motor Oil/
FireIce Ford
The perennial contender has the power and consistency to break his national event drought of nearly two years. 3-1
  
DAN POMPONIO JR.
Boninfante Friction
Chevy
The quick-leaving driver/owner might have some magic left at Florida dragstrips following his breakthrough 2013 season. 4-1
  
DALE BRAND
Goalsetter/Co-Line
Chevy
The reigning JEGS Allstars champion is tough to reckon with whenever he pulls through the gate. 5-1
  
MICKEY FERRO
Ryco Hydraulics/
Green Stuff Chevy
He's a three-time winner here, and his car was exorcised by a legendary tuner in Steve Boggs last fall. 6-1
  
ANDY BOHL
Hedman Hedders/
Competition Products Ford
The North Central Region champion seems to find a way to make his car faster every season. 7-1
  
KRIS HOOL
CWYO.net Chevy
The Brothers Hool have enough Wyoming power to be a factor in the Sunshine State. 8-1
  
TODD VENEY
Permatex/Follow
A Dream Chevy
He and Pomona runner-up Sean Bellemeur each have five career finals and are looking for their first win. As much as he appreciates Alcohol Funny Car stats, the only one he wants to be is the class' 97th winner. 9-1
  
ULF LEANDERS
Leanders Bros.
Racing Chevy
He and fellow Swede Jonnie Lindberg lack data on American tracks but have great cars to compete with when they get it dialed-in. 10-1
 

PRO MOD
RICKIE SMITH
IDG Camaro
Not often the quickest car in the field but almost always finds a way to win rounds. 3-1
  
JIM LAURITA
Switzer Dynamics
Camaro
Made the quickest NHRA Pro Mod run of the 2013 season and is now planning for a championship run. 4-1
  
VON SMITH
Al-Anabi Camaro
Should be in midseason form after another winter of racing in Qatar. 5-1
  
TROY COUGHLIN
JEGS.com Corvette
Is this the year the turbo cars regain the upper hand? If so, this guy should be one of the leaders. 6-1
  
MIKE JANIS
Jan-Cen Engines
Camaro
Few Pro Mod teams work harder on their combination than these guys, and it shows. 8-1
  
MIKE CASTELLANA
Al-Anabi Camaro
Another nitrous car that is not only quick but also very consistent. That's a tough combination. 10-1
  
DON WALSH
Precision Turbo
Firebird
Sat out last season after a great 2012 campaign. No reason to think he won't pick up where he left off. 12-1
  
KEVIN FISCUS
Fiscus & Klugger
Mustang
If you’re looking for NHRA Pro Mod's next first-time winner, this could be your guy. 14-1