Behind the Numbers: Trying to pin down the very tight Funny Car race

It’s officially not too early to talk about the Funny Car points race. With just 26 points separating Cruz Pedregon in 10th from Alexis DeJoria in 14th, let's take a look at the battle for the Countdown.
12 Jul 2017
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Behind the Numbers
Funny Car

It’s officially not too early to talk about the Funny Car points race. I know, I’ve been talking about it ever since Alexis DeJoria rejoined the fray in Epping (and truthfully, before that), but I’m a degenerate. Now I’m granting you permission to do so without consequence. With the Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by K&N Filters out of the way, there are only five races left before the points reset and the playoffs begin, and things are tighter than a blower belt. 

Alexis DeJoria and Jim Campbell both helped their causes in the Windy City this past weekend by picking up round-wins, and DeJoria looks ferocious right now. Tommy DeLago and Nicky Boninfante have that Tequila Patron car tuned up nicely. It got down the track three out of four times with 3.9-second runs in qualifying and purred like a kitten in DeJoria’s first-round matchup with Cruz Pedregon.

2017CI1_JF_03170.jpg

Yeah, that was a big win for DeJoria, who still trails Cruzer, Campbell, Del Worsham, and Jonnie Lindberg. She doesn’t trail them by very much anymore. Pedregon is clinging to 10th place with 463 points. Campbell is in 11th with 460 thanks to a massive upset of No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight, which also served as Campbell’s first victory since Gainesville (race No. 3), while Lindberg is in 12th with 458, Worsham sits in 13th with 457, and DeJoria brings up the rear with 437.

So, only 26 points separate 10th place from 14th place with five races to go. That’s about a round-win (20) with a fair amount of racing to go: things are going to get very, very interesting before we arrive in Indianapolis. 

J.R. Todd and Tim Wilkerson are tied for eighth with 599 points. They’re not safe by any means, but Wilkerson reaching the semifinals and Todd earning a round-win certainly helps. Wilkerson pulled out a new chassis in Chicago, while Todd might be getting the hang of his new ride in his first year as a Funny Car driver. Given his success in Top Fuel, it’s only a matter of time. 

Let’s go driver by driver from 10th to 14th to see what they’ve done over the past five races to try to get a handle on what they might do over the next five. My gut says they’re fighting for one spot unless something goes terribly wrong with Todd or Wilkerson, and John Force is very likely safe with 718 points way up in seventh place. Your mileage may vary. 

Cruz Pedregon

_NDB3517.JPGSeason round win-loss record: 2-12

Last five races round win-loss: 2-5

Points behind 10th: 0

Average e.t. last five races (only including runs under 5 seconds): 4.076

Why he’ll make it: It’s a tenuous lead, but it’s a lead. He might only have two round-wins this season, but they’ve come recently, and it seems like Pedregon has finally worked out the kinks in his program: just like he said he would.

Why he won’t: It took a while for the Funny Car veteran to get everything worked out this season. If he has it figured out, he might be fine; if he doesn’t? That Patron car might be too much for Cruzer to hold off. 

Jim Campbell

_NDB3504.JPGSeason round win-loss record: 4-12

Last five races round win-loss: 1-5

Points behind 10th: 3

Average e.t. last five races (only including runs under 5 seconds): 4.345

Why he’ll make it: This car showed so much potential early in the season, has good parts, and has looked to be on the edge of turning the corner for weeks now. It just needs to put it all together, and quickly. 

Why he won’t: Funny Cars are volatile by nature, but the Jim Dunn flopper has been an otherworldly headache this season. If it continues to behave so unpredictably, there’s not much hope of getting into a crowded Countdown field.

Jonnie Lindberg

_NDA3758.JPGSeason round win-loss record: 8-9

Last five races round win-loss: 0-5

Points behind 10th: 5

Average e.t. last five races (only including runs under 5 seconds): 4.113

Why he’ll make it: Lindberg has shown he’s got the driving chops to pedal the car when he needs to, and the car has performed quite well through this winless stretch. So, now they just need some good luck. 

Why he won’t: His luck doesn’t turn around and a car that made it to a pair of final rounds early in the season is punished for skipping too many races during the middle of the season. 

Del Worsham

_NDB3499.JPGSeason round win-loss record: 3-13

Last five races round win-loss: 1-5

Points behind 10th: 6

Average e.t. last five races (only including runs under 5 seconds): 4.083

Why he’ll make it: The performance is starting to come around for Worsham, and it couldn’t come at a more critical time. Since pulling out a spare car in Topeka, he’s getting down the track more consistently. That should turn into more frequent win lights. 

Why he won’t: That consistency hasn’t meant great performance. Worsham has consistently run in the four-second range on Sunday, and barring a lot of luck, that’s not going to get it done against the top half of the field. 

Alexis DeJoria

_NDA3725.JPGSeason round win-loss record: 5-10

Last five races round win-loss: 2-5

Points behind 10th: 26

Average e.t. last five races (only including runs under 5 seconds): 4.147

Why she’ll make it: She’s had the most consistent car of the five hunting for the Countdown spot, plain and simple. Missing all those races in the middle of the season meant she left points on the table, but it also took some time for her to get back in the swing of things; safe to say she’s swinging again.

Why she won’t: Pedregon keeps her at arm’s length long enough to lock up the spot himself. He controls his own destiny in this race. This is one of those rare cases in drag racing where Alan Reinhart’s truism of “you can’t play defense,” doesn’t hold up.