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Tricky Tipster picks Pritchett, Hagan, Line, Krawiec as Gainesville favorites

Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are atop the orders in Tricky Tipster's Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals rankings.
16 Mar 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
News
Tricky Tipster Gainesville

For more than five decades, NHRA National Dragster's famed Tricky Tipster has tested his prognosticating skills prior to each national event, putting odds on the top eight racers he thinks have the best shot at victory in Tricky Tipster. This week, Tricky Tipster handicaps the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

TOP FUEL
Funny Car | Pro Stock | Pro Stock Motorcycle | Pro Mod
Leah Pritchett
Leah Pritchett • Papa John’s Pizza
Winning three straight races is incredibly difficult in any class, but it’s hard to go against the Papa John’s team after their dominant start to the season.
ODDS: 2-1
Doug Kalitta
Doug Kalitta • Mac Tools
Could easily have won either of the first two races, and he’s had a nice run at Gainesville with three wins since 2000. Basically, this is a 3.6-second bracket car.
ODDS: 7-2
Antron Brown
Antron Brown • Matco Tools
Today’s Top Fuel fields are so competitive that having a driver who is strong on the starting line is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. That’s a big part of why this team has won back-to-back titles.
ODDS: 4-1
Tony Schumacher
Tony Schumacher • U.S. Army
After eight championships and more than 80 national event wins, he is as competitive as ever. In fact, it’s hard to believe that his last win came at Indy last September.
ODDS: 5-1
Brittany Force
Brittany Force • Monster Energy
Returning to Gainesville as the defending event champion and her Monster Energy dragster is arguably a better car than it was in 2016.
ODDS: 6-1
Steve Torrence
Steve Torrence • Capco Contractors/Rio Ammo
A pair of quarterfinal finishes to open the season isn’t necessarily a reason to hit the panic button, but a semifinal or better finish this week would be a welcome sight.
ODDS: 8-1
Troy Coughlin Jr.
Troy Coughlin Jr. • SealMaster/JEGS Mail Order
Rookie of the year contender is progressing at a rapid pace. Question is, if he makes it to the final round can he ditch the Team Kalitta mandated pink backpack?
ODDS: 10-1
Terry McMillen
Terry McMillen • Amalie Oil
The 2016 runner-up returns to Gainesville with a car that is now capable of low 3.7-second performances. If he makes the final this time, folks won’t be nearly as surprised as last season.
ODDS: 13-1

FUNNY CAR
Matt Hagan
Matt Hagan • Mopar Express Lane Dodge
Admittedly, the odds of a three-peat are long, but when seven of your first eight elimination runs are 3.88 or quicker, you’re going to win a lot of rounds.
ODDS: 5-2
Ron Capps
Ron Capps • NAPA Dodge
Another car that could bracket race with a 3.8-second dial-in, the reigning champ could have won either of the first two events. He’ll run quicker than 3.88 here and is one of the favorites to win the whole thing.
ODDS: 4-1
Robert Hight
Robert Hight • Auto Club Chevy
After a rough start to the season, call this a hunch if you like, but he’s won Gainesville in three of the past five years. If there is a perfect place for the Auto Club team to right the ship, this is it.
ODDS: 5-1
Courtney Force
Courtney Force • Advance Auto Parts Chevy
OK, so she smoked the tires in Phoenix. That doesn’t change the fact that this could easily be the first Funny Car to run in the 3.7s. A race win here is even more likely.
ODDS: 6-1
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Tommy Johnson Jr. • Make-A-Wish Dodge
So far this season he’s won three rounds, lost two close races, and set low e.t. (and a career-best) with a 3.833 in Phoenix. That makes him a contender.
ODDS: 7-1
John Force
John Force • Peak Chevy
How do you even handicap today’s Funny Car field when a 16-time world champ with a strong mid 3.8-second car is sixth? Truth is he yields very little to the leaders.
ODDS: 9-1
Tim Wilkerson
Tim Wilkerson • Levi, Ray, & Shoup Ford
With a career-best 3.844 run in Phoenix he’s got something to build on. Safe bet he’s also stewing over the slight holeshot loss that cost him at least a semifinal finish. Reasonable to expect more this time around.
ODDS: 11-1
J. R. Todd
J.R. Todd • DHL Toyota
To be quite honest, he looks more at home in a Funny Car than he did in a dragster. It will be shocking if he doesn’t win at least one event this season.
ODDS: 14-1

PRO STOCK
Jason Line
Jason Line • Summit Chevy
Not an exaggeration to suggest that his 6.50 in Phoenix was an early candidate for run of the year in Pro Stock. Got to think we’ll see a 6.4-second run very soon, and he’s the odds-on favorite to do it.
ODDS: 5-2
Greg Anderson
Greg Anderson • Summit Chevy
He got the trophy in Phoenix, but his car is still a tick behind teammate Line in terms of performance. Regardless, this is a great car with a capable driver, and anything less than a final would be a disappointment.
ODDS: 3-1
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
Jeg Coughlin Jr. • JEGS.com Chevy
Beyond the first two cars, it’s really hard to separate the rest of the field. Coughlin gets the nod this week largely because he’s a five-time class champion and currently ranked third in the Mello Yello standings.
ODDS: 5-1
Erica Enders
Erica Enders • Elite Performance Chevy
The Elite cars are still a tick behind the leaders in performance, but they have a trio of jackrabbits for drivers. That will make for some interesting starting-line battles.
ODDS: 6-1
Tanner Gray
Tanner Gray • Gray Manufacturing Technologies Chevy
Caught on quickly didn’t he? In five elimination rounds, his worst light is a .026, and he nearly took out Anderson in the Phoenix semifinal.
ODDS: 8-1
Vincent Nobile
Vincent Nobile • Mountain View Chevy
Qualified third and fourth at the first two races, so the Mountain View team clearly has the tools to get the job done. Honestly, they just need a little race-day luck.
ODDS: 8-1
Shane Gray
Shane Gray • Gray Manufacturing Technologies Chevy
For a guy who is supposed to be “semi-retired,” he sure looks like he’s having fun. If he makes the final here, one has to wonder if he’ll make a run at the top 10.
ODDS: 9-1
Bo Butner
Bo Butner • Butner Auto Chevy
Anyone else notice that four of his five race-day lights were in the .02 range? That is a big improvement over last season, and it should be enough to help secure a long-overdue first Professional victory.
ODDS: 12-1

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Eddie Krawiec
Eddie Krawiec • Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
He’s been to the final of the Gainesville opener in five of the last seven years and banked four wins. That alone makes him the favorite in a big and talented field.
ODDS: 5-2
Jerry Savoie
Jerry Savoie • White Alligator Suzuki
As calm and collected as he is, one wouldn’t expect the reigning champ to be affected by the big No. 1 on the sides of his Suzuki. Instead, last year’s championship run figures to make him better than ever.
ODDS: 3-1
Andrew Hines
Andrew Hines • Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
For all of his incredible success, he’s only won this race once. That being said, he has to be listed among the favorites. Oh, and then there is that whole 200-mph thing. Maybe this will finally be the year.
ODDS: 4-1
LE Tonglet
LE Tonglet • Nitro Fish Suzuki
He was a contender when he was racing out of a tiny trailer with just his dad and brother. Now that he’s a member of Savoie’s White Alligator team, the sky is the limit.
ODDS: 5-1
Hector Arana Jr.
Hector Arana Jr. • Lucas Oil Buell
The 2013 Gainesville champ is looking for redemption after a winless 2016 season. A strong showing here could set the stage for a big comeback.
ODDS: 7-1
Matt Smith
Matt Smith • Polaris Magnum
Lots of turmoil and changes in the Smith camp this winter, but the one constant is Matt. He is not only one of the class’ best riders but also one of its most savvy tuners.
ODDS: 9-1
Chip Ellis
Chip Ellis • Pippin Trucking Buell
More often than not, he’s a top half qualifier who can also turn on some win lights on race day. He was solid last season and should be even better this year.
ODDS: 11-1
Hector Arana Sr.
Hector Arana Sr. • Lucas Oil Buell
When he stages for Q1, it will be his 290th Pro Stock Motorcycle race. Only Steve Johnson has more events under his belt.
ODDS: 15-1

PRO MOD
Rickie Smith
Rickie Smith • IDG Camaro
Pro Mods are supposed to be unpredictable, but one thing in the class has been a constant since day one: “Tricky Rickie” knows how to get the job done.
ODDS: 3-1
Troy Coughlin
Troy Coughlin • JEGS.com Corvette
While it’s true the Steve Petty-tuned turbo combination makes big horsepower, Coughlin wins his fair share of rounds with his driving. It’s a formidable combination.
ODDS: 4-1
Bob Rahaim
Bob Rahaim • TLC Waste Disposal Corvette
Won this race two years ago, and his program is arguably much more competitive now. He’s likely to threaten Smith and Coughlin for the top spot.
ODDS: 6-1
Mike Janis
Mike Janis • Janis Superchargers Camaro
Was the star of preseason testing with a big win at the Orlando warm-up event. Also qualified No. 1 and ran a 5.81 in the final.
ODDS: 7-1
Danny Rowe
Danny Rowe • Agave Underground Corvette
Another driver who has reason to be optimistic after a successful test session. He’s on track for a big season after a tough 2016 campaign.
ODDS: 8-1
Michael Biehle
Michael Biehle II • Biehle Motorsports Mustang
He was rock-solid consistent last season, which makes it hard to believe that he has yet to win an NHRA Pro Mod event. Look for that to change sooner rather than later.
ODDS: 10-1
Steve Matusek
Steve Matusek • Aeromotive Camaro
Carded a strong 5.83 at the Orlando test and reached the semifinals. Not unreasonable to expect similar results here in spite of the huge 28-car field.
ODDS: 12-1
Stevie Jackson
Stevie Jackson • Bahrain1 Camaro
Wait till NHRA fans get an unfiltered dose of “Stevie Fast.” He talks a big game, and more often than not, he’s got the goods to back it up. Pro Mod racers: You’ve been warned.
ODDS: 14-1