18 storylines to follow in the 2018 season

The staff of NHRA National Dragster looks ahead to the 2018 NHRA Drag Racing season, and there's a lot to look forward to. With that in mind, here are 18 topics to get your mind firing on eight cylinders with the season a little more than a month away.
01 Jan 2018
NHRA National Dragster staff
Terry Clay

Your calendar should now read "2018." As we turn the page on 2017, and all the great memories it gave us, we at NHRA National Dragster start to look forward to the 2018 NHRA Drag Racing season. There's already a lot to look forward to. With that in mind, here are 18 topics to get your mind firing on eight cylinders with the season a little more than a month away (don't worry, testing in Arizona is just a little bit closer than that). Need tickets to the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals Presented by Protect the Harvest? We've got you covered.

Return of the McMillican

Yes, that spelling error is intentional (this time). Both Clay Millican and Terry McMillen earned their first victories of their respective careers during the 2017 season and are hungry for more entering the 2018 campaign. McMillen qualified for the Countdown to the Championship for the first time in his career, and both turn their focus to winning their first titles in a crowded Top Fuel field.

Palmer makes second full-time run

Scott Palmer comes back for another full season after making his first full pull in 2017. He made the Countdown to the Championship for the first time in his career, but is still chasing his first victory. Palmer will employ a six-disc clutch in 2017, making him a bigger threat to the big-budget teams in the Top Fuel field. A fan favorite, Palmer will run the Cat Spot colors thanks to Tommy Thompson again in 2018.

2017AG1_RA_4238.JPGWill there be another Top Fuel team out of John Force Racing?

If you thought Brittany Force was a fearsome competitor, wait until see her Top Fuel teammate. Wait, what? If team owner John Force is to be believed, there will be another Top Fuel Dragster racing under the Yorba Linda, Calif. team’s banner next season. That plan is currently light on details. We don’t know who will drive the car, how many races it will be at, or… well, anything else. But when we know, you’ll know.

The Four-Wide goes West

Can’t get enough of Four-Wide racing? Neither could Bruton Smith. The prolific track owner is bringing the popular style of racing to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. If you don’t have your tickets yet, now might be a good time to grab them. Something tells this writer, the inaugural Four-Wide west of the Mississippi is going to be a popular one.

2017PAT_MG_0725.JPGTesting is right around the corner

The spring training of NHRA Drag Racing kicks off in Chandler, Ariz. before the season officially gets underway in Pomona. Unofficial records were run by Leah Pritchett and Courtney Force in the desert, making this event a great preview of the performance to come during the season. Testing is set for Feb. 3 this year. To get access to this event, purchase a ticket to the NHRA Arizona Nationals.

Shawn Langdon moving to Funny Car

Shawn Langdon joined Kalitta Motorsports during the 2017 season as a Top Fuel driver, but will make the switch to Funny Car for the 2018 campaign. He’ll still driver under the Global Electronic Technology colors while making his Funny Car debut, but Langdon will do so in a very crowded field. The former Top Fuel champ made his first passes in a flopper following the Fall Las Vegas event in 2017.

2017PC2_TL_005966.jpgSteve Torrence and Ron Capps looking to make good on great 2017 seasons

Both Steve Torrence and Ron Capps came up short in their quests for titles in Top Fuel and Funny Car in 2017 despite piling up a combined 16 Wallys. Neither driver performed the way they wanted to during the Countdown to the Championship, something they’ll look to rectify in 2018. That’s something to keep an eye on as the season unfolds.

Funny Car to get more competitive in 2018

A handful of circumstances made qualification for the Countdown to the Championship in Funny Car odd to say the least. Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham, Jim Campbell and Jonnie Lindberg were all in the mix at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, with Pedregon eventually coming out on top. It looks like it will be even more competitive in 2018, as Bob Tasca III and Shawn Langdon will race full time in the flopper category, while DeJoria retired at the end of the 2017 campaign.

2017BM1_JF_02394.jpgTanner Gray eyes 2018 championship

Pro Stock rookie Tanner Gray became the youngest professional event winner in 2017. He’s got his eyes set on a bigger prize this season: his first Pro Stock title. He finished fourth in the Pro Stock standings behind the K.B. Racing contingent after entering the Countdown to the Championship in second. That drop in the standings will only serve as motivation for the talented young driver.

David Rampy chases down 100th win

One of the greatest drivers of all time enters the 2018 season with 96 career victories on the ledge. David Rampy captured the 2017 Comp world championship, and needs only four more Wallys to get to the century mark in 2018. He’ll join John Force, Frank Manzo and Dan Fletcher once he reaches the 100-win mark.

2017GF_AI_09894.JPGJohn Force seeks 150th win

John Force captured the 148th win in his career by defeating Funny Car rookie Jonnie Lindberg at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals early in the 2017 season. Can he get win No. 150 during the 2018 campaign? He only has one winless campaign (2009) since getting his first win, so the odds are on his side of getting at least one step closer to No. 150.

New faces in new places

Mike Neff to Don Schumacher Racing; Brian Corradi to John Force Racing; Eric Lane to Tasca Racing. Those are just some of the crew member movements that kicked off the NHRA Drag Racing offseason, and there are almost certainly more to come. How those moves will impact the action on the track remains to be seen (we still don’t officially know which car Corradi will tune at JFR), but the carousel is officially spinning.

2017PC2_TL_006504.jpgBo and Brittany get to defend titles for the first time

There will be No. 1s on new cars in 2018. Bo Butner and Brittany Force became first-time title winners in 2017, which means they’ll be first-time title defenders in 2018. That comes with new pressure, and new responsibilities. They can both expect to be asked the same sort of questions a whole lot more in the coming season (like that one about pressure a whole bunch). Something tells us they’ll be willing to put up with it.

Can anyone take down the Harley-Davidson boys?

Eddie Krawiec went on an absolute tear during the Countdown to the Championship, winning four times in the playoffs. One of those two losses came in the final round to his teammate, Andrew Hines. He also took home the Wally in the race immediately preceding the Countdown. So, in all, the Vance & Hines team won six of the last seven races in one of the most dominant stretches we’ve seen in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Does anyone have what it takes to knock ‘em off?

2017SW1_JF_03582.jpgMike Salinas to make full pull in 2018

When Mike Salinas showed up in Topeka, nobody knew what to expect from the Scrappers Racing team. Sure, we’d seen Salinas race before, but never like this. From his beautiful trailer, to his shiny, new racecar, this was a different operation. It showed in the results, too. Salinas set career bests just about everywhere he raced, and if that trend continues in 2018, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Bodies, engines come untethered in Pro Stock

Now that any approved engine can pair with any approved body in Pro Stock, expect to see a little more variety in the class. The field was dominated by Camaros in 2017, and it’s unlikely those top contenders will stray away from their Chevys in 2018. But don’t be too surprised if you see some Mustangs enter the fray when we show up in Pomona for the Winternationals.

2017BT1_MG_1607.jpgJason Line hunting 50th win

A pair of wins wasn’t what Jason Line hoped for entering his title-defense season, but it did put him on the cusp of a milestone. Line now has 49 career victories, meaning he’s one away from hitting 50. The racer has 47 Pro Stock wins and another pair of Stock victories. While it’s most likely he’ll be chasing down 50 in his blue Chevy Camaro, don’t rule out the possibility of Line grabbing a Wally or two in the Sportsman ranks.

Bob Tasca III makes his full-time return

Funny Car figures to be one of the toughest classes in NHRA Drag Racing in 2018, and the return of Bob Tasca III to a full-time schedule is a big part of that. Tasca last raced a full season in 2011 and qualified for the Countdown to the Championship. Make no mistake, he’s gunning for a title while racing with Ford Performance on the hood.