Tricky Tipster, NHRA National Dragster's resident odds-maker, nailed Clay Millican’s back-to-back Top Fuel wins in Chicago. Now, the tour heads back to Richmond, Va. for the first time in a decade with Millican, Robert Hight, Greg Anderson, Eddie Krawiec, and Rickie Smith as the chalk.
Parts Plus/Great Clips
Floodgates are officially open. It’s still a bit too early to call this the best team in Top Fuel but their performance over the last month has been nothing short of spectacular. Three in a row is mighty tough, Stringer gang might just pull it off.
Losing in the first round in Chicago as akin to dunking a tee shot into the lake; sometimes it happens even to the best teams. Helps to remember that before that, he was the low qualifier with a stout 3.677 run.
One of a handful of NHRA pros who has actually raced in Richmond before, he was also the winner of this event in 2007 for what that’s worth. All in all, he’s not having a bad year with a win, a runner-up and a pair of semifinals in the first nine races.
Papa John’s Pizza/Dodge
The Papa John’s team did a nice job of managing track conditions in Chicago, which bodes well for the rest of the upcoming four-in-a-row “Eastern Swing”. There’s a lot of points to be gained and they figure to get their share.
He’s won just seven rounds since going to the final in Pomona and for a car that qualifies in the top five more often than not, that’s a low number. Like Kalitta, he’s also a former winner in Richmond.
Monster Energy/Advance Auto Parts
New look for the champ lately with the red colors of Advance Auto Parts. Here’s another team that is happy to quickly put a first round loss in Chicago squarely in its rear-view mirror.
Amalie Motor Oil
Took one on the chin in Chicago by smoking the tires in the first round but he had lots of company on the sidelines with four of the top five qualifiers going out. No one has any real data on the Richmond track surface which might be beneficial to the single car teams like this one.
For the first time in forever, Antron Brown did not make the Tipster top eight but five races without a win will do that to anyone. In the meantime, Palmer’s fortunes appear to be looking up after the recent addition of crew chief Jason McCulloch.
Auto Club Camaro
It took nine races for the reigning champ to get his first win of 2018 but who wants to bet he doesn’t have to wait nine more to get his second. He might not even have to wait nine days based on the way the Auto Club Camaro performed in the Windy City.
Advance Auto Parts Chevy
No one enjoys losing on a holeshot, even against a teammate so it’s a big plus that the next race starts less than a week after the last one in Chicago. The loss to Hight notwithstanding, her driving has been exemplary this season.
Now that it takes 4.0s to win on race day instead of 3.8s, crew chiefs have had to make major adjustments and there is no one better at doing that than NAPA boss Rahn Tobler. No matter what the challenge; he’s been there and done that. Exhibit A was the team’s strong runner-up showing last week.
Mopar Express Lane Dodge
This is his home event and who doesn’t want to show off for the hometown crowd? Here’s a good bet to qualify No. 1 and set low E.T. or win the race and it’s not out of the question that he’ll do all three.
Made the quickest pass of eliminations on Sunday in Chicago but unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough to turn on the win light. This car is just fine, and the driver doesn’t make many mistakes to one holeshot loss can easily be forgiven. Bottom line; he isn’t likely to miss the Tree again anytime soon.
Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
As expected, he delivered his best performance of the season with a semifinal finish in Chicago to got with a top-half qualifying effort. His lights have also been solid so it’s entirely likely that he’ll win one of these things this summer.
Infinite Hero Dodge
Last week, we made not of the former champ’s qualifying record and he was quick to respond with a No. 3 effort in Chicago. The numbers are definitely there, but the consistency isn’t. Everyone has a fresh sheet of paper on the new Richmond track surface which might be just what the Infinite Hero team ordered.
Lost a bit of his sizzle since the gratifying Charlotte victory with back-to-back round one losses. No cause for alarm, though, because he figures to earn a solid top-half starting spot. Also won this race in 2008, beating Jack Beckman in the final.
Okay, so he still hasn’t won a race this season, but the news isn’t all bad because he’s made it to the top rung of the Tipster ladder. Seriously, he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and the wins will come. This car and team is just too good to get shut out forever.
Mountain View Camaro
There was every reason to think he was going to beat Anderson in the semi’s in Chicago before the Mountain View car decided to basketball the tires. Not only has this car dramatically improved this season, but so has Nobile’s driving. Funny how those things seem to go hand-in-hand.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
Hey, we’ve turned back the clock a decade in our return to Virginia Motorsports Park so why not go all the way back to 2000, the year that Jeggie beat Jim Yates in the final on his way to a ten-win season and a world championship. After his performance in Chicago, would either one of those be surprising?
As former NHRA announcer Bob Frey would say, “One stinkin’ thousandth.” That was the margin of victory in her second-round battle against Tanner Gray in Chicago. If the arithmetic falls the other way, there’s a decent shot that she’s going to another final.
Gray Manufacturing Technologies Camaro
Had the car to win at Route 66 Raceway. Just ran into the wrong guy (Coughlin) at the wrong time. This week, he might just be that same guy that no one wants to face on race day.
Summit Racing Camaro
The 2006 Virginia Nationals champ appears to have awoken from his early-season slumber. The first nine events of the season were not kind to the three-time champ, but we’re betting the next nine will be much more productive.
Skillman Auto Camaro
Cut a respectable .020 light and made a respectable 6.60 run in the first round in Chicago and the arrow on the time slip still pointed in the wrong direction. Once again, it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. There’s nothing really wrong with this team.
Gray Motorsports Camaro
Whoa, who saw this coming? One of the sport’s premiere crew chiefs is returning to the driver’s seat. Remember when he was almost untouchable as a driver? We’re betting he hasn’t lost much in the last few years.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Red-lighted in Chicago and gave up the points lead; two things that don’t happen often. Regardless, he’s got a strong 9-2 record this season in elimination runs and that number figures to swell after this weekend’s Richmond race.
Matt Smith Racing Victory
After his extremely impressive Chicago victory, he described his Victory Gunner as “hateful”. That’s fair enough and if he continues to spit out 6.7s at the same rate, it’s going to be a long summer in Pro Stock Motorcycle land.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Hines holds the track record at Virginia Motorsports Park with a 7.28. Wait, that’s Matt Hines, his older brother. Needless to say, that record won’t last through Q1 and Andrew, who was just 15 when big brother won back-to-back Richmond titles, is a good bet to steal it.
Nitro Fish Suzuki
As impressive as Matt Smith was in Chicago, it was this guy who was probably going to win the final round if not for the wind gust that forced an early shut off. He had .02-second in the bank and was ahead at half-track. That’s an encouraging sign.
White Alligator Suzuki
When you red-light by a thousandth of a second, as he did in Joliet, only the next win light will ease the pain and he figures to turn on a few of those this weekend. The White Alligator bike is every bit as dangerous as teammate Tonglet’s Suzuki.
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
It’s going to be fun to see how many 200-mph time slips he collects before the next guy in the class gets their first. Of course at this point, he’d probably trade a 200-mph run for four win lights on race day. Then again, there is no reason to think he can’t do both.
Denso Spark Plugs Buell
Although it wasn’t a win, or even a final round, her performance in Chicago was one of the best of her career. Numerous competitive runs including a jaw-dropping 6.821 in the first round. Whatever has gotten into hubby Matt’s bike appears to be contagious.
Suzuki Extended Protection Suzuki
The entire Underdahl/Stoffer team had a weekend to forget in Chicago so it’s probably best to just move on to the next one and forget about it. There is still a ton of potential here.
It’s way to early in the season to start talking about championships. Or is it? If he wins here, its going to be a long tough road for anyone else to overtake him for the points lead and the way he’s been running, a win would not be unexpected.
Won the Memorial Day Night of Thunder event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis which probably did as much for his confidence as anything else. Tuner Frank Manzo was money when he raced his TAFC in Richmond. That should also provide a morale boost.
From the “Who didn’t see this coming?” file. If you missed it, one of the sport’s shortest retirements is over and the three-time champ is back with another Steve Petty-tuned turbocharged monster. Probably too late to contend for the title, but he can sure make life miserable for those who are.
Q80 Racing Corvette
The Charlotte winner has what is easily one of the best cars in the field and he’s also a heck of a driver. Nothing is a given in the world of Pro Mod, but this seems like a safe bet to make more final rounds.
Bond-Coat, Inc. Corvette
How about this guy? Crashes in the semi’s in Gainesville. Gets a new car and makes it to the final round in Topeka to keep his championship hopes alive. That’s a Pro Mod racer for you.
Jan-Cen Racing Camaro
More than holding his own against a stacked field of the sport’s best doorslammer racers. He’s second in the points standings and has enough moxy to keep Tricky Rickie honest.
Easy to forget but it was this guy, not Rickie Smith, who set the unofficial nitrous Pro Mod record in Topeka with a stunning 5.728 pass. If he can come anywhere close to duplicating those numbers here, he’s going to be in contention.
For the foreseeable future, he’ll be wheeling The Shadow, his “Outlaw” car that has done amazing things in the world of small tire racing. If he makes it to a final, we’d love to see him challenge his opponent to slap on a set of drag radials.