Brian Lohnes stepped into the NHRA on FOX broadcast booth for the first time this season after years on the mic as a trackside announcer. We caught up with Lohnes as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour moves to his home track, New England Dragway, at the halfway point of the season to pick his brain on the season that’s been and the season that will be. You can catch Lohnes and his broadcasting partner Tony Pedregon all season long on FS1.
What do you see as the biggest surprise in Top Fuel so far in 2019?
Leah Pritchett’s lack of success when I’m actually looking at things has been a big standout to me.
How about in Funny Car?
I think Matt Hagan’s car has been the most perplexing to me, really other than the Arizona victory they haven’t done anything spectacular so, yeah, that team’s lack of success has been a big surprise.
We’re halfway through the season, let’s hear championship picks.
As much as it’s a lame, obvious pick… I mean man it’s tough to pick against Steve Torrence, right? I will go against the grain here, though, and I’m going to go with Antron Brown. As soon as they figure that race car out, nobody is going to beat him. He’s driving angry now and if they can just figure the car out… the last 10 rounds, he’s 10 out of 10 as far as leaving first and his best light was in the 30s, his worst light was a .064. The guy is trigger-man extreme.
How about for Funny Car?
I actually think John Force can win a championship. I feel like he’s energized at this point and if he has a strong Western Swing, and historically he’s had some success out that way… If they come into the Countdown with some wind in their sails I think they can do some damage.
Who wins first: Austin Prock or Jordan Vandergriff?
I’m gonna go with Austin Prock. I had him on the podcast this week and I think we’re going to see some really good stuff out of that car over the next few races, so I’m going with Prock.
Can anyone catch Stevie Fast Jackson for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod championship?
No chance. I think he’s going to continue to pull away over the late season races. That team is going to get better, not worse, as the season goes on.
Who misses out on the Funny Car playoffs: Tim Wilkerson, Shawn Langdon or Cruz Pedregon?
I think Cruz at this point is in a critical position. If he has a bad weekend in Epping, it’s curtains. He’s already more than 100 points back and it’s only going to get worse from here if things don’t change in a hurry.
There are five racers battling for three spots in the Top Fuel playoff hunt. Who gets in?
I think you’re going to end up with Billy Torrence, Austin Prock and Terry McMillen in the Countdown. The trend for Richie Crampton is not good. The trend for Scott Palmer is not good. I’m not rooting against those guys, but if you look at the other cars… well, Billy doesn’t screw around, and it looks like Austin and Terry have more potential.
How do you assess the Clay Millican/Brittany Force/Mike Salinas crew chief swaps halfway through the season?
I would say that Mike Salinas has come out on the better of that program. I think Brittany Force is going to have a contending car, but I feel like when it comes time for Salinas to run the car week in and week out… unless David Grubnic comes up with some pretty exciting stuff over the next few weeks, I think they’re going to have a hard time hanging with Mike Salinas.