Billy Torrence trails 10th place racer Austin Prock by 31 points with three races go to before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship begins. Torrence did not set out to make the six-race playoffs and will only race twice, at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd and the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, before the top 10 positions lock.
That doesn’t mean he won’t mess things up for everyone else before then. Prock is tied with Terry McMillen for ninth, technically, and is 78 points Richie Crampton. Crampton, while not safe, has an 84-point cushion over 11th place racer Scott Palmer and, at this point in the season, a better Top Fuel dragster according to NHRA Power Rankings.
That’s not enough to make the DHL Top Fuel team comfortable, nor should the Don Schumacher Racing team of Leah Pritchett (749 points) feel safe, either. Pritchett and Crampton have the benefit of being in seventh and eighth, which means a lot of teams must do a lot of work in order for them to be passed. There are only so many points available (455 total, to be precise) and, in my opinion, neither team is at great risk of being knocked out. Let’s focus on the five drivers who are in a more desperate situation.
NHRA Power Rankings shown are over their last six races.
T9. Terry McMillen (30.93 NHRA Power Ranking)
The team started the year with incredible promise, both on track and in the NHRA Power Rankings. It’s devolved to the point where this is not bad luck anymore – it’s poor performance. That can be turned around, certainly, but it puts McMillen in a vulnerable position. He has the worst car of the five drivers battling for a Countdown spot at the time of this writing and he does not have a big enough cushion to make up for it. The car has only made it down the track under power 32.3-percent of the time in the last six races – that’s got to improve for the Amalie Motor Oil team to survive.
T9. Austin Prock (49.70 NHRA Power Ranking)
The Montana Brand team has not improved substantially since it debuted at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. It still ranks as one of the slower full-time Top Fuel dragsters (3.845-second elapsed time average) and it struggles with consistency (62.5-percent Success Rate). Prock has shown immense promise in the cockpit (.061-second reaction time is the second-best in the category over the last six races) but that might not be enough if the car doesn’t pick up some speed. I think they’ll sneak into a Countdown spot, but right now this car is off the pace.
11. Scott Palmer (35.91 NHRA Power Ranking)
The Magic Dry Organic Absorbent Team can run quickly, but more often than not this has been a team that gets down the track (66.7-percent Success Rate) at a not-so-quick pace (3.869 average elapsed time). That hasn’t been quick enough to get a good first-round matchup on Sunday, leading to nine first-round exits in 2019. Palmer says he wants to run more aggressively; he might have to in order to get deeper into rounds on race day.
12. Billy Torrence (78.11 NHRA Power Ranking)
It is an act of mercy that the Capco Contractors team is not running in Seattle, because Torrence would almost certainly make the NHRA Countdown to the Championship as a result. Torrence is averaging an elapsed time of 3.787-seconds over the last six races, getting down the track 81.8-percent of the time and cuts a .076-second reaction time. If the above teams stumble, he will make the Countdown – that’s all there is to it. This car is just as good as Steve’s, and Billy is nearly as good a driver. That’s going to make the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals very tense – great if you’re a fan, not so great if you’re fighting for a spot in the Countdown.
Full-season NHRA Power Rankings below