NHRA Power Rankings: What the last six races can tell us about Greg Anderson, Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Countdown to the Championship
Tommy Johnson Jr. and Greg Anderson will argue over who left Bandimere Speedway happiest until Friday afternoon when they get back into their cars and strap their helmets on. Johnson, who already won earlier this season, is now the proud owner of a Mile-High NHRA Nationals Wally after trying for longer than I’ve been alive. Anderson has won at altitude before, of course; we all saw him do it exactly one year ago.
It’s just … well, he hadn’t won at any of the stops in between. That did not sit well with the hyper-competitive driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. Both drivers will tell you their teams are coming into their own; in fact, both said something of that nature to NHRA on FOX reporter Jamie Howe at the top end.
It’s not quite I’m in the best shape of my life, but it ranks as a seven on the cliché scale. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. We sort racers (or teams, technically) by season stats in NHRA Power Rankings for a simple reason: Bigger sample size is better than smaller sample size, particularly in a small-sample size sport like NHRA Drag Racing.
That doesn’t mean the small sample size is useless, though. Take a team like Clay Millican’s Parts Plus outfit, for instance. The Mike Kloeber-tuned squad struggled mightily at the outset of the season, like we expected they would. That impacts the team’s full-season NHRA Power Ranking (48.56), which makes them just a touch below average (50 is average, 100 is perfect, 62.54 is what the team scored in 2018).
Editorializing ahead: I, personally, do not see it as a major indictment on the team that they have taken a step backwards after installing a completely new crew and a new crew chief. I think the team has enjoyed some good fortune in terms of their on-track success, but they don’t take the points back if you get lucky. It also doesn’t change the car, the driver or the crew chief. That leads to my next point: The team has, statistically speaking, improved.
Millican boasts a 59.44 NHRA Power Ranking over the last six races. That is, of course, a much smaller sample size and that ranking should, as a result, be taken with a grain of salt. There is a tendency to damn a team like Millican’s with faint praise because of its smaller budget and inexperienced crew; but over the last six races the Straightline Strategy Group-owned squad has outperformed every full-time car not driven by Steve Torrence and Mike Salinas. That’s good for everyone.
So, where does that leave Anderson and Johnson in terms of a title hunt? Well, it depends.
Johnson ranks seventh in NHRA Power Ranking over the last six races with a 54.86, despite winning in Denver. His average elapsed time (4.015) clocks in a hundredth better than the class average over that span and his success rate (68.1 percent) will not raise eyebrows. His average reaction time (.0806) is a tic below average, and yes, that’s even considering he “doesn’t cheat” at the starting line.
The Make-A-Wish team’s biggest problem is that it competes in Funny Car, a category that is tremendously difficult. Johnson ranks last on his own team in NHRA Power Ranking – that’s how stacked the class is. John Force, Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman and Bob Tasca III look the most likely to contend for a championship this season. That does not rule anyone out, certainly, and Johnson appears poised to start from near the top of the table. That matters, no matter the quantity of water everyone would like to carry. There’s a reason only one racer has won from the No. 10 spot; it’s improbable.
Anderson also looks likely to capture the No. 2 seed in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship. While he’s ranked No. 6 in NHRA Power Ranking over the last six races, he has far less to worry about. That’s because his ranking (66.43) is a whopping 2.46 points below the leader over that span (Jeg Coughlin Jr). No one has separated themselves from the pack (which is not dissimilar from 2018), making this a great time for Anderson to get his race car back.
Consistency has been the biggest problem for the K.B. Racing stable in 2019. Bo Butner still has the best car in the category over the last six races in success rate (85 percent) which is part of the reason he has ended up in the winner’s circle so frequently, but Anderson is not far behind (75.6). If he has a weak spot, it’s his reaction time average (.0533), which is just below the class average. Still, his car is quick enough (quicker than everyone but teammate Deric Kramer) and consistent enough that he’s got a shot at his first title since 2010. Luck will play a role (it always does) no matter who walks away with the Pro Stock title, but Anderson is at least close enough to throw his hat in the ring.