The 2019 season passed the 1/8th mark at the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals and brought some things into tighter focus. Steve Torrence went without a Wally for the third consecutive race but continues to lead the Top Fuel Power Rankings in part because of his larger body of work, while Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevy team looks like the car to beat this season. Meanwhile, Jeg Coughlin Jr. moved to the top of the heap despite a first-round defeat.
The Capco Kid sits third in points behind Doug Kalitta and rival Leah Pritchett because, quite frankly, he hasn’t been quite as lucky or quite as good in the driver’s seat as he was during the Countdown. His lights have been a little worse and when the car has struggled the dragster in the other lane has made him pay. That’s different than the 2018 Countdown.
But that doesn’t greatly affect his Power Ranking because the number you see refers to his overall body of work. Yes, he dropped some points this go around, but not substantially. Torrence remains The Guy in Top Fuel and there’s not much competition for the spot right now. That doesn’t mean there’s no competition on race day … it just means he’s a dominant force. The biggest story right now? Perhaps it’s that Austin Prock and Jordan Vandergriff dropped right back out of the top 10 after surging into it after small-sample size performances. It’s tough sledding out here.
There’s only so much more to say about Hight and tuner Jimmy Prock after three races this season. He owns 10 round wins and could easily be three-for-three going to the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. His substantial point lead isn’t why he’s leading the Power Rankings yet again – it’s because he’s the quickest, fastest and most consistent Funny Car.
The rest of the field is a peg below Hight right now, and it gets a lot more interesting and competitive from there. The Don Schumacher Racing cars are bunched up with the exception of the high-flying Tommy Johnson Jr. The Make-A-Wish car is the best bet to dethrone Hight right now, while defending champion J.R. Todd and 2016 champ Ron Capps haven’t been themselves in 2019. It’s likely just a matter of time though.
JEG COUGHLIN JR.
Coughlin picked up win No. 81 in Arizona in round No. 1,000 and moved up in the rankings despite losing in the first round in Gainesville. His poor light at the Gators doesn’t undo a six-week slate of very good racing with one of the best cars in the class. The entire Elite Motorsports team is the cream of the crop right now, in spite of the fact that Bo Butner has two of the three Wallys.
That brings us to Rodger Brogdon – who has inarguably the best race car in Pro Stock. It’s the second-quickest by .001 second, has made it down the race track on every non-red-light pass (and even that red light was due to a mechanical malfunction) and it’s the fastest car in Pro Stock. The problem is Brogdon is one of the worst leavers in Pro Stock – and that’s come back to haunt him. If he can get better on the tree, or get lucky on Sunday, he’ll win this year.
An all-Harley-Davidson final in Gainesville won’t be the last this year. Krawiec didn’t get the win, but he was so much better than Hines during the Countdown that it’s not a surprise he’s still at the top of the heap. He led Matt Smith throughout much of the Countdown in Power Ranking, but by an exceptionally slim margin. This bike is deadly consistent and very quick. The only things that hurt the veteran are 60-foot times and reaction times.
One of the most pleasant surprises following the Gatornationals is Ryan Oehler. The independent rider nearly joined the Denso Spark Plugs 200-mph club and moved into the Power Rankings top 10 as a result. He’s not a bad pick to win his first race this season, and his dropping elapsed times and rising speeds are an indicator of good things to come.