The more things change, the more they stay the same … sort of. The most interesting thing about the NHRA season depends on who you ask. Robert Hight and Jimmy Prock’s dominance ranks among the biggest talking points, as does Steve Torrence’s drought despite running quite well. There have been five different Top Fuel winners, which says a lot about the state of the category.
So, let’s take a look at Top Fuel and who fancies themselves a contender alongside the NHRA Power Rankings leader as we leave beautiful Houston, Texas and get ready to go Four-Wide racing one more time in 2019. That will be in Charlotte in two weeks at the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
Rankings are based on the past six races. You can see the top 10 for each class here.
1. Steve Torrence 76.71
He lost a close race to Antron Brown, but remains the leader in elapsed time, top speed and success rate. I’ll hear arguments for someone to replace him, but … I think it’s a tough one to make.
2. Billy Torrence 65.88
Old Bill hasn’t taken much of a break from NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing this season, and can you blame him? Second-quickest, second-fastest and third-most consistent dragster in Top Fuel. Yikes.
3. Antron Brown 61.21
Here he comes. 2018 sucked for the three-time champion, and while he lost to Brittany Force and the (resurgent?) Advance Auto Parts team in Houston … god help us all if the Matco Tools team gets its you-know-what together.
4. Mike Salinas 58.16
Consistency is on the rise (67 percent), e.t. is dropping (3.74) and his reaction times are going to be good enough (0.084) to keep him in fights. That’s really all that matters.
5. Doug Kalitta 55.29
His reaction times are so good (0.058) and his dragster so consistent (76 percent) that it’s easy to not notice the team has gotten his car within three hundredths of Steve Torrence. This could end up being a lot of fun.
6. Jordan Vandergriff 55.20
Just as quick as Kalitta, a little bit faster and he’s only .004-second slower at the tree. Yes, it’s a smaller sample size, but he’s officially qualified for the field now and this car is better than rival Austin Prock’s – Houston’s result notwithstanding.
7. Leah Pritchett 54.78
The axiom, “you are what your record says you are,” is starting to feel true for this dragster. It’s just sort of settled into being a dragster that gets down the track around 60 percent of the time. It can be very quick, but until it gets down more often … it’s only going to be a part-time threat.
8. Brittany Force 51.18
We just saw the ceiling of this Advance Auto Parts dragster. If David Grubnic can coax that performance out of it every week, watch out. Side note: That was the best Force has ever driven. If she’s becoming that driver, boy oh boy is that going to be fun.
9. Terry McMillen 50.49
Disappointing weekend for McMillen who otherwise has a relatively reliable dragster that goes pretty darn fast at an average 324.41 mph. That’s not quite Torrence fast, but he’s a threat.
10. Scott Palmer 45.08
Whatever the Magic Dry team did in Houston worked. The squad got its trademark consistency back, Palmer had perfectly fine lights and that’s kind of all that needs to happen for him tog et into a Countdown spot.
1. Robert Hight 81.38
Robert Hight’s average elapsed time: 3.913 seconds. The second best elapsed time in Funny Car: 3.958. Holy moly.
2. John Force 59.74
The difference between Hight’s Power Ranking and John Force’s is not a mistake. That’s how wide a gap Hight and tuner Jimmy Prock have opened on the field. Force has been quite good this year, but he’s five hundredths of a second slower than his teammate.
3. Matt Hagan 58.54
The Houston finalist has the most consistent car in the class at 84 percent, but he’s not been quite as good on the lights as previous years (0.075 is nothing to sneeze at) and he’s down on speed (320.98 compared to the 325 rocked by Hight).
4. Jack Beckman 58.13
It’s tight in the middle! Consistency is Beckman’s biggest problem with a 64 percent success rate.
5. Tommy Johnson Jr. 57.13
Tommy Johnson Jr. is nearly identical to Beckman, with a slightly quicker right foot and a slightly more consistent car – but his speed is down and that’s what’s got him lower in the rankings, for now.
6. Shawn Langdon 54.52
It was only a matter of time. This car is turning it around and it’s in no small part due to how damn good a driver Shawn Langdon is. He’s got one of the best reaction time averages in the class, sure, but the way he navigates the Funny Car down the strip certainly helps.
7. Ron Capps 50.77
Mr. Reliable nearly has his race car back. He has a very nice 69 percent success rate, a 3.943 elapsed time average and is just a little down on speed. Give Rahn Tobler enough time, and everything will be okay.
8. J.R. Todd 50.70
It’s the same old story for now – consistency is hurting this team badly. A 62 percent success rate just won’t get the job done. He’s holding his own in the driver’s seat, but he needs his race car back.
9. Bob Tasca III 42.67
The car is finally in the 3-second range in elapsed time average, but it’s down on speed and isn’t all that consistent. Still, it looks like that Eric Lane/Mike Green tandem is paying dividends.
10. Cruz Pedregon 41.28
It’s worth both dapping Cruz Pedregon up for doing a solid job with his car as a tuner (it is better than last year) while noting it’s relatively inconsistent and just not that quick. It’s a perfectly fine piece! But man, I’d love to see what he could do as a tuner with a bigger budget. I bed he’d be good at it.