There is parity throughout NHRA’s pro classes, which makes it somewhat difficult to explain how Steve Torrence can win five-straight Top Fuel races, Robert Hight can win four Funny Car races, and Stevie “Fast” Jackson can score three wins in the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod series. All three will try to pad their win totals in this weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Anyone remember the last time this guy lost a drag race? For the record, it was the semifinals in Houston against his old buddy, Antron Brown on April 14. Since then, he’s 19-0 and has won five-straight races. He’s easily the overwhelming favorite to win No. 6 here. Who knows how long this streak could last?
The Matco Tools team took another step in the right direction in Topeka where they qualified No. 4 and made it to the semifinals for the third-straight race. Oddly enough, he’s never won a race in Bristol, but he’s got the best chance of anyone to break Steve Torrence’s win streak.
Three-time Bristol winner and six-time finalist, he’s should be happy to return to Thunder Valley. The Mac Tools dragster was one of the best cars in the class last week in Topeka but he dropped a very close battle against Brown in the quarterfinals.
Typically, its hard for teams to catch-up when they miss a race, but it doesn’t seem to affect Billy Torrence, and it shouldn’t affect the Scrappers gang, who sat out last week’s race in Topeka. If nothing else, this crew should be refreshed and ready to go with a week off. Oh, and he was a runner-up here last year which would seem to be a good omen.
Advance Auto Parts
Chicago was a disaster, but the effects were short-lived after she crushed low E.T. in Topeka with a 3.690 in the first round that shows just how dominant the Advance Auto Parts team can be. Right now, she doesn’t have the same level of consistency that Torrence does, but when it comes to running big numbers, she might well be the class’ leader.
Montana Brands/Rocky Mtn. Twist
Made it to the semifinals for the first time last week in Topeka and that appears to be a clear indication that the rookie of the year contender has turned the corner. Perhaps even more impressive was his 3.79-second run to qualify No. 3 in the field. Previously, he’d not been ranked higher than No. 6 at any event.
Losing in the first round for the third-straight race was certainly painful, but the Dodge team did run a very competitive 3.77 on race day. They just happened to be next to Doug Kalitta’s 3.73. That’s more of an unlucky break than anything. She also went to the final here two years ago.
After a string of round one losses, the 2015 Bristol winner has been to the quarterfinals at the last two events and he’s improved in qualifying which usually goes a long way towards a successful Sunday. Of his nine losses this season, seven of them have been aborted runs due to tire smoke/shake or some other issue.
Auto Club Chevy
Reclaimed the top spot this week after an impressive, if not dominant performance in Topeka. To be fair, the Auto Club team struggled early, but found their groove when it mattered most and they easily had the best car on Sunday. With a 200-plus point lead in the standing, crew chief Jimmy Prock might be tempted to start testing, but hard to imagine they’d intentionally give up their current edge over the field.
NAPA Brakes Dodge
Dropped a barn-burner of a race against teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in Topeka but he’s happy to return to Bristol, where the NAPA team is unbeaten since 2016 and has five wins overall in six final rounds. Given their past success here, they almost nudged Hight from the top spot. It was tha close.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
A longer-than normal Tree made his semifinal race against Hight one of the most bizarre races of the season, but the bottom line is he lost a chance to win a second-straight race by just two-thousandths of a second. That shouldn’t do much to dampen the enthusiasm of the Make-A-Wish team, which has earned six round wins in the first two races of the “summer swing”.
Infinite Hero Dodge
The Infinite Hero team very much needed a “get well weekend” and they got it in Topeka with a solid runner-up finish, even though they qualified in the bottom half of the field. That comes on the heels of a semifinal in Chicago. He was a runner-up here in 2011 and 2017 and another final round wouldn’t be the least bit surprising.
All’s fair in love, war, and nitro racing so no one should be offended when the 16-time champ decides to deep stage on race day. So far, the strategy has been extremely effective, and with six semifinals in the first ten races, it seems like win No. 150 is getting closer and closer.
Had a promising start in Topeka when he earned the 100th low qualifier award for Kalitta Motorsports but Sunday was a disaster with a tire-smoking loss to Hight that might well have sealed the deal as far as the top seed in the Countdown goes. They are definitely better than they’ve shown the last two races.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
Made two very competitive runs and had two very competitive reaction times last Sunday in Topeka and that wasn’t enough to get past the quarterfinals. That being said, he can take a lot of positives from the event after qualifying No. 2. Also a lot of positives from Bristol Dragway, where he’s been to a pair of final rounds.
Bob Tasca III
For sure, last weeks’ holeshot loss was excruciating, but the Ford team left Kansas with a lot of positives not the least of which was their performance in qualifying (No. 6) and their 3.902 in the first round that was only a few thousandths slower than Hight’s low E.T. run. So far, we’ve had seven Funny Car winners and he could easily be No. 7, and that could easily happen this weekend.
Topeka was a survival of the fittest for Pro Mod racers and he was by far the fittest with a sweep that included the top spot in qualifying, and his third win of the season. He’s starting to build a substantial points lead so if someone is going to stop him, we’d suggest they do it sooner rather than later.
AAP/Janis Superchargers Camaro
With Todd Tutterow’s status uncertain following last weekend’s mishap in Topeka, the reigning champ gets the second spot this week and he’s earned it with a semifinal finish. There is still time to successfully defend his 2018 championship, but he needs to put together a big performance here, and it wouldn’t hurt for him to knock Jackson out early which is much easier said than done.
Artivinco Racing Camaro
After all the drama in Topeka, there are more questions than answers in Pro Mod now, but what’s going on here is not a mystery. He’s been both quick and consistent. After missing the field in Gainesville, he was No. 17 in points and he’s now climbed to fourth following his first semifinal finish of the season.
Odd occurrence in Topeka when he was DQ’d for bypassing the scales following his round one race against Clint Satterfield. Despite the miscue, this was one of the quickest cars at Heartland Motorsports Park, and the fastest with a 259.76-mph top speed.
Bond Coat Corvette
Leading the way as far as nitrous cars are concerned with several impressive qualifying efforts including No. 2 last weekend in Topeka. Oh yeah, he also made the quickest run of the first round with a thundering 5.775. That should be more than enough to get the job done.
Progress has been evident with the Aeromotive team lately. He almost joined the 260-mph club in the first round with an impressive 259.26-mph blast. There are several drivers who are primed to breakthrough for their first win of 2019 and he’s perhaps at the top of the list.
After Topeka, it’s really hard to know what’s going on here. Which car will he race? Turbo or nitrous? The bottom line is that he’s Rickie Smith and historically, he’s money whenever he races at Bristol Dragway. There is a reason why his name is on the tracks’ ring of honor.
Dropped a few spots following scary two-car accident last Sunday in Topeka but he’s not likely to surrender the points battle without a fight. Not 100-percent sure what he’ll be driving, but it should be more than competitive. Should he win this race, it will mark one of the great comeback stories in the history of the Pro Mod class.