Please excuse Tricky Tipster for a second while he gloats over last week’s results where he correctly picked Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, and Steve Jackson to deliver wins in Charlotte. Of course, it’s also worth noting that he completely whiffed on Pro Stock winner Deric Kramer but hey, no one is perfect. Moving ahead to Dallas, not much has changed. Torrence and Hight lead the way in the nitro classes while Erica Enders and Andrew Hines, the current points leaders in the Pro Stock classes, are also favored.
About that mini-slump? It’s gone, and most likely gone for good. In Charlotte, the Capco team looked very much like the same group that swept last year’s Countdown. It could easily be argued that their final round win over Kalitta was their biggest win of the season, at least with regards to the points battle. He’s also the defending event champion and oh yes, the race is held in his native Texas.
As much as the Mac Tools team hated to lose the final in Charlotte their situation could be much worse. In fact, if someone had told them with three races to go they’d be fighting for the championship and be just 30-points out of first place, they would almost certainly have signed up for it without hesitation. Now, they have to figure out a way to gain ground on the Capco team. Never an easy task, but no one said this would be easy.
With 125-points to make up and just three races to do it, it’s hard to figure whether this team is really in the race for the Mello Yello championship. Technically, they are very much in it but it’s going to take a lot of heavy lifting to get the job done and there is zero wiggle room for a miscue. Outlasting Torrence and Kalitta needs to be their main priority and on their best days, that’s a reasonable goal.
Advance Auto Parts
More often than not, this is the quickest car in the class, but their consistency, particularly during the Countdown, has been a hindrance. A semifinal in Charlotte was not a bad result, but with the top two points earners meeting in the final, it wasn’t particularly helpful as far as the championship is concerned. She won this race two years ago and would benefit greatly from another victory.
The Capco captain probably shouldn’t be ranked this low, especially after he qualified No. 6 in Charlotte and missed the semifinals by just two-thousandths of a second. He refuses to be labeled as a blocker and since he’s 150-points out of first place, he’s technically still a championship contender. Things would get very interesting should he win this race and the leaders falter early.
You know what this team could really use right now? How about some luck? They made the third quickest run of eliminations on Monday in Charlotte with a 3.735 and the win light came on in the other lane. Frustrating for sure, but it’s also worth noting that this car has been among the quickest in the class since Indy. The championship might be a bit out of reach, but a third win on the season is not.
Montana Brands/Rocky Mountain Twist
He’s sort of in the same situation as Billy Torrence as far as points go. With 152-markers to make up, it would take nothing short of a miraculous finish to win the championship but we’ve seen stranger things in this sport. Points aside, there is no doubt he’s eager to get back in the car so he can put a tough quarterfinal loss in Charlotte in his rear-view mirror.
He’s qualified no worse than sixth since Sonoma but has little to show for it outside of a runner-up in Brainerd. Regardless, this is a team with two wins and four final rounds on the season so they know how to get it done. No reason to think they can’t win at least once more before the end of the season. A win here could also put them back in the thick of the points chase.
Auto Club Chevy
For the first time in his career, he’s won six races in a season and there is a feeling throughout the Funny Car class that the Auto Club team isn’t done yet. In fact, he said himself that it might take eight wins to lock up the championship. Given the competitiveness of the class, that’s hard to imagine one team could do that in this day and age, but it also wouldn’t be overly shocking to see the Auto Club car run the table.
Infinite Hero Dodge
When you open the Countdown with a win and a runner-up in the first three races and don’t make up ground on the leader that’s a tough pill to swallow but the Infinite Hero crew should not get discouraged. They’ve shown the ability recently to trade punches with anyone else in the class and they’re almost certainly in this fight till the end. Winning one more round than Hight would be huge this weekend.
With just one win back in 1998, this isn’t historically one of his better tracks, but you can’t discount the three runner-up finishes since 2011. On the surface, it appears that the Funny Car points battle is a two-horse race but the NAPA crew would almost certainly argue that point. They believe they are still alive and a win here would make believers out of just about everyone else.
Seven wins in 15 final rounds shows a long history of success at the Texas Motorplex and the 16-time champ needs to pull off another win soon if he’s to stick round in the battle for the Mello Yello championship. He lost a tough race to Capps in Charlotte, but honestly did nothing wrong. It was just a good close drag race.
Early losses in Reading and St. Louis likely torpedoed his Championship aspiration but there is still some hope after an encouraging semifinal in Charlotte. He won this race in 2010 and 2016 and was runner-up in 2012. His holeshot win over Bob Tasca was the sort of clutch victory that Tipster would like to see more of.
There’s no way to sugar coat this; Charlotte was a disaster, especially after a very encouraging final round outing in St. Louis. At this point it would be really tough to win the championship, especially since there are five other drivers that would need to be passed, but another win this season is not at all out of the question.
Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
There is a lot to like here including the fact that he’s qualified in the top half of the field at every race since Chicago and so far, has two wins, a runner-up and three semifinals. That might not be enough to contend for the championship, but he’s clearly in the upper echelon of a Funny Car class that is loaded with contenders. For what it’s worth, he is also the 2012 Dallas champion.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Crazy to think that this was the hottest car in the class as recently as July, but since Indy, they’ve got just one round win to show for it. Sooner or later, they’re going to bust out of this slump and given the amount of talent here, smart money is on the sooner. They could definitely make life rough for the leading championship contenders going down the stretch.
A second win wasn’t in the cards in Charlotte but the Elite squad accomplished their main objective which was reclaiming the points lead. Now, the real challenge is keeping the lead for the final three races but that job becomes much easier when you’ve got the best car in the class and over the last few races, that point is hardly debatable. This is the best car in Pro Stock right now.
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro
Trying to find something positive to say following a disastrous outing in Charlotte, but there aren’t many ways to put a positive spin on a loss that never should have happened. It’s over. It’s done with, and the Summit team can only be thankful that the damage to their title hopes wasn’t much worse. Hard to imagine there is anyone more anxious to get back in the car in Dallas and make amends.
Total Seal Camaro
To paraphrase what we wrote last time; News flash for Pro Stock teams: This guy isn’t going anywhere when it comes to the championship. He’s been fairly solid all season and even though he didn’t win in St. Louis or Charlotte, he certainly has kept the pressure on the leaders. Winning one more round than Erica or Jason would be a huge achievement this weekend but of course, that’s easier said than done.
American Ethanol Camaro
Tipster should issue an apology for leaving him off the Charlotte roster but honestly, there were eight other candidates more than qualified to fill the field. That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Not many Pro Stock wins come from the bottom half of the field but this guy pulled it off and looked very good in doing so.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
This deal is a bit tough to figure out since you’ve got one of the most accomplished drivers in the history of the sport wheeling one of the quickest cars in the class. A -.004 red-light in Charlotte was most likely a Countdown killer, because he’s now 111-points out of first place. He’d almost need to run the table to have a chance but then again, we’ve seen the JEGS car do some amazing things in the past.
Butner Auto Camaro
This is really a make or break weekend for the 2017 world champion. He’s 67-points out of the lead and could really use a final round showing, especially if the red Elite car isn’t in the other lane. He appears to have lost a step since the early part of the season when he won four of the first five races and now would be a perfect time to find whatever has been missing.
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro
Much like his teammate, he’s going to look to forget about what happened last week at zMax Dragway. The better news is that he’s a four-time winner in Dallas and he’s got a pretty quick car that regularly qualifies in the top half of the field. He could also do teammates Line and Butner a favor by clearing out a couple of the Championship contenders.
He made headlines in Charlotte by surviving (barely) the Paqui “One Chip Challenge” but his championship hopes went up in flames following a round one loss. This week, he’s going to sit out Saturday’s qualifying in order to race his drag radial car in Georgia. That makes an already difficult task much tougher.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Back on top of the class after a clutch performance at zMax Dragway, which is historically one of his best tracks. His record in Dallas isn’t nearly as strong as it is in Charlotte but that should not matter. He’s got a fast bike right now, and that should do nothing but inspire confidence. He and Karen Stoffer have just about turned this into a two-horse race. There is a sixth championship out there for the taking.
Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Suzuki
No matter how it ends, this has been the best season of her career but as long as you’ve come this far, why not just go ahead and win the whole thing. She certainly has the bike to do that, but she cannot let Hines gain even one more round. Another performance like she had in Chicago (with four nearly-perfect lights) would be huge right now.
White Alligator Suzuki
Another early loss has all but ended hopes for a second championship but this is a really quick motorcycle that should be a factor at the last three races. In fact, we’ll be a bit surprised if he doesn’t win at least one of them. He can also do a lot to help teammate Stoffer win the title.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Here we go again; 13 races in and zero wins. That is really hard to believe coming from one of the most consistent riders in the history of the class. The Vance & Hines team recently made a lot of progress finding and fixing some issues with Hines’ bike. Gotta figure it’s just a matter of time before this bike follows suit.
Johnson Racing Suzuki
Crazy to think that a guy who was forced to sit out several races has come back and run at the front of the pack. He not only qualified No. 1 for the first time since 2013 but nearly made it to the final. Consistency is still an issue but if there is one non-Countdown racer who’s going to win one of the final three races, it might just be this guy.
Smith has often described his Denso EBR as “hateful” the trouble is, it hated its owner and rider in Charlotte. In five attempts, Smith never made a full pass. One has to assume he’ll find and fix the issue this week and come to Dallas with a competitive ride. On a short turnaround, that might be a lot to ask.
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
Although he red-lighted in the semifinals in Charlotte, he had a decent shot to upset points leader Hines and make it to his first final since the Las Vegas Four-Wide. His 6.81 pass in the first round of eliminations was very impressive and provides hope for another strong showing this weekend.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
She had a clear path to the late rounds in Charlotte but her Harley FXDR got loose in round one and that was that. Sooner or later, the three-time champ is going to bust out and make it to a final round. Smart money says that will happen before the end of this season. Why not in Dallas, one of the few events she’s yet to win.