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Tricky Tipster: How the west will be won at Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals

Tricky Tipster’s top picks for the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals include Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, Bo Butner, and Matt Smith.
03 Apr 2019
NHRA National Dragster staff
News
Tipster

Four-Wide racing has been called many things, but boring is not one of them. There is also an unpredictability about side-by-side-by-side-by-side racing that makes Tricky Tipster earn his pay. After careful consideration, Tipster has elected to stand pat with his picks from the most recent event in Gainesville, where he nailed two winners. To refresh your memory, we’re going with Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) as the favorites.


TOP FUEL

FUNNY CAR | PRO STOCK | PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

Steve Torrence
Capco Contractors

The reigning champ swept both races in Las Vegas last season including the spring four-wide events. He’s also gone winless through the first three races of the season which means he’s probably a bit annoyed. There is nothing wrong with this car’s performance, they just need a bit of luck. As the old saying goes, luck favors the prepared and it’s hard to find any team that is more prepared than this one.
Odds: 3-1

Doug Kalitta
Mac Tools

Right now, times are good in Ypsilanti, Mich., at least as far as the Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel teams are concerned. We’re just three races into the new season and both of the Kalitta dragsters have already racked up a victory. The Mac Tools team is also leading the early-season points battle. Doug has two wins in six finals at the famed Las Vegas strip so this is a good track for him.
Odds: 4-1

Leah Pritchett
Mopar/Pennzoil

While they did have a bit of a hiccup in Gainesville that put a premature end to a promising weekend, there is a lot to like about this team’s on-track performance right now. They’ve been mostly consistent through the first three races of the season. Also, it’s worth noting that she was in the final of the most recent Las Vegas race last November.
Odds: 5-1

Billy Torrence
Capco Contractors

The last time that Billy drove the second Capco entry, he left Phoenix carrying his second-career Top Fuel Wally. As noted earlier, this car is every bit as strong as the championship winning entry wheeled by his son, Steve. The rest of the class should be thankful that he’s not signed on for a full season but it’s also not improbably to think he’ll make the Countdown.
Odds: 7-1

Richie Crampton
DHL/Kalitta Motorsports

In 2018 he won Gainesville and then struggled for the rest of the season. After winning Gainesville for the second-straight year, it’s hard to imagine the rest of the year will be as disappointing as last season. This car is just too good right now although the DHL squad could certainly benefit from better qualifying positions.
Odds: 9-1

Antron Brown
Matco Tools

The four-wide format puts more of the driver into the overall equation which is great news for the Matco Tools team since their wheelman is one of the best to ever put on a firesuit. He’s got two wins in three finals in the Charlotte Four-Wide, which figures to be a good omen for quad racing in Las Vegas.
Odds: 10-1

Terry McMillen
Amalie Motor Oil

Who could forget the 2017 fall Las Vegas race where the Amalie crew pulled off an inspiring and emotional first victory? Since then, they’ve done nothing but improve in terms of both performance and consistency. A round one loss in Gainesville was a bitter pill to swallow, but this is not a car you’d want to see in your quad on Sunday afternoon.
Odds: 12-1

Clay Millican
Parts Plus/Strutmasters

Given the changes that took place over the winter, including an all-new crew and the return of crew chief Mike Kloeber, a runner-up finish in Gainesville was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps most impressive was their 3.70 pass on Sunday, which ranks as one of the quickest runs of the event.
Odds: 14-1

FUNNY CAR

Robert Hight
Auto Club Chevy

As the story goes, the competition in the Funny Car class is so intense that no single team should be able to dominate. Apparently, no one has told that to Hight and his crew chief, Jimmy Prock. Maybe the word “dominate” is a bit strong, but after just three races, but it’s hard to argue with a team that has two wins and a 105-point lead in the standings.
Odds: 3-1

Jack Beckman
Infinite Hero Dodge

Won in Las Vegas way back in 2006 but more recently, he was a runner-up at last year’s inaugural Four-Wide race. So far, so good for the Infinite Hero team with a runner-up and a semi in the first three races of the season. They’ve also been solid in qualifying, which is a big factor in success on race day.
Odds: 4-1

John Force
Peak Chevy

Anyone remember NHRA’s first Four-Wide race back in 2010? John Force said he didn’t understand the format and that he was confused by the special Christmas Tree used just for four-wide racing? Of course, Force then went out and won the race. Since then, he’s been to the final of a few Four-Wide races so obviously he gets the format. A second win still eludes him, and his next win will be No. 150. Why not here?
Odds: 6-1

Matt Hagan
Mopar Express Lane Dodge

When it comes to qualifying, the Mopar team is a beast. They’ve been seeded no lower than fifth in the last three events. They’ve also been solid on race day with an impressive win in Phoenix. For what its worth, the only driver to beat him this year is John Force.
Odds: 6-1

J.R. Todd
DHL Toyota

Swept both Las Vegas races last season which was a big reason why the DHL Toyota carries the No. 1 this season. Of course, this is a “what have you done for me lately” sport so his stock sank a bit following two early losses in the first three races of the season. This is the perfect opportunity for a “get healthy” weekend.
Odds: 7-1

Tommy Johnson Jr.
Make-A-Wish Dodge

If this team were granted just one wish, we’re certain that it would be to stop destroying Charger bodies. So far, the count is three and that’s three too many. All kidding aside, it’s a miracle that they’re No. 5 in the points standings given the carnage they’ve endured so far this season. The short version is that this is a championship caliber team that has just endured a bit of bad luck.
Odds: 9-1

Tim Wilkerson
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford

One race does not a season make but watching his performance in Gainesville, where he qualified No. 2 and reached the final round, one gets a sense that the Levi, Ray & Shoup team has turned the corner. Very little doubt that they’ll continue to take the fight to the big teams for the rest of the year.
Odds: 11-1

Ron Capps
NAPA Dodge

It doesn’t seem right to have the NAPA team sitting in the No. 8 spot but with just two round wins this season has so far been a huge disappointment. The good news is that Rahn Tobler is not only capable of righting the ship at any moment, but he’s also capable of engineering a turnaround that results in a second world title. They won’t be ninth in points much longer.
Odds: 14-1


PRO STOCK

Bo Butner
Butner Auto Camaro

Just in case anyone thought his Pomona win was a bit of a fluke, he went and crushed the field in Gainesville just to be sure. The 2017 champ just became a grandfather for the first time, but he doesn’t drive like one. In fact, it would be hard to argue that he’s not in the prime of his career. Oh yeah, he also won the most recent Las Vegas race last fall.
Odds: 3-1

Jeg Coughlin Jr.
JEGS.com/Elite Camaro

Throughout his career he’s been a consistent winner just about everywhere. but he’s done a lot of damage in Las Vegas with five Pro Stock wins in eight final rounds. One would also have to think that a guy who has won in seven different classes would easily be able to adjust to the twice-a-year Four Wide format.
Odds: 4-1

Erica Enders
Melling/Elite Camaro

The Elite team is trying hard to recapture the magic they once had in Las Vegas when they won four-straight races here. The two-time champ reached the final round the last time NHRA raced in Sin City so there has been substantial progress made in that area. Like teammate Coughlin, she figures to rate an edge in the sometimes-confusing world of four-wide racing.
Odds: 6-1

Alex Laughlin
Havoline Camaro

He’s had two weeks to ponder what might have happened if he hadn’t broken in the Gainesville final. Okay, so he did that heavy thinking on a beach in Costa Rica, but the point is that he should arrive in Las Vegas relaxed and very motivated to get back in the fight. After all he’s No. 2 in the standings
Odds: 7-1

Jason Line
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro

Of the Pro Stock drivers entered in this event, just four of them have won a four-wide race and he’s one of them (along with teammate Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, and Erica Enders). Previous experience has to count for something here, at least that’s the popular opinion. Regardless, this car has been very quick at all three races this year.
Odds: 8-1

Rodger Brogdon
RB Machine Camaro

In qualifying he’s been nearly unstoppable with a pair of green hats in the first three races but success on race day hasn’t been as noticeable. The culprit here is a couple of red-light starts which is understandable for someone who is just coming back after several years off. He’ll get the hang of it and the rest of the field will have a big problem on their hands.
Odds: 10-1

Matt Hartford
Total Seal Camaro

Talk about a roller coaster ride. He went from a final round in Phoenix to a holeshot loss in the first round in Gainesville. One would have to assume that the Phoenix race best represents what this team is capable of. Remember, anything can happen in four-wide racing and is usually does so a win by the Total Seal car would be no surprise at all.
Odds: 12-1

Deric Kramer
American Ethanol Camaro

The last time he raced in a final round was in Seattle last August which is a bit shocking since this is a very solid car and driver combination that generally qualifies in the top half of the field. Then again, Pro Stock is insanely competitive with at least a dozen cars that can win on any given weekend. Sooner or later, it will be his turn again.
Odds: 14-1


PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

Matt Smith
Denso EBR

No one who rides a V-twin is happy about the recent rules adjustment that resulted in a 15-pound weight increase, but it’s hard to think that the world champ won’t be among the favorites this week. He’s great in four-wide races and his bike still figures to be one of the quickest in the class. He’ll adapt and overcome.
Odds: 3-1

Andrew Hines
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson

Slump? What slump? His victory in Gainesville might easily be the most impressive performance of his career, which now includes 49 victories. No reason to think that big No. 50 won’t be right around the corner. Pro Stock Motorcycles have only competed in seven four wide races and he’s got wins in three of them, plus a runner-up in last year’s Charlotte race.
Odds: 4-1

Eddie Krawiec
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson

He was a tick behind his teammate Hines at the finish line in the Gainesville final round but that was about the only thing that went wrong during the weekend. He made multiple 200-mph runs and left the season-opener No. 2 in the standings. Most guys would take that in a heartbeat. Ironically, he has not won a four wide race, yet.
Odds: 4-1

Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR

Remember when the Pro Stock Motorcycle class returned to the Charlotte Four-Wide race in 2013? This was the guy standing in the winner’s circle on Sunday holding up the Wally trophy. He was also a solid 6.7-second player in Gainesville. That bodes well for this Las Vegas trip.
Odds: 5-1

Jerry Savoie
White Alligator Suzuki

Will last week’s parity adjustment help out the Suzuki entries? We’re going to find out soon enough. For the last couple of years, the White Alligator bikes have been the strongest Suzuki entries in the field so this should be your barometer. Odds are he’ll be just fine.
Odds: 7-1

Ryan Oehler
Flyin Ryan Racing EBR

Overlooked in Gainesville were the massive performance gains made by this team. Seriously, who thought they’d see a 6.80 at 199.91 mph, both of which are career-bests. With that sort of performance, it’s just a matter of time before the win lights start coming on. Mike Salinas, Austin Prock and Jordan Vandergriff had better look out. This might be NHRA’s next first-time pro winner.
Odds: 9-1

Joey Gladstone
Cory Reed Racing EBR

Give him a bit of horsepower, and he’s capable of doing the rest which is exactly what happened in Gainesville where he reached the semifinals for just the second time in his career. There is still work to be done at Reed Racing in order to catch the leaders but this two-bike team has to be optimistic that they’ve made real progress.
Odds: 10-1

Angelle Sampey
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson

Her debut with the Vance & Hines Harley team was solid if not spectacular. She made a couple of nice runs but didn’t make it past the first round. She’ll also have to deal with the additional 15-pounds on her Street Rod. The good news is that her deal was extended from four races to a full season, so at least that business is handled.
Odds: 13-1