NHRA’s grueling four-race “summer swing” grinds to a stop this week at picturesque Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk where points leaders Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, and Bo Butner remain the early favorites in the NHRA Mello Yello series titles while Bristol champ Jose Gonzalez shoots for a second-straight Pro Mod title.
After a barn-burner final round against Mike Salinas, his five-race win streak is over yet his reign at the top of Tricky Tipster will continue for at least one more week. The Capco car remains the class of the field and it's entirely possible that a new multi-race win streak begins soon.
Bristol victory was every bit a statement win. It not only proved that the Las Vegas victory was no fluke, it also established the Scrappers Team as legit contenders for the Mello Yello Top Fuel championship. He’s almost certain to win a couple more races this year and back-to-back victories are not out of the question.
Mr. Consistent made his 500th start in Top Fuel last week in Bristol and he’s now been to the semifinals or better 185 times which represents a 37-percent average. To be honest, he’s actually more competitive than that now and it’s almost a surprise when the Mac Tools team isn’t rolling into the lanes as part of the final four.
In six races this year he’s got a win, a runner-up and a pretty sparkling 11-5 record in elimination rounds. He might even make the Countdown should he run enough events. The rest of the field should be very thankful that his busy work schedule doesn’t allow him to compete in every race.
Getting back to the top of the heap in Top Fuel remains a work in progress for the three-time champion. With a quarterfinal loss to Mike Salinas, Bristol was a bit of a disappointment but at least he lost to someone other than Torrence, who’d had his number at the previous three races. He’s also a three-time Norwalk finalist with a win in 2014.
Drag racing can be a cruel sport. How else to explain how this car rocked qualifying in Bristol with three solid runs (including a second-best 3.757) and then blazed the tires in a round one loss to Lex Joon? When that happens, you just pack up and head to the next one. For what it’s worth, DSR Top Fuel drivers have just three wins in Norwalk in 12 previous events.
Advance Auto Parts
Three races into the Summer swing and the Advance team is probably wishing for a do-over with just one round win to show for it. Obviously, the potential is there for a big turnaround and it’s hard to imagine that this car won’t be among the class’ leaders when its time for the Countdown to begin.
After a couple of tough outings in Chicago and Topeka, Bristol represented a nice improvement but there is more work to be done. There was a time when the combination of Millican and crew chief Mike Kloeber were money in Norwalk. They’d love to rekindle that fire this week.
Auto Club Chevy
There are only three tracks on the current tour where he hasn’t won a race and this is one of them (Richmond and Epping are the others). Coming off a big win in Topeka, Bristol was a huge disappointment but the best attribute this team has going for it is the ability to bounce back from a disappointing weekend.
The 150th win still looms large and he almost got it done on Father’s Day in Bristol with a strong runner-up finish. While he’s got just one win in Norwalk, daughter Courtney was in the final here three of the last four years and the bulk of her crew is now working with the 16-time world champion.
Bob Tasca III
Win a race and watch how quickly your Tipster stock rises. The Motorcraft team has made numerous changes in order to be more competitive and the payoff was an impressive Bristol win. Any win would have been huge, but to win the way they did, with a very quick and consistent race car, suggests that this won’t be the last one they get this year.
On one hand, these guys have not been able to duplicate the dominant performance they last had in Richmond, but that doesn’t mean they are far off. In fact, they’ve been remarkably consistent if you’re willing to overlook a tire-smoking loss to Tasca in the Bristol semifinal. He’s also got a great record in Norwalk with a win in four finals since 2011.
Infinite Hero Dodge
Topeka runner-up managed to get to the semifinals in Bristol which gives him a solid 7-3 record through the first three rounds of the Summer swing. The Infinite Hero team has wins here in 2015 and 2017, which means they must have a decent handle on the Norwalk track surface. That bodes well for an extended stay in this year’s final eliminations.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Ran low E.T. of the first round last week with a 3.96 and then the wheels came off in round two. Once again, that’s just the breaks and not indicative of future potential. Remember, these guys won in Chicago just three weeks ago and they’re fully capable of winning another one here.
Seems a bit strange to have the world champion ranked this low but the last few races have been a grind for the DHL crew. They will certainly bounce back, and it might well happen this weekend. Also, very strange that no Kalitta Funny Car has been to a final in Norwalk, which is more or less their home event. Again, that’s a streak that could easily be broken this weekend.
Global Electronic Technology Toyota
Sometimes stats can be misleading. Yes, this car hasn’t been past the second round since their breakthrough win in Charlotte, but there are still signs of forward progress, especially in qualifying. There is also a certain amount of confidence in knowing that you’ve got a driver who can hammer the Christmas Tree without knocking the top light out.
Butner Automotive Camaro
Remember, he’s only lost two Pro Stock races this season and one of them came via a red-light start a few weeks ago in Chicago. That’s one of the very few mistakes he’s made in an otherwise flawless season. About the only thing he hasn’t done is doubled-up with a Pro Stock and Factory Stock win at the same event and don’t bet against that.
More of a hunch here than anything but isn't she just overdue for a little good luck? She’s also gotten lots of Pro Mod seat time lately which is never a bad thing. Finally, she was a winner here in 2014 and a runner-up last year and it’s not hard to imagine the Elite team might be primed for another final here.
Summit Racing Camaro
Driving the Summit flagship at the Summit event on the Summit track, doesn’t that make one think he wants to win here more than almost anywhere else? Historically, this place has been good to him with three wins in five final rounds.
Total Seal Camaro
Recently made headlines in the business world with the purchase of Total Seal but now it’s time to get back to business in Pro Stock which means chasing his second national event title. With two final round appearances so far this season, he’s come very close. Just needs a touch of luck in order to close the deal.
He’s been in the news so much lately for his exploits in Pro Mod, that it might be easy to forget that he’s having a hell of a year in Pro Stock. How good has he been? In six races, he’s got a runner-up and three semifinals. That means a win should be on the horizon.
American Ethanol Camaro
The only two drivers to qualify in the top half of the field at every Pro Stock race so far this year? Points leader Bo Butner and this guy, who is swinging a hot bat after his most recent win in Chicago. He’ll also be watching his father, David, race in the SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown.
Summit Racing Camaro
At the last couple of races his qualifying performance has improved dramatically and that should impact race day results. Well, at least that’s the theory. The 2009 and 2016 Norwalk winner seems to be shaking off the early-season funk and he certainly values a Norwalk victory every bit as much as Summit teammate Anderson.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
During his incredible career, he’s won national events at 24 different tracks, but this place isn’t one of them. It wouldn’t take much for the six-time champ to add this to his list. After that, he’ll only lack Epping when it comes to current national event facilities.
The last time we saw the bright red Denso bike was in the winner’s circle at Route 66 Raceway. For those who may have missed it, that race was almost a complete sweep that included the No. 2 qualifying spot, and another 200-mph run. Almost makes you wonder how the current champ went winless in the first five races.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
When you’ve started the season off with a 17-2 record and you’re headed to a track where you have four career wins and a runner-up, you know you must be doing something right. So far, this has been an epic season for the five-time champ, and he shows no signs of letting up any time soon.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
The “other” Harley-Davidson Street Rod has been a winner here in two of the last three seasons which is a good sign especially when one considers that he’s still looking for his first win of the season. It’s almost a given that he gets it at either here, or Denver or Sonoma, the next three events on the schedule.
Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Suzuki
In Chicago, she had four .00 lights in a row which is something even the sport’s best Super class racers have a hard time doing. Needless to say, she’s doing some of the best riding of her career this year and with White Alligator horsepower, one gets the sense a win is imminent.
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
Credit where credit is due. In past years, consistency has been an issue here but not this season. He’s been rock-solid with a win and five-semifinals in the first six races. On top of that, he’s not qualified any worse than fourth this season. Much like Stoffer, we’d expect to see a victory sooner rather than later.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
She’s climbed from No. 13 to No. 8 in the last few races and we’d expect there are a few more steps up the ladder yet to climb. At this point, she’s made enough runs on the Harley Street Rod that a victory would not be the least bit surprising.
Flyin’ Ryan EBR
There isn’t anyone in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, or anywhere else for that matter, who isn’t impressed by the progress he’s made this year but he’s still got his hands full with the top bikes in the class. A final round would not be a huge surprise, but he’s got to find another gear to run with the leaders.
Early-season bike issues appear to have been solved since she’s qualified No. 8 and No. 6 at the last two races. Now, it’s time to rack up a few win lights, which is easier said than done with this crew since there are about 8-10 bikes that could legitimately win a race these days.
Coming off an emotional win in Topeka the points leader suffered a tough loss in the quarterfinals in Bristol but remains the best of the best in the NHRA Pro Mod class. There are probably 15 or more Pro Mod cars capable of winning any given race but “Stevie Fast” currently rates a slim edge against all of them. Oh, and apparently, he doesn’t like turbo cars. Who knew?
Bristol winner made four race day runs between 5.84 and 5.87, which is about as good as it gets. He was also solid, if not spectacular on the starting line which makes for a tough combination. Even though he missed the Topeka race, he remains a legit contender for the E3 Pro Mod championship.
Talk about a gutsy performance. Less than a week after his hard crash in Topeka, he jumps in a back-up car and sets low E.T. in Bristol with a 5.77. Only a five-thousandths red-light prevented what could have been a storybook finish.
Artivinco Racing Camaro
The DNQ in Gainesville is a distant memory now. In the last three races he’s got a runner-up and two semifinals, and the Brazilian is back in the championship picture. His qualifying results have gotten much better lately.
AAP/Janis Superchargers Camaro
The 2015 Norwalk winner looked just fine during Bristol qualifying when he was third on the sheet but Sunday’s elimination were a struggle. There is still time to make a run at a second championship but he’s out of mulligans. A win here before the long summer break up to Indy is almost mandatory.
This has been a strange season for what has traditionally been one of Pro Mod’s most competitive teams but they’re still capable of winning, which was proven in Atlanta. So far, it’s been all or nothing but sooner or later, one has to figure that crew chief Frank Manzo is going to figure out a few things.
You know that your luck might be changing when you get into the field as an alternate and then drive your way to the semifinals. To be honest, this should be the last time the Elite team is in that position. They’ve made enough progress that qualifying for any race should not be an issue going forward.
Bond Coat Camaro
Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it relates to the demise of the nitrous car in NHRA Pro Mod. Week after week, this guy is as competitive as anyone in the class. He was within .03-second of the quickest car in the field last week in Bristol and has qualified No. 2 at three of the first six events.