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Tricky Tipster: Torrence, Hight, and Butner picked to dominate in the desert

Coming off a successful Pomona opener, Tricky Tipster sets the Phoenix line with Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, and Bo Butner as the favorites.
21 Feb 2019
NHRA National Dragster staff
News
Phoenix Tipster

Off to a respectable start after Robert Hight’s win in Pomona, Tricky Tipster will play the hot hand and go with the Auto Club driver to grab a second Funny Car title in Phoenix. Tiptster is also leaning in favor of reigning Mello Yello Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence, despite his final round loss in Pomona. Finally, Pomona winner Bo Butner has earned the top spot against a Pro Stock field that is thick with talent.

TOP FUEL

FUNNY CAR | PRO STOCK

Steve Torrence
Capco Contractors

Okay, so he didn’t win Pomona, but does anyone not think this is still the best team in Top Fuel? He’ll be challenged at times this season and his edge doesn’t appear to be as big as it was during last year’s Countdown sweep. Regardless, the path to glory at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park goes through Team Capco
Odds: 5-2

Doug Kalitta
Mac Tools

He did not venture into the 3.6s in Pomona, but his consistency was amazing including a 3.71 in qualifying to race day runs of 3.70, 3.71, and 3.70 before knocking the tires loose in the final. We’d like to see him qualify higher than No. 7, but that’s being nit-picky. He’s earned his spot as one of the favorites.
Odds: 4-1

Mike Salinas
Scrappers Racing

Everyone figured this team would be better this year and so far, everyone has been right. Collected his first 3.6-second time slip in Pomona and made it to the semifinals where he lost a heartbreaker against Torrence. Hard to imagine those races won’t soon start going the other way.
Odds: 5-1

Billy Torrence
Capco Contractors

Part-timer eh? Don’t treat him like one, not after last year’s breakthrough win in Brainerd and certainly not after he ran 3.66 in Pomona, the second quickest run of the event. The holeshot loss to Kalitta was a bit of a surprise, but it’s not likely to be repeated often.
Odds: 6-1

Terry McMillen
Amalie Motor Oil

So “the little team that could” shows up in Pomona with a new chassis and zero testing runs. Then what happens? How about a career-best 3.69 and a semifinal finish. It’s also a crying shame that his semifinal loss to Kalitta goes down as a holeshot. No shame in a .056 light and a 3.706.
Odds: 8-1

Austin Prock
Montana Brand

Does the term “naturally gifted” apply here? Tipster certainly thinks so. Two weeks before Pomona he’d made exactly zero runs in a Top Fuel dragster. A quick license crossgrade and he goes right into the 3.6s and scores his first-round win. Extra credit for getting the car stopped with no chutes in Pomona.
Odds: 10-1

Leah Pritchett
Mopar/Pennzoil

Pomona was certainly a mixed bag with a round one win against teammate Antron Brown being the highpoint. The team also sacrificed it’s fair share of parts which is always a cause for concern. She won back-to-back titles here in 2016-17 which certainly is a cause for optimism.
Odds: 12-1

Brittany Force
Advance Auto Parts

Smoking the tires in round one was certainly not part of the game plan but otherwise, the first race with new crew chief David Grubnic could and should be considered a success. Of all the 3.6-second runs recorded in Pomona, their 3.69 in qualifying was one of the most impressive.
Odds: 14-1

FUNNY CAR

Robert Hight
Auto Club Chevy

No. 1 qualifier, low E.T. of the race, and the first Funny Car Wally of the year make it hard to call their Pomona season debut anything other than a smashing success. For good measure, he was also solid on the Tree including a .054 light in the final that was a key to victory.
Odds: 3-1

Jack Beckman
Infinite Hero Dodge

Was this the most consistent car in Pomona? Probably so. He not only made three 3.8-second runs on race day but also ran a 3.900 in qualifying when almost no one else was able to get down the track under power. He’s also got three-career wins in Phoenix so this place has been good to him over the years.
Odds: 4-1

Tommy Johnson Jr.
Make-A-Wish Dodge

Qualified No. 3 in Pomona and made it to the semifinals. That’s certainly not a bad way to start a new season. That being said, this team is capable of more. A lot more. They way this car runs, they should be in contention for a win at just about every race. A little good luck would go a long way around here.
Odds: 6-1

John Force
Peak Chevy

Are we being too generous moving him up this far? Tipster doesn’t think so. Having most of Courtney’s crew working on the Peak car has so far been a breath of fresh air for the 16-time champ. He looked like a driver who is longing to collect his 150th race win sooner rather than later. Bonus points for setting top speed of the race at over 334-mph.
Odds: 7-1

J.R. Todd
DHL Toyota

It’s almost inevitable that every driver in the Funny Car class is going to have a few round one losses this season. The competition is just too tough. So, it’s better to get them out of the way early. It’s certainly painful to begin a new season with a loss, but it would be really foolish to think the DHL crew won’t be in the championship hunt until the bitter end. They will.
Odds: 8-1

Matt Hagan
Mopar Express Lane Dodge

Won here in 2015 and again in 2017 and has a runner-up in 2013 thrown in for good measure. Coming off a surprising round one loss in Pomona so he’s liable to arrive in Phoenix with a good-sized chip on his shoulder.
Odds: 9-1

Ron Capps
NAPA Dodge

During qualifying in Pomona, the four Don Schumacher Racing Funny Cars were separated by just .015-second. On race day, Beckman went the distance while Hagan and Capps went out early. That’s not really an indicator of potential. We’d be more inclined to take his three previous Phoenix wins into consideration.
Odds: 11-1

Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft Quick Lane Ford

If this was the stock market, Rhode Island’s finest would be tabbed as a “strong buy” because the potential for future growth is massive. The new Ford Mustang body seems like a winner off the bat and the car was very consistent in Pomona. They need a couple of hundredths to keep pace with the leaders but that’s coming.
Odds: 13-1

PRO STOCK

Bo Butner
Butner Auto Camaro

For a guy who was supposed to be on the sidelines this year, he sure looked good winning Pomona. All kidding aside, he didn’t come back to be anything less than a championship contender. If one might recall, it took him awhile to learn how to win in a Pro Stock car but we think he’s got the hang of it now.
Odds: 4-1

Erica Enders
Melling/Elite Camaro

Picked a horrible time to have what might end up being her worst light of the year [.070]. She’s obviously much better than that and it's almost a certainty that we’re going to see a much better effort this time around. She had one of the best cars in Pomona and that’s more than half the battle.
Odds: 5-1

Jason Line
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro

Historically, he’s done well here with two wins and five final rounds including a runner-up finish at last year’s race. Coming off a solid runner-up finish in Pomona, he appears to have moved past the struggles that contributed to his slow start in 2018.
Odds: 6-1

Jeg Coughlin Jr.
JEGS.com/Elite Camaro

Much like a major league pitcher who gets shelled in his first outing of the season, it’s best just to put Pomona in the rearview mirror and move on to the next start. This team is obviously much better than it showed two weeks ago. Bank on a more consistent effort this time around. A dominant win would not be the least bit surprising.
Odds: 7-1

Greg Anderson
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro

Much like rival Coughlin, he didn’t come to Pomona expecting a round one loss. The same can be said for his future potential. The four-time champ is capable of much more than we’re probably going to see it this time around. As for Pomona, he certainly looked solid in qualifying.
Odds: 9-1

Chris McGaha
Harlow Sammons Camaro

Defending Phoenix champ didn’t get down the track on either of his Monday runs in Pomona but that’s not an impeachable offense. Weather and track conditions were tricky for everyone. It’s still tough to know what we’re getting here from week to week but we think there will be significant improvement this time around.
Odds: 10-1

Rodger Brogdon
RB Racing Camaro

Okay, who thought this would be the guy wearing the green [low qualifier] hat in Pomona? Sure, you did. That does, however, illustrate the “anyone can win” nature of the Pro Stock class in 2019. Qualifying fortunes are interchangeable with race-day luck which means he might just up and win this race.
Odds: 12-1

Deric Kramer
American Ethanol Camaro

Here’s another guy who wants to forget that the season has already started. Pomona counts as a mulligan [okay, not really] but there is still a lot of time to right the ship and it begins here in Phoenix. He figures to do well in the new NHRA Power Rankings just because his lights are usually pretty solid.
Odds: 14-1