His chest swelling with pride, NHRA’s own Tricky Tipster can’t help but remind his faithful followers about the nearly-perfect scorecard he posted for the recent Virginia NHRA Nationals in Richmond where pre-race favorites Steve Torrence, Bo Butner, and Andrew Hines delivered the goods in Top Fuel, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively. Also, it’s worth noting that Richmond Funny Car champ Ron Capps came from the No. 2 spot. Heading into the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, there is little reason to deviate from that plan so the pre-race picks for this weekend’s race will be very familiar.
Here we go again. The same guy who closed the 2018 season with six-straight wins is riding a streak of three-straight wins in Charlotte, Atlanta, and Richmond he’s looked like the champion that he is in each of them. It would be extremely hard to argue that this isn’t the hands-down best team in Top Fuel right now and given the level of competition, that’s saying a lot.
Close battle for the No. 2 spot behind Torrence and the Scrappers team currently has a hold on it after a solid semifinal finish in Richmond and of course their breakthrough win in Las Vegas. If he hadn’t smoked the tires, likely would have made it to another final round in Virginia. These guys have also been great in qualifying, which is always a plus.
Advance Auto Parts
Expect this car to put down a big number during the nighttime qualifying sessions and the Advance crew has a strong chance for a productive Sunday afternoon. There are still a few consistency issues that need to be addressed, but that’s a minor point of debate at this stage. This is, and should continue to be, a car that contends for the Mello Yello championship.
Set low e.t. and top speed in Richmond, which featured the hottest track conditions of the year (so far). The weather figures to be much cooler in Chicago but that’s hardly a problem for a team that seems to be able to handle just about anything that’s thrown at it. And one other thing, he is the defending event winner here.
He’s going to get a nice bump this week from Tipster because his performance in Richmond was solid, and a sign of real progress. Two final rounds in the last four races is definitely something for the Matco team to hang their hats on. Got to think their first win of the season is coming soon.
We go on and on about the consistency of the Mac team and then they suffer back-to-back round one losses. What gives? Honestly, its hard not to think that’s just a bump in the road. This is still a top five car and Doug’s incredible career includes three wins at Route 66 Raceway, which should make this one of his favorite tracks.
The last time we saw this guy, he was issuing a not-so-gentle reminder to the field in Gainesville that part-time teams are not to be taken lightly. He’s got a really fast car and doesn’t seem to be affected by long layoffs. Should he score his first win at this event, it will touch off a celebration to rival the Cubs historic World Series title in 2016.
Lots of ups and downs lately for this crew although their qualifying performances have been very consistent. They were also in the final here last year which is also never a bad thing. This is a DSR team with a quality driver and crew so no one should be surprised if they went on a tear and won a couple of races this summer. The potential is certainly there.
NAPA Brakes Dodge
Let’s face it, a race car does not know what color it is or what logos it’s carrying. Or maybe it does? Whatever the case, the NAPA team has been red hot since they debuted their special edition NAPA Brakes promotion. Just a touch ironic that a team that now seems to be unstoppable is bannering a product designed to help improve stopping power.
Auto Club Chevy
Surrendered the top spot to Capps this week but only by a fraction. One could easily argue that this is still the best car in the class. Expect crew chief Jimmy Prock to aim for the moon on Friday night but its worth noting that the Auto Club team can be just as dangerous during Sunday’s final eliminations.
So, how’s that title defense going? Pretty darn well, we’d say. Consider that last year after the first eight races, he had two wins and an 11-6 record in elimination rounds. This time around: one win and a 13-6 record on race day so that whole championship hangover argument is null and void here.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Semifinal in Atlanta. Semifinal in Richmond. Two strong qualifying efforts. Something good is brewing in the Make-A-Wish camp and it’s not a longshot to think they’ll be the next Funny Car team to post a win this season. So far, Hight, Capps, Langdon, Hagan, and Todd have closed the deal this season.
This will be national event No. 770 for the 16-time champ which is amazing when one considers that only Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, and now Tim Wilkerson have reached the 500 mark. More importantly, he’s an eight-time finalist at Route 66 Raceway with three wins in the bank. Yes, we’re going to keep harping on win No. 150 until it happens. Tipster thinks it will come by the Western Swing.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
Made a very competitive run in the first round in Richmond but it wasn’t enough to get a win. Perhaps he’s saving some of his good luck for this race, his home event. The last time that the Levi, Ray & Shoup crew win in Chicago, it was 1999. Since we seem to be celebrating anniversaries lately, it would be a good time to replicate what happened 20 years ago.
Global Electronic Technologies
With a .050 light and a 4.08, he almost got the best of teammate J.R. Todd in the second round in Richmond. Now that the Global car seems to have found a bit of consistency, we’re likely to see what he’s capable of as a driver, which we know from past experience is plenty.
Infinite Hero Dodge
Won here in 2016 over teammate Ron Capps. Could it happen again? Sure, why not. The Infinite Hero team has underperformed since making the final in Pomona, but one gets the sense that they are not far off. This is also a team that figures to throw down a big number on Friday night which at the very least, sets up a favorable draw for Sunday’s opening round.
Butner Auto Camaro
Anyone remember the 1993 season when Dave Schultz won so many Pro Stock Motorcycle events that his competitors took up a collection and posted a bounty that went to anyone who could beat him? We might be entering that stage with this guy, who hasn’t lost a round of Pro Stock competition since February 24. Ante up.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
JEGS Mail Order Camaro
Won here last year which is always a big deal since this is the home of the JEGS Allstars race for sportsman racers. He’s got six career wins here which technically makes it one of his best tracks. The six-time champ is also coming off a solid semifinal finish in Richmond so there’s a lot to like about the yellow and black this week.
Laughlin Motorsports Camaro
Been getting a lot of credit lately for all the different cars he drives and deservedly so, but when the rubber hits the road, Pro Stock is still his bread and butter and the class where he most wants to succeed. Consider that last year he only won ten rounds in Pro Stock and he’s already at nine in just five races. That will tell you how much he’s improved this season.
Summit Racing Camaro
The KB team clearly made good use of the five-week break between races and showed it when they nailed down four of the top five qualifying spots in Richmond. This guy seemed to benefit most from the added power, reaching the final after a tough start to the season. He’s been to five finals here since 2011 with two wins so he’s also a big fan of Route 66 Raceway.
Hard to believe it was seven years ago when she defeated Greg Anderson in Chicago to win her first Pro Stock race. A lot has happened since then and most of it has been good, particularly the two championships. It might be hard to believe but she’s actually a better driver now than she was then.
Summit Racing Camaro
Not really a lot to complain about when you start the year with a runner-up, a semifinal, and two quarterfinals in the first five races. The only thing missing is a win and that’s probably not far off. It also appears they KB team has fixed their qualifying issues with all of their Pro Stock teams in the top half of the field in Richmond.
Harlow Sammons Camaro
Seems he also put the schedule break to good use with a renewed effort in Richmond that fell just short of a semifinal. His odds would greatly improve if he could avoid running Bo Butner, who has been responsible for three of his five losses this year. Then again, almost everyone in the class can say the same thing right now.
Total Seal Camaro
This will mark his 99th event as a pro and he’s honestly in the best spot of his career with a car that’s capable of winning races and a solid hold on one of the coveted spots in the Countdown to the Championship. For the most part, he’s been great in qualifying and another solid run here certainly wouldn’t hurt his chances.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Okay, make it 17-1 this year and he still hasn’t been outrun to the finish line by any of his competitors. And that whole bounty thing we mentioned in regard to Bo Butner? Perhaps the five-time champion also a candidate for that sort of treatment from his peers.
Lately, he’s been about the only guy who could keep the Harley-Davidson team in check, and he’s got the added bonus of being the defending event winner here. Shocking that a team this good can already be 251-points out of first place but that is not an indicator of their true potential. Believe it or not, he’s still among the favorites to win the championship.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
At first glance, his new Street Rod appears to be just as good as the one ridden by teammate Hines. That’s not good news for anyone who isn’t a member of the Vance & Hines team. Oddly enough, he’s never had much success here with just one runner-up finish in the last decade. That should help explain why he’s third here.
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
A win and four semifinal finishes should count as a strong start to a season in anyone’s book. For a rider who has sometimes struggled with consistency problems, it’s a clear sign that the Lucas Oil team is going to contend for the full season. Speaking of consistency, he’s been to the final round here in three of the last five years with two wins.
White Alligator Suzuki
Missed the Richmond race but that should not affect his performance in any way. The last time he raced in Atlanta, he made it to the final and qualified solidly in the No. 5 spot. Expect him to once again take the fight to the V-twin bikes. He’s already proven that he can hold his own against them.
Flyin’ Ryan EBR
It’s been obvious from the start of the season that this kid is going places in a hurry. His bike is quick, and his riding has steadily improved over the last two seasons since his NHRA debut. He’s due for a breakthrough performance and what place would be better then Route 66 Raceway, which just happens to be his home track?
Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Suzuki
The good news is that she does not have a round one loss this season. The bad news is that she’s hasn’t been past the quarterfinals but she’s definitely trending in the right direction and it wouldn’t take a lot to see her in a final round in the near future. She’s been very solid in qualifying, which helps set up a favorable ladder on race day.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Teammate Andrew Hines says she’s turned the corner as far as riding the team’s Street Rod and we have no reason to doubt him. After five semi-competitive races she’s shown a dramatic improvement and now it’s time to start turning on some win lights. She broke into the top ten in Richmond and there is no excuse for not staying there until the Countdown.