Minnesota may be the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but there will be just three professional winners crowned during this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Coming off strong performances during the recent Western Swing, those most likely to succeed at Brainerd Int’l Raceway include nitro points leaders Steve Torrence and Robert Hight in Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively, as well as Minnesota native Greg Anderson in Pro Stock.
Even though he lost in the semifinals in Sonoma and the Seattle final is there anyone who doesn’t still think this is the best car in Top Fuel? We didn’t think so. While it’s entirely possible that the Capco Team will use this opportunity to test before Indy and the Countdown, they remain pretty big favorites to win the event.
Really tough to predict where this team is right now but one would have to think they’re looking forward to NHRA’s annual trip to Minnesota for no other reason then they’ve been in the final for the last three years. Did anyone else notice that the Macto Team has moved into second place in the Mello Yello standings?
Time to find out just how serious he is about making it into the Countdown to the Championship. He’s currently in 12th place, 66 points behind tenth-ranked Terry McMillen which means he’s going to need to win some rounds in Brainerd and Indy. As strong as this car has been, it’s a very achievable goal.
Overall, the Western Swing was solid with a pair of finals and a very respectable 7-3 record in elimination rounds. For what it’s worth, he went to the final here in 2013 so there’s a bit of Brainerd history as well. Actually, that’s almost irrelevant since this car is good enough to win anywhere.
Career-wise, he’s got two wins in four final rounds in Brainerd. This would be a good time to string together a few win lights since the Kalitta flagship has not been to a semifinal since Bristol, and their qualifying results have been a mixed bag.
Montana Brands/Rocky Mountain Twist
His performance in Seattle? In a word, clutch. He probably locked up the Auto Club Road to the Future award, but also gave himself some much-needed breathing room in the battle to make the Countdown to the Championship field.
Anyone who saw his “My Journey” feature on the Fox TV broadcast from Seattle should realize where the Scrappers team started and just how far they have come. There is still much work to be done, but there is also a championship-winning team in the making here, and it could happen this season.
Advance Auto Parts/Carquest
Seems strange to have the 2017 champ sitting on the bubble this week but that’s an indication of just how stacked the Brainerd field is. There’s probably 10-12 cars that could legitimately win the race and this is certainly one of them. In fact, she won here two years ago.
Auto Club Chevy
Why is he ranked in the top spot this week? Why wouldn’t he be? This has been the best car in the class for nearly the entire 2019 season and he’s got a hammerlock on the top spot in the Countdown. He can’t even be too upset about losing to his boss, John Force, in the semifinals in Seattle.
A runner-up in Seattle was a great result for the NAPA team and they’re now headed to Brainerd, where Capps has five wins in eight final rounds during his career. There isn’t a team out here that wouldn’t love to head to Indy with the confidence that a Brainerd win would bring. These guys have one of the best shots to do just that.
Assuming he’s fully recovered from his epic run-in with the fence in Seattle, it’s time for the 16-time champ to get to work on win No. 151. Don’t laugh, it’s well within reach. Clearly, he’ll never get to 200, but no one should believe he doesn’t have enough left in the tank for a few more.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Raise your hand if you’ve been to the final in Brainerd in three of the last four years. That’s right, these guys have done just that and to be honest, the car they’re bringing this year is probably better than the one they brought in 2015, 2017, or 2018. We’re sure they’d also love to get back around John Force for second place.
Bob Tasca III
No one likes to end the Western Swing on a down note so their quarterfinal loss to Jack Beckman was certainly a bummer, but on the bright side, the Motorcraft team was quickest in qualifying in Seattle, and they also got their first-ever 330-mph time slip. Also, a decent chance they crack the top five by the time the Countdown begins, which ain’t bad for a team that left Topeka in tenth place.
Infinite Hero Dodge
There car be only one defending champion at an event and it’s this guy. In fact, this is the site of his last victory although he’s been to three finals this year. The Infinite Hero car has come close a number of times lately, so it’s not unreasonable to think they’re about to close the deal this weekend.
His Western Swing report card indicates steady progress with a tough loss in Denver followed by a runner-up in Sonoma and a very close semifinal loss to Ron Capps in Seattle. He event picked up a spot in the standings for his efforts. When the weather is right, Brainerd can be a “flex your muscles” type of track and well, no one does that better than this guy.
Global Electronic Technologies Toyota
After a grueling Western Swing, most NHRA pros took a much-needed break and then there was this guy, who went to Ohio with his bracket car to race for close to $200,000. The extra seat time, and the constant high-pressure situations can do nothing but help once the Countdown starts and the pressure gets really intense.
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro
Okay, so he didn’t sweep the Western Swing but what do you suppose an 11-1 record over the last month has done for his self-confidence? As a Minnesota native, we all know how much he loves the Brainerd race and he hasn’t won or even been to a final here since 2011. That should change shortly.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
Might seem a bit peculiar to have the yellow and black team ranked this high but look at their qualifying results over the Western Swing; 1, 2, 3. That proves the car is good enough to win and the driver is certainly more than capable. All that’s needed is a bit of good luck to pick up a second victory this season.
Total Seal Camaro
Ten races this season and he’s been to four finals and recently closed the deal in Seattle. There aren’t many racers in any class who wouldn’t be happy with that sort of success. If there is going to be another first-time champion in the Pro Stock class this year, this guy is your best bet.
Butner Auto Camaro
It would have been hard to imagine he was going to keep up the torrid pace he started the season with, so we guess the recent mini-slump could be expected. Actually, his Western Swing wasn’t as bad as if could have been. He was able to salvage a semifinal finish in Sonoma. He’s been to a final here in the past so don’t be surprised to see him win again.
In three of the last six races, he’s lost to Greg Anderson which leaves basically two options. Avoid the Summit driver at all costs or better yet, figure out a way to beat him. In all seriousness, this team is good enough to beat anyone, they could just use a tiny bit of good luck to get over the hump.
American Ethanol Camaro
A year ago, he put it to eventual world champ Tanner Gray in the final round of this event and he’s got a great chance to repeat with an American Ethanol Camaro that hasn’t qualified lower than No. 8 at any event this year and hasn’t been lower than sixth since Chicago.
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro
Seems like a long time ago that he was last in a final round and that’s because it was back in February in Pomona. Needless to say, this would be a perfect time for him to break out of that slump. Given his results lately, one would have to think that career Pro Stock win No. 49 is on the horizon.
Really hard to put a finger on the 2015 Brainerd champ lately. She can still drive the wheels off a Pro Stock car and her Elite Camaro isn’t half-bad. Results however, have been tough to come by lately. Really though to believe this team has only been to one final round so far this season. On the bright side, the Countdown hasn’t started yet so there is still time to make a run at the championship.