At the last race in Atlanta, Steve Torrence, Tricky Tipster’s most reliable pick over the past two seasons, came through again from the favorite’s position with his second-straight Top Fuel win. We also had Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Andrew Hines ranked highly on our tote board. That was the good news. The downside is that we threw up a massive airball on Funny Car winner Ron Capps and Pro Mod champ Mike Castellana. Now let’s move on to Richmond.
After back-to-back wins in Charlotte and Atlanta should it be safe to assume the reigning champion has returned to the form that allowed him to sweep all six Countdown races to end 2018? Winning three in a row is hard to do in any class, but based on past performance, the Capco crew seems more than capable of pulling it off.
Advance Auto Parts
An early-round loss in Charlotte notwithstanding, the Advance Auto team is arguably the hottest team in Top Fuel right now with three final rounds in the last four events. They’ve also been the top qualifier in three of the first seven races this season. And, crew chief David Grubnic says the best is yet to come.
Business commitments at home in California prevented Top Fuel’s newest winner from attending the Atlanta race but there’s no reason to think the Scrappers team won’t be able to pick up right where they left off. He dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings by missing Atlanta but there’s plenty of time left to make that up.
Coming off a round one loss in Atlanta, but that is the only real misstep in what has otherwise been a great 2019 season. He was in the final here last year and also claimed a Richmond win in 2007, which provides a good omen for this event.
By now, everyone should know the deal here. This is a part-time team that delivers full-time results. He’s only been to four races this year and already has a win from the No. 1 qualifying spot in Phoenix. He also might represent the best hope to prevent son and teammate, Steve, from winning his third-straight race.
It there’s one Top Fuel team that is due for a breakthrough performance, this might be the one. Consider that she’s qualified no worse than fifth at every race since Gainesville and most of her losses have been close. Oh, and it’s also about time for her Factory Stock effort to start showing improved results.
After reaching the final round in Charlotte we had high hopes for this group in Atlanta, but they dropped a close race against Antron Brown in round one. In the interest of fair reporting, he did make the second-best run of the round and was beaten (barely) by the best run of eliminations. Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For what it’s worth, he was a runner-up to Brandon Bernstein at this race in 2009. More importantly, he made the quickest run of eliminations in Atlanta which, given the forecast for this week, might be great news as the tour heads into the summer months.
Auto Club Chevy
Anytime you can go to the semifinals and leave the track feeling dejected you know you must be doing something right. That’s where the Auto Club team is right now after winning three of the first seven races and making the final of another. He’s already got 18 round wins. Last year, he didn’t’ reach that number until Epping (race 13). On pace to break his own personal best of 45 round wins in 2017.
NAPA Brakes Dodge
If you watched this car closely since the first of the season, their win in Atlanta wasn’t at all surprising. Qualifying has been a struggle at the last couple of events but that’s not indicative of the NAPA team’s overall performance. They should be in the top five by early June. Oh, and they’ve elected to stick with their special NAPA Brakes colors which seem to bring good luck.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
Would have, should have, and could have won in Atlanta, which would have been a perfect way to celebrate his 500th professional start. For anyone who might think he just gets lucky on race day it’s worth pointing out that he’s only qualified worse than fourth in two of seven races this season. Every week, he spits in the face of those who suggest that only big multi-car teams are capable of winning.
NHRA has held 11 national events at Virginia Motorsports Park and guess who has been to the final in five of them and has four wins? That’s right, it’s this guy who continues to pursue history-making win No. 150. It’s going to happen sooner or later, and the smart money is on sooner.
Lost a little momentum since his four-wide win in Las Vegas but there’s certainly no reason to panic here. This team is as solid as ever and they’re going to get their fair share before this is over. He’s entering this race with the same number of round wins (9) that he had at this point last year and we all remember how that turned out.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Arguably one of the class’ most consistent cars this year, he delivered a semifinal performance in Atlanta. Honestly, this is a solid top-half qualifier that could easily have a win or two this season if a couple of the lucky breaks had gone their way. For what it’s worth, he did win his Wednesday night match race against crew chief John Collins last week in Indy. Hey, a win is a win.
Mopar Express Lane Dodge
This is technically his home race so naturally he wants to do well, but then again, who doesn’t? Before an ugly loss in Atlanta, he went to back-to-back finals in Houston and Charlotte and he is ranked second in the points so maybe we’re being a little too judgmental sticking him all the way down here. Before Atlanta, he’d also been a rock in qualifying with six races in the top six.
Global Electronic Technologies
Recently he Tweeted that the betting gods were just toying with him. Surely, he wasn’t referring to Tricky Tipster, a 50-year NHRA institution? He makes the list this week following a tough outing in Atlanta, but less than a month removed from a confidence-restoring win in Charlotte.
Butner Automotive Camaro
The last time we saw traditional 500-inch Pro Stock cars in Las Vegas, this guy was celebrating his third win in four races this season. For a quick review of his year to date, he’s 12-1 with his only loss coming in the second round in Phoenix. That was nearly three months ago. That’s why he’s a solid favorite this week.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
JEGS Mail Order Camaro
He’s won races at 24 different NHRA national event tracks including Virginia Motorsports Park and before Pro Stock’s spring break, he was off to a solid start with a win in Phoenix. Early losses at the other events are troubling, but not enough to keep him out of the No. 2 spot this week. You might remember that he also won the Super Comp title here last year. He really is capable of winning in anything.
There has been no downtime for the two-time champion who has spent the last month wheeling her 260-mph turbo Pro Mod. She now has the speed record in both classes and she’s also creeping up on 300 round wins and 500 total rounds. She was already arguably the best driver in Pro Stock and one would have to imagine that the extra seat time in a Pro Mod is beneficial.
Laughlin Motorsports Camaro
Like teammate Enders, he didn’t exactly sit still during the month-long downtime between Pro Stock events. He is also a regular in the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod series. Also worth pointing out that he enters this race ranked No. 2 in the Mello Yello standings because he’s off to the best start of his career.
Summit Racing Camaro
During the break in the Pro Stock schedule, he took some time to race his Buick Stocker in Charlotte, but it’s a safe bet that the rest of his days (and probably plenty of nights) were spent on the dyno at KB Racing HQ in Mooresville. Certainly, qualifying No. 10 at the last two races does not sit well with him.
Total Seal Camaro
His last three qualifying performances? Fourth, third, and fourth. That’s about as good as it gets in Pro Stock so it’s no surprise that he’s been to a pair of finals already and is ranked third in the standings. He’s always been known as a part-time guy but now he’s got a legit chance to do something special this season.
Summit Racing Camaro
He got beat up badly in the first three races, but Las Vegas was a big improvement. Hard to imagine he didn’t gain some benefits from the monthlong break whether it was fixing mechanical issues or reevaluating his mental game. Either way, its likely that we’re going to see a much better effort from this point forward.
RB Machine Camaro
In qualifying, he’s been a wizard with a pair of green hats (low qualifier awards) in the first four races. In Pro Stock, you’re going to need power in order to succeed and he’s got plenty of that so it’s just a matter of time before the race-day win lights start coming on.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
How’s this for a start to the season? He’s 13-1 with three wins so far and his only loss came when his bike wouldn’t start in the Las Vegas final. In other words, no one has beaten him to the finish line yet this season. That’s a huge improvement over his winless 2018 season.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Expected to debut his new Harley Street Rod this week. The new chassis is nearly identical to the one that Hines has used to destroy the competition so far. With no time to test, it’s possible that it might take a race or two to adjust to the new ride. Then again, maybe not.
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
Remember when Tipster used to beat on these guys about being inconsistent? Not this year. In four events, he’s got a win and three semi’s. No first or second round losses which is extraordinary, even for a four-race stretch. The next time he turns on a win light, which should be this weekend, it will be the 200th of his career.
Puzzling that a bike this good could go out in the first round in both Charlotte and Atlanta? Also, a bit surprising to see his qualifying performance slip after winning the pole in Las Vegas. Regardless, this is still the team that won the championship last season and they’re capable of going the distance at any time.
Flyin’ Ryan EBR
Hard to put into words how impressive this team has been this season. From bike to rider to crew chief, everything is better than it was last year and now he’s figuring out how to consistently win rounds. He’s only run 24 races on an NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle, but one would never know it to watch him ride. Easily the favorite to become NHRA’s next first-time professional winner and it might even happen before the tour heads west this summer.
Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Suzuki
Admittedly, she was lucky to beat Matt Smith in Atlanta but it’s also hard to argue that she isn’t riding the most competitive bike he’s had in years. This is the first race without team owner Jerry Savoie, so she’ll have the undivided attention of crew chief Tim Kulungian. That could change the balance of power in the class.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
When it comes to riding the Harley Street Rod, she’s still a work in progress but she looked very confident in Atlanta and was rewarded with her first round win as a member of the Vance & Hines team. It might take a few more races before she’s ready to challenge her teammates but it’s not hard to imagine her winning a race this year either.
Reed Motorsports EBR
At the last race in Atlanta he was the victim of bad luck. He killed the Tree in round one but so did opponent Ryan Oehler. He’s still one of the best riders in the class (perhaps even the best in the minds of some folks) but he needs to have the right horse under him to get the desired results.
The good news is that he’s got a win, a runner-up, and a semifinal to start the season and he’s the point leader but he’s in a vulnerable spot leading by a single point which means this is no time to step off the gas. His last race ended with an embarrassing foul start in the first round in a race he should easily have won. That will be more than enough motivation for a better effort this time around.
AAP/Janis Superchargers Camaro
Defending event winner and series champion is off to another quick start with a win in Charlotte and a pair of semifinals so far this year. For a brief moment, it looked like the points battle would be a two-horse race between Jackson and Tutterow but he’s got other ideas. As a side note, he’s improved his qualifying position at every event this year.
He’s only got three losses this season and two of them have come against Mike Janis so he might want to avoid the reigning champ at lest until the final. Then again, the way to win a championship is to take care of the tough guys first. Of course, this is NHRA Pro Mod and they are all tough guys (and girls).
There is a good chance that this will be a warm weather race and that is likely to favor the turbocharged cars like this one. Not that he needs any assistance after a semifinal in Houston and a runner-up in Atlanta. If not for a pair of red-lights, he could be challenging for the lead but as it is, he’s only 60-points behind Jackson so he’s very much part of the championship discussion.
Bond Coat Camaro
Some of the so-called Pro Mod experts seem to thing that the nitrous combination is all-but dead. Here’s someone who thinks otherwise and has the time slips to prove it. He’s qualified No. 2, No. 4, and No. 2 in the last three races and had a great shot to make the final in Atlanta until he got tripped up by a centerline violation.
So far, this season has included three DNQs and a redeeming victory in Atlanta. Again, that just underscores how crazy the Pro Mod class can be. Given his horrible start, it’s probably too late to make a run at the championship but he can sure make life miserable for those who are pursuing it.
He’s managed to go 16 races in his career without a DNQ but that streak nearly ended in Atlanta when he landed on the bump spot. As a general rule, qualifying isn’t a problem for this team, and neither is winning rounds. Should he make it to the final here he’ll be right in the thick of the points battle.
J&A Services Cadillac
Clinging to a spot in the top ten but made a big splash this week with the addition of points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson as a crew chief. That should be a tremendous benefit to this car and the one campaigned by his father, Jim. Expect to see a dramatic improvement and it probably won’t take long.