With 10 races on the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule for Pro Stock competitors, the recent Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals represents the midway point of the season so it seems like as good a place as any to reflect on what’s happened and what could happen over the balance of the season.
In past seasons, the U.S. Nationals was always the gateway to the Countdown to the Championship with a points reset that brought everyone back into a tighter pack, but with no Countdown this season, those hard-earned points leads stay with the front runners.
|Pomona||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||Phoenix||Erica Enders|
|Indy 1||Jason Line||Indy 3||Jeg Coughlin Jr.|
|Indy 4||Erica Enders|
|Event||Leader||2nd place||Lead||1st to 10th|
|Pomona||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||Jason Line||36||94|
|Phoenix||Erica Enders||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||6||111|
|Indy 1||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||Jason Line||8||172|
|Indy 3||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||Jason Line||44||257|
|Indy 4||Erica Enders||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||7||256|
- Shortly after announcing that 2020 would be his final season as a full-time pro, Jeg Coughlin Jr. came out swinging with two wins and a runner-up in the first four races. The six-time world champ also had arguably the best car in the class earlier this season with a pair of low qualifying efforts in Pomona and Phoenix and the No. 2 spot at the first Indy race.
- Erica Enders won her third Mello Yello championship last year and doesn’t seem willing to relinquish it without a fight. She’s got the best record in the class right now at 13-3 after her win at the Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals. Enders has not been ranked lower than third at any point this season and currently sits atop the standings with five events remaining.
- Greg Anderson got off to an uncharacteristically slow start with back-to-back round one losses in Pomona and Phoenix, but since then he’s been solid. Anderson has moved from No. 13 to No. 5 in the standings and was the low qualifier at the U.S. Nationals for the 105th time in his career.
- Although he’s fallen off a bit lately, Kenny Delco enjoyed a resurgence this season when he qualified No. 4 in both Pomona and Phoenix with his Camaro, using engines from respected veteran Frank Iaconio. Delco went to the semifinals in Pomona and even though he’s endured a rough stretch in Indy with three early losses, he remains solidly in the top ten.
- Matt Hartford authored one of the season’s best holeshot wins in Pomona when he slapped a .007 light on Aaron Stanfield and held on for a 6.62 to 6.57 victory. That’s one of the reasons why the Total Seal driver is currently ranked fourth in the standings.
- Fernando Cuadra and his sons, Fernando Jr. and Cristen, have launched a three-car effort with Ford Mustang-bodied machines although Fernando Jr. was recently sidelined after back surgery.
- New Jersey's Alan Prusiensky, who is currently the only driver in the class racing a Mopar entry, made significant power gains recently and qualified well into the field at the U.S. Nationals.
- Part-timer Steve Graham scored the third round win of his career when he knocked out world champ Bo Butner in Pomona with a .004 light.
- So far this year, Coughlin has made the quickest Pro Stock run with a 6.522 in Pomona while teammate Enders has the best speed of the season at 211.23. Enders has set top speed at three of the first five races.
- Here come the kids; rookies Mason McGaha, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Kyle Koretsky all joined the Pro Stock class this year and they’ve already made an impact. Coughlin Jr. went to the final at his second race while McGaha, at just 18, drove to the semifinals at the U.S. Nationals and nearly beat Enders. Koretsky also banked a round win last week.
- Biggest surprise: Deric Kramer clinging to a spot in the top ten after just one round win. The American Ethanol team is much better than it has shown so far this season.
- Most likely to break into the top 10: Aaron Stanfield. Currently No. 11, Stanfield is coming off his first win in the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown which is sure to provide a nice confidence boost going forward. Stanfield drives for the Elite team, which currently has the top two cars in the class in Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr. If he can even come close to matching their performance, he’s a lock for a top ten finish.
- Probable championship finish: 1. Erica Enders 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 3. Jason Line. Honestly, one could flip a coin between Enders and Coughlin since they have nearly identical race cars and are both among the class’ elite drivers. Coughlin was dominant early in the season but stubbed his toe in Indy with a rare red-light start. In his final season as a full-time Pro Stock driver, he’s definitely itching to win another title. The same could be said for third-ranked Line, who is also calling it a career after 2020.
- Darkhorse contender: Matt Hartford. Going to the final round at Indy was huge and kept him in the running for the title. He’d have to make up 162-points in just five races to overtake Enders, which seems like a tall mountain to climb but then again this is 2020 where nothing seems impossible.
Saturday: Pro Stock Motorcycle
Monday: Pro Mod
Tuesday: Top Fuel Harley