With 11 races on the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, there’s no easily-measurable midseason point, but the recent Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals 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 lead stay with the front runners.
First up, Top Fuel
|Pomona||Doug Kalitta||Phoenix||Steve Torrence|
|Indy 1||Billy Torrence||Indy 2||Justin Ashley|
|Indy 3||Steve Torrence||Indy 4||Shawn Langdon|
|Event||Leader||2nd place||Lead||1st to 10th|
|Pomona||Doug Kalitta||Austin Prock||18||85|
|Phoenix||Doug Kalitta||Brittany Force||59||129|
|Indy 1||Doug Kalitta||Steve Torrence||111||179|
|Indy 2||Doug Kalitta||Leah Pruett||95||211|
|Indy 3||Doug Kalitta||Steve Torrence||83||283|
|Indy 4||Doug Kalitta||Leah Pruett||50||313|
- Doug Kalitta built his points lead early, winning 10 of a possible 12 rounds at the first three events with a win and two runner-ups, but has won just four rounds in the three races since and his current lead is the smallest since he won Pomona
- Leah Pruett hasn't added a Wally on her shelf this season, but she’s won at least one round at every race, something only Kalitta can also say. She said she'd bring it after the break, and she has
- Steve and Billy Torrence skipped Pomona but together have won three of the five events since
- Steve Torrence has averaged 70 points per race and sits third in points 60 behind Doug Kalitta despite missing one race; you do the probable math
- With a race win, a fourth-place ranking, and the best reaction times in the nitro classes, go ahead and pencil in Top Fuel rookie Justin Ashley as the winner of the Auto Club Road to The Future award winner
- Over 14 reaction times, Ashley has averaged a .039 light, from a “best” of .001 in the semifinals of Indy (admittedly due in part to a clutch malfunction) to a “worst” of just .062. Last year, Austin Prock’s class-leading average was .056.
- T.J. Zizzo in 10th place halfway through the season despite running just three of six events? Amazing.
- With the fallings out of Brittany Force and Austin Prock, Kalitta’s lead over 10th place continues to grow despite his slowing pace as different drivers, like Zizzo, inherit the 10th spot
- Biggest surprise: Clay Millican buried in ninth place with just round wins.
- Most likely to break into the top 10: Tony Schumacher. Despite missing three of the first six events, he’s reunited with Mike Green and re-energized with a budget to run the balance of the season. He’s 15th, but just 48 points out of 10th.
Probable championship finish: 1. Steve Torrence 2. Doug Kalitta; 3. Leah Pruett. Kalitta's a fast starter but Torrence is a strong closer. The way it's trending right now, Torrence might be headed for another championship. Kalitta is hungry still for his first championship but will need to turn the ship around, and both had better watch out for Pruett.
Darkhorse contender: Shawn Langdon. He's won championships before and had the best car of the meet in Indy.
Wednesday: Funny Car
Thursday: Pro Stock
Friday: Pro Stock Motorycycle