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Tricky Tipster: Down to the wire in Baytown

As the Camping World NHRA tour heads Southward (slightly) to Houston Raceway Park, Tricky Tipster is sticking with Dallas winner Steve Torrence in Top Fuel and he'll share the top billing with Dallas winner Jack Beckman, and points leaders Erica Enders, Matt Smith, and Steve Jackson.
24 Oct 2020
NHRA National Dragster staff
Tricky Tipster®
Tricky Tipster

Last week in Dallas, Tipster correctly picked Steve Torrence to walk away with the Top Fuel title, but whiffed on the other four winners in Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, and Pro Mod. Somedays, you’ll have weeks like that where the favorites fall by the wayside. Fortunately, we get to try again this week as the Camping World NHRA tour heads Southward (slightly) to Houston Raceway Park. This time, we’re sticking with Torrence for obvious reasons while he’ll share the top billing with Dallas winner Jack Beckman, and points leaders Erica Enders, Matt Smith, and Steve Jackson.



Steve Torrence
Capco Contractors

The biggest no-brainer pick of the bunch, the Capco team is soaring right now and they’ve got the points lead with two races left. A win here might not seal a third championship, but it would sure make it difficult for anyone else to claim the top spot. Ironically, he’s never won here in Top Fuel, but has two runner-up finishes in 2016-17.
Odds: 3-1

Doug Kalitta
Mac Tools

The mission here is fairly simple and straightforward; win more rounds than Torrence. We know, easier said than done but the Kalitta team generally does well in Houston and specifically, Doug has back-to-back wins here in 2016-17. The championship is still very much in play, but it will almost certainly require a win in one of the final two events.
Odds: 4-1

Leah Pruett

In 2017, she beat Steve Torrence in the final of this event and that would certainly be an acceptable result this time around. Trailing by 148-points the championship is almost certainly out of reach, but this team is looking for race wins and they’re fully capable of getting one here.
Odds: 6-1

Billy Torrence
Capco Contractors

Frustrating to go to a final round and actually lose ground in the points standings but when you lose to you own kid, it probably doesn’t sting as bad. At this point, pops is a blocker for Steve, and he’s fully capable of wiping out anyone who might challenge for the lead.
Odds: 5-1

Shawn Langdon
DHL/Kalitta Motorsports

A semifinal finish last week in Dallas was a solid improvement especially since it included a very solid 3.74-second run in the opening round of eliminations. In a perfect setting, he’d take out one or two of the top cars in order help teammate Kalitta in his quest to win the title.
Odds: 7-1

Tony Schumacher

The eight-time champ looked good last week with a fine 3.73 to kick off Top Fuel eliminations. If there were any rust issues from his long layoff, they’re clearly a thing of the past now. Surprisingly, he’s only won here twice; in 2005 and 2009 but a third victory would not be surprising given his recent performances.
Odds: 8-1

Antron Brown
Matco Tools

We know it’s been a while since he won a race but if you’re looking for a silver lining, he was a runner-up here last year and lately, the Matco Tools car has been running much better. He’s currently sitting No. 6 in the standings and there is a good chance he could move up a couple of spots in the last two races of 2020.
Odds: 10-1

Justin Ashley

A strange thing happened last week in Dallas; he actually got left on by Doug Kalitta. Granted, it had little impact on the outcome of the race since Kalitta laid down a monster run, but it was worth noting. That does little to change the fact that this car is capable of beating just about anyone at any time, and not necessarily on a holeshot.
Odds: 14-1


Jack Beckman
Infinite Hero Dodge

Given his uncertain future beyond 2020, it’s not surprising that he views last week’s Dallas victory as one of the most rewarding moments of his career. In the bigger picture, it was also a clutch win that might very well decide the 2020 Camping World Funny Car championship. So far this season, it’s been a back and forth season between the four DSR cars, but lately the pendulum appears to have swing in favor of the Infinite Hero gang.
Odds: 4-1

Matt Hagan
Mopar/Pennzoil Dodge

Losing the last two final rounds probably doesn’t sit well with the two-time champ but the good news is that he’s been able to maintain the points lead. Those losses aside, there is nothing wrong with the Mopar/Pennzoil car and there’s no reason to think they won’t be in the championship fight till the bitter end.
Odds: 5-1

Ron Capps
NAPA Dodge

Four wins in five final rounds here since 2006 tells you all you need to know about the NAPA team and Houston Raceway Park. He had a great car last week in Dallas and honestly probably deserved something better than a semifinal finish. There is almost no drop off among the top five Funny Cars right now.
Odds: 5-1

Tommy Johnson Jr.
MD Anderson Cancer Center Dodge

Call this a “must win” race if you like because the reality is that he’s 77 points out of first place right now and must gain ground on both Beckman and Hagan to stay in the race until we hit Las Vegas next week. He can’t count on either of his rivals to go out early so its best to take the bull by the horns and just go win here in Houston.
Odds: 6-1

Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford

Will the DSR team run the table this season in Funny Car competition? Not if this guy has anything to say about it. They looked really good last week in Dallas and nearly upset Beckman in the semifinals so a win here would not at all be a surprise.
Odds: 8-1

J.R. Todd
DHL Toyota

Two years ago, he won here from the No. 10 qualifying spot and beat Robert Hight in the final round. The DHL car currently sits No. 7 in the standings but needs only to win a few rounds to improve to fifth. That should be the goal for the last two races and it’s well within reach. Last week’s 3.88 on race day, was impressive.
Odds: 10-1

Tim Wilkerson
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford

Other than winning a race, which is always the goal, he’s got an chance to break up the DSR quartet at the top of the standings. In order to do so, he’s going to need to score 50 more points than Ron Capps at the final two events. That’s a tall order in any season, but a worthwhile objective.
Odds: 12-1

Alexis DeJoria
RoKit/ABK Beer

When it comes to overcoming adversity, this team has had its fair share lately, but they don’t seem to scare easily. Hopefully, the drama of the last two events is behind them and they can continue to show the marked improvement we’ve all seen this year.
Odds: 14-1


Erica Enders
Melling/Elite Camaro

Don’t get mad, get even. That should be the theme in the Elite pits following a tough loss to Matt  Hartford last week. Is it worth pointing out that these two also raced in the 2018 final round, the last time Pro Stock cars ran in Houston, and Hartford got his first win? Expect someone to have a Texas-sized chip on their shoulder at her home event.
Odds: 3-1

Jeg Coughlin Jr.
JEGS Camaro

Last week, he got thrown a lifeline when neither of his points rivals were able to close the deal in Dallas. As a result, he’s still very much in the championship hunt but it almost certainly will require a win or at least a final round showing here. He’s easily capable of just that.
Odds: 4-1

Jason Line
Summit Racing Camaro

He had a chance to do some real damage in the title hunt last week but instead finds himself 31-points behind Enders with eight rounds of racing left this season. That’s not the worst spot to be in. In fact, he very much controls his own destiny but one thing is certain, he can’t allow the Elite team to gain any more ground.
Odds: 5-1

Matt Hartford
Total Seal Camaro

Last week, we said he was a solid dark horse bet, and he cashed thanks to some not-so-subtle staging tactics. That shows just how far he’s come since the last time we ran Pro Stock in Houston, which was 2018, where the Total Seal team got their first professional victory.
Odds: 7-1

Greg Anderson
Summit Racing Camaro

This was the best car in Dallas, at least on race day where he made the quickest run in each of the four elimination rounds. The trouble here came on the starting line with a pair of .060 lights which won’t get it done very often in Pro Stock. With 94 wins and four championships, he’s obviously capable of doing better we we’re going to expect to see a nice improvement here.
Odds: 9-1

Deric Kramer
American Ethanol Camaro

Topped the qualifying charts in Dallas with a 6.54, essentially a monster run given the conditions. Then, he lost a close race against Enders in round two. He’s only been past the second round once this season but we’re thinking that streak is likely to end here.
Odds: 10-1

Alex Laughlin
Havoline/Eagle Marine Camaro

After qualifying No. 2 in Dallas, he absolutely had a car that was capable of going the distance on Sunday. He nearly got Greg Anderson on a holeshot in round two. A little race day luck wouldn’t hurt.
Odds: 12-1

Chris McGaha
Harlow Sammons Camaro

The Reher-Morrison-Shepherd tribute wrap was a big hit in Dallas even if his results weren’t exactly noteworthy. Technically, this is still a home event, event though Odessa is a long way from Baytown so it’s obvious that he’d love a shot to make amends.
Odds: 14-1


Matt Smith
Denso EBR

You know you’re living right when your bike doesn’t start in the first round and you still escape with a sizable point lead. The three-time champ used up a mulligan in Dallas but shouldn’t have much reason to worry. He’s still got the quickest bike in the class and just needs to avoid another disaster to keep the title within reach.
Odds: 3-1

Scotty Pollacheck
Strutmasters.com EBR

Depending on how one looks at it, last week’s race in Dallas was either a disaster, or a lucky break. Yes, he lost in the first round which should have all-but ended his title hopes. It didn’t as he’s just 49-points in back of teammate Smith. That being said, he absolutely needs to gain some ground this week.
Odds: 4-1

Jerry Savoie
White Alligator Suzuki

On the surface, it might look like he lucked his way into the Dallas victory but remember, he was third-quickest in qualifying so it’s obvious that the White Alligator team has figured a few things out lately. Now the question becomes, Can they do it again this week? We’re betting they can.
Odds: 5-1

Eddie Krawiec
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson

Just a hunch here but he’s really overdue for some good luck and after a solid semifinal finish in Houston, it appears he’s finally starting to get things to fall his way. Ironically, he’s never been to a final here in Houston but then again, the Pro Stock Motorcycle class hasn’t been here since 2013.
Odds: 6-1

Andrew Hines
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson

For all the not-so-good things that have happened lately, its almost a bit surprising to see that he’s still in third place and still just 59 points out of the lead so he very much controls his own destiny when he comes to retaining the title. Win the last two races and it almost doesn’t matter what anyone else does.
Odds: 8-1

Angelle Sampey
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson

Once again, she out-performed both of her Vance & Hines teammates but the red-lights have to stop. Going into the last two events, she’s 93 points out of first place. It would take a small miracle to win the championship but heck, last year we saw the title won via a large miracle so she’s definitely not out of it.
Odds: 10-1

Angie Smith
Denso EBR

Earning a spot in the Denso 200 Mph Club was a huge achievement but it only raises expectations for better results on Sunday. So far this season, she’s won the first round in five of six races but has gone no further. It’s fair to expect at least a semifinal this time out, and we all know the potential is there for a win or a runner-up.
Odds: 12-1

Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR

The last time we raced Pro Stock Motorcycles in Houston was 2013 and this guy left with the Wally. A year before that, he went to the final round so there is hope to salvage what has otherwise been a tough 2020 season. He actually ran well last week in Dallas but a red-light prematurely ended the weekend.
Odds: 14-1


Steve Jackson
Baharin1 Camaro

He didn’t have the best car in Dallas but that didn’t prevent the reigning champ from reaching the final round, which helped his preserve his lead in the standings. If there’s anyone in the class who seems to thrive on pressure it’s this guy so don’t expect him to fold going into the last two events.
Odds: 3-1

Brandon Snider
AAP Corvette

Fair to say his Dallas win was long overdue and given his performance, it might not take so long to see a second victory. Oh, and he did a great job on the starting line as well. And, if you’re counting points, he’s currently nipping at Jackson’s heels which should make for a very entertaining finish to the season.
Odds: 4-1

Mike Janis
Jan-Cen Camaro

Hanging tough in the battle for the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod championship but he could use a strong showing here in order to make a move on leaders Jackson and Snider. Losing in the second round to Jackson last week was a big blow, but there is still time to recover.
Odds: 5-1

Khalid alBalooshi
Bahrain1 Camaro

We’re beginning to see the potential of the ProCharger cars and it’s already mighty impressive. A 5.68 in qualifying and a 5.74 on race day should be more than enough to get the job done. We’d still like to see some improvement on the starting line, but we know the car is rock solid.
Odds: 6-1

Jonathan Gray
Rickie Smith Racing Camaro

No telling what would have happened if he hadn’t broke on the starting line before his round two race in Dallas. For sure, he could have won at least another round or two and kept the points battle close. As it stands, he’s 76 points back, which is just about as far as you can be and still be in the hunt. He can still win, but its going to take a lot of effort and luck.
Odds: 8-1

Rickie Smith
RSR Camaro

At this point in the season, is he a blocker for teammate Gray? That isn’t usually Rickie’s style but if he has a chance to help out, he’ll almost certainly take advantage of it. He’s also fighting for a top 10 spot of his own so that’s even more motivation to turn on a few win lights.
Odds: 10-1

Chad Green
Bond Coat Camaro

Once again, he sets the standard for nitrous cars with an impressive 5.74 during eliminations in Dallas. He also threw a scare into eventual race winner Snider in the quarterfinals which is all the evidence one needs to know the Bond Coat team is for real.
Odds: 12-1

Kris Thorne
Thornesite Camaro

They say speed doesn’t win races but when you’ve got the entire field covered by as much as three or four mph, that suggests otherwise. Remember, this car is still new (to him) and there are likely a few bugs yet to be worked out.
Odds: 14-1