Last week, Tipster had a decent showing when he correctly picked Steve Torrence and Matt Smith to win in Gainesville so as the tour heads westward to St. Louis for the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil, he’s feeling pretty good about his chances to keep the ball rolling. Torrence and Smith have earned top billing again this week, and they are joined by Gainesville Funny Car winner Ron Capps, reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, and Pro Mod’s Steve Jackson as the pre-race favorites.
He won’t have the edge that “Big Daddy” Don Garlits provided last week in Gainesville, but he doesn’t appear to need it. After last week’s win, the Capco team has retaken the points lead in Top Fuel and as history has shown, once they got to first place, its awfully hard to get them to budge. They’ re not just winning rounds, they’re doing it in impressive fashion.
If someone had told the Dodge/Pennzoil team they’d be within 33 points of first place with four races remaining in the season, we’re sure they’d have gladly taken it. And, it’s not unreasonable to think they haven’t hit their stride yet. They’ve been remarkably consistent with a runner-up and four semis, so a win here would not be at all surprising.
A finalist last week in Gainesville and the defending event winner, there are a lot of reasons to put your money on the Capco team this week. While most of the attention has been on Steve taking over the points lead, Billy remains in the thick of the fight and figures to be much more than just a blocker in this spot.
For the first time this year, he’s going to have to come from behind but that shouldn’t be a worry for one of the most experienced drivers in the field. This is far from his best track, but he does have three wins and a runner-up so there is a history of success here.
Amalie Motor Oil
You want the good news or the not-so-good news? First off, the Amalie dragster was impressive last week in Gainesville with a 3.74 on race day that held up for low E.T. of the race. Unfortunately, that came in hot and humid conditions and the forecast for St. Louis is almost the complete opposite, cool and dry. We’re not saying the Amalie team can’t adapt because they can, but for sure they’ll need to make some changes.
Quick, who is the last driver not named Torrence to win Top Fuel in St. Louis? That’s right, it’s this guy, who won it all in 2016 when he defeated Tony Schumacher in the final round. Oh, and he also won the Funny Car title here last year.It’s not unreasonable to think we might see a repeat of that victory, especially after the DHL team’s impressive Indy win. Historically, this car seems to like cool weather, so the forecast seems favorable.
There’s not much else to say here other than his reaction times are troublesome for the rest of the field because he’s likely to steal a round or two at any given time. It’s almost a given that he’s going to be the rookie of the year so the bigger question is, does he get another win before the season is over?
Making his first appearance since Indy, he’s going to try and right a couple of wrongs. Everyone in the class knows this car is good enough to win and if they ran more races, it almost certainly would have happened already. It wouldn’t be out of line to think the Rust-Oleum car is going to wreak some havoc among the championship contenders this weekend.
He didn’t earn Tipster’s No. 1 ranking just because he won in Gainesville, but rather the manner in which he won it. The NAPA car was solid all weekend but to take an untested back-up car out for the final and run 3.93 was an act of sheer genius on the part of crew chief Rahn Tobler. It was a big gamble and it paid off handsomely and Tipster certainly likes those who aren’t afraid to take chances.
There is no “best car in the Funny Car class” right now because they’re all so darned close but if there was such an award, the Mopar/Pennzoil car would certainly get its fair share of votes. Oddly, he’s never won at this track but does have three runner-up finishes since 2012.
Infinite Hero Dodge
Losing in the second round in Gainesville was certainly painful, but the damage could have been much worse as far as the championship goes. The fact remains that he’s still leading the Funny Car class with four races remaining and he’s got a decent record in the Gateway city with a pair of wins and two runner-up finishes.
Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
The DSR team currently occupies the top four spots in the standings yet in the minds of some people, the Motorcraft Ford is the best car in the class, if not the most consistent. He’s roughly six rounds back with 16 rounds remaining which means its now or never as far as the world title goes. Win here and it’s game on.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
It’s worth noting that Gainesville offered some of the most challenging track conditions of the year yet the Levi, Ray & Shoup team did everything right, other than finishing the job in the final. St. Louis will offer a completely new set of challenges but it shouldn’t be anything that one of the sport’s few remaining tuner/drivers isn’t able to handle.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
MD Anderson Cancer Center Dodge
His win over J.R. Todd in Gainesville was huge and might well have saved his season. Just 57-points out of the lead, he’s right in the thick of the battle. This would be a perfect time to repeat his performance from earlier this year in Phoenix, when he ran a string of 3.8s on his way to victory.
The DHL team had high hopes following their final round finish at Indy, but the balloon lost a lot of air in Gainesville. We’ve seen a lot of strange things in 2020 so we’re not going to officially close the door on their championship aspirations, but at this point it’s going to take a minor miracle. This is a must-win race.
This is basically a new team this year so it’s fair to wonder just how much better off they’d be if this was a “normal” year and they’d had about 18-20 races so far to jell? You’ve got to think they’d be a bit more competitive but that day is coming, and most likely sooner rather than later. Winning a round in Gainesville was certainly a big morale booster.
A year ago, she qualified No. 1 and turned on the win light in the final round in what was a defining moment in the race for the championship. An encore performance here would go a long way towards a fourth title. Also, gotta figure she’s eager to put last week’s rare holeshot loss in the rearview mirror.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
In golf, it’s a mulligan. In Monopoly, is a Get out of Jail Free card. In drag racing, it’s what happened to the JEGS team last week when they lost in the first round yet find themselves just 34-points out of first place. The damage could have been much worse.
Summit Racing Camaro
With his season potentially on the line, he delivered a clutch win last week by beating Enders in the second round. Now, he’s got a narrow lead in the standings with four races left and there is every reason to believe he’s going to need another sterling effort to keep the lead heading into the final three races in Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas.
Okay, so there was a little luck involved but he left Gainesville with the Wally and at this point, isn’t that all the really matters? Looking closely at the numbers, he was solid in qualifying and eliminations. He drove well when he needed to and caught a break in the final.
Total Seal Camaro
There is no good time for a red-light but its far worse when your opponent goes red behind you. Whatever chances he had to win the championship are likely gone but the silver lining is this; the Total Seal Camaro is as good as any car in the class and it wouldn’t be at all shocking to see a win or two this season.
American Ethanol Camaro
He was off to a 1-5 start this season, but Gainesville was a totally different story. This was arguably the best car in the field and nearly won the race. Hard to tell if that’s an indicator of things to come but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, and a big one at that. Let’s see how they adapt to the cooler conditions in St. Louis.
Janac Bros. Camaro
Between his runner-up in Pro Stock and second-straight final round appearance in the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown we might just be witnessing the maturation of Aaron Stanfield before our eyes. He’s clearly a better driver than he was at this point last year and he’s beginning to see results. The Gainesville final will not be his last.
Summit Racing Camaro
This season has been tough on everyone, including the four-time champion but there have been bright spots and always hope for the future. In a class where just six hundredths separate the top 16 qualifiers, even a small improvement can net big results which means a return to glory might not be as far off as it would appear at first glance.
He was lights out in Gainesville with the best bike in the field and the riding performance to match it. There are still times when consistency is an issue for the Denso team but that hasn’t been the case lately. One or two more performances like last week, and he can practically glide to a fourth championship.
He had a bit of a setback last week in Gainesville but the championship is still very much within reach and honestly, his bike ran about as well as one would have expected. So far this season, he’s 9-3 in elimination rounds and has been to the semi’s or better in three of four races. It’s probably going to take another win or two in order to win a championship but this time, he seems to have the bike to do it.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but he did find a way to get to the Gatornationals final which provided a much-needed boost in the championship chase. There is a tiny bit of concern here because no Harley has win in St. Louis since 2012 but it’s not like the Vance & Hines team has suddenly become uncompetitive. Its entirely possible that the drastic weather change plays into their hands.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Last week, she out-qualified both of her teammates which is further proof of how far she’s come in regard to riding a Harley V-twin. She also appeared to have the only bike capable of running with Smith which is no small feat. Only a red-light prevented what might have been an extremely competitive race in the final. Keep it green and she’s going to have a shot to win any of the last four races.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
This would be a perfect time to snap out of a lengthy winless drought especially when one considers the championship picture. Currently 64 points behind Smith, he’s very much in the battle, but really can’t afford to lose much more ground. A final round would be acceptable but honestly, a long-overdue win would be the best thing to keep it close.
White Alligator Suzuki
Historically, World Wide Technology Raceway has been good to the Suzuki teams, especially the White Alligator crew who have won four times, twice with Savoie, once with LE Tonglet, and last year with Karen Stoffer. As we’ve noted previously, there is going to be a huge temperature swing between last week’s Gainesville race and this week’s event and that might just be what the WAR team needs.
The second Team Denso bike has been great in qualifying, but Sunday results have been a work in progress. To be honest, there’s no reason we can’t expect an occasional semifinal or final here. On a side note, this could easily be the next bike to receive a 200-mph time slip and there’s a chance it could happen this weekend.
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
When you think of the Arana family and St. Louis its hard not to remember the 2015 race where Hector Jr. met Hector Sr. in a memorable father-son final round. Last week’s race in Gainesville was not nearly as memorable but there is a small consolation with a nice .010 reaction time that threw a scare into Andrew Hines in round one.
Last week, he had more than a tenth lead on teammate Khalid alBalooshi and was well on his way to the semifinals before his car quit. That’s a minor set-back for a team intent on defending their 2019 championship. This isn’t necessarily the quickest car in Pro Mod, but you won’t find a more savvy team and they certainly don’t lack for confidence.
In the last three races, he’s cobbled together a pair of semifinals and a win and just like that he’s in the points lead and very much alive for a second championship. We’re not sure exactly what went wrong in the Gainesville final, but he should have been able to give winner Rickie Smith a much better run for his money.
He won last week in Gainesville but doesn’t think the nitrous cars have a chance to repeat this week in cooler air. Do you believe him? We don’t, simply because there is almost never a time when the three-time champ brings an uncompetitive car to the races. There is no one is better at making their own luck than “Tricky Rickie”.
Consider this; last week he ran a 5.73 to set low E.T. in Gainesville and the atmospheric conditions were some of the worst we’ve seen all season. Expect to see the ProCharger cars flex their muscles this week and lately, this has been the best of the best. That being said, you’ve still got to turn on the win light four times on Sunday and in this class, that’s really hard to do.
Rickie Smith Racing Camaro
Reportedly, he was on the fence about continuing the season but when you’re just 43-points out of first place and have a race car that is as competitive as this one, you have all the motivation in the world to keep going. He took a tough loss last week in the first round but that appears to be little more than a speed bump.
This car was money in Gainesville with a string of high 5.7-second runs and only a Rickie Smith holeshot prevented him from reaching the final. There’s still about seven cars in the running for the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod championship and this is certainly one of them. He can’t afford to fall much further behind the leaders but this car is quick enough where that shouldn’t be an issue.
Bond Coat Camaro
He bounced back from a pair of early losses to make it to the quarterfinals in Gainesville and with a 5.79 best, he was in the thick of the battle. This is also a team that is very much in title contention so at the very least, he needs to keep pace with current leaders Janis and Jackson. It’s also going to be interesting to see how the nitrous cars perform in St. Louis.
The former Top Sportsman champion looked really strong last week in Gainesville, not just because he ran 5.81 and 5.82 on back-to-back runs in eliminations, but he also had two very competitive reaction times which tends to make one think he’s getting the hang of this whole Pro Mod deal. While others are fighting for the championship, he’s battling to make the top ten and could easily be a championship spoiler.