So how did Tricky Tipster fare in Houston? How about a big fat donut as he went 0-for-5 picking winners at last week’s Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals. Oh well, you’ve have those days and fortunately, we’ve got one last chance to make amends when the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series tour heads westward to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Dodge NHRA Finals. Despite last week’s comedy of errors, we’re going to stick with Steve Torrence and Matt Smith as the favorites in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle. They’re joined by Matt Hagan, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Justin Bond in Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Mod, respectively.
Barring a miracle, he doesn’t need to do much more than just show up to clinch a third Top Fuel title but if you know the Capco boys, showing up is not enough. They’re hungry for another win, especially after being ambushed in the final last week by Tony Schumacher. Do it for Dom? You betcha.
Okay, so it didn’t exactly carry the magnitude of “The run”, his dramatic record setting blast to win the 2000? Championship but last week’s 3.66 in the final round might just be a candidate for the run of the year. If nothing else, it proves the eight-time world champion still has what it takes to get the job done. No reason to think he won’t be just as competitive this week.
Unless something really strange happens (and hey its 2020 so you never know) he won’t win the Top Fuel title but there is still a Las Vegas Wally up for grabs and the Mac Tools crew wants it. He’s been to the final round here six times and brought home the title twice, most recently in 2015.
He hasn’t won since the first Indy event back in July, but in the last four events, the Capco Captain has a very solid 10-4 record and hasn’t been beaten before the semifinals. There’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue here. Book him for a final four appearance (or better).
Another case of too little, too late as far as the championship goes but it sure would be nice to head into the long winter break riding a four-round win streak. The Dodge car has been very solid lately, even in Houston where she lost a tough 3.708 to 3.708 race against Billy Torrence.
The Matco car has qualified extremely well lately including fourth in Houston, where he also went to the semifinals. We’ve been saying this all year but a win is absolutely getting closer. He’s got four Top Fuel wins here, which makes Vegas one of his better tracks so the timing could not be better for a slump-busting breakout.
Ran a 3.720 last week in his first round win over Justin Ashley and while that’s not exactly the 3.6-second pace set by the finalists, it’s not far off. He’s also climbed from eighth to fifth in the Camping World standings which shows the direction that the DHL team is trending.
It’s all but a forgone conclusion that he is awarded the Rookie of the Year title this week in Las Vegas but can he win another race, or make another final round? Certainly seems possible although the Strutmasters car has only been past the second round once in the last six races. They could also use a boost in qualifying, where they’ve only been in the top half of the field twice this season.
He’s the point leader entering the final race of the season but he’s less than two rounds ahead of teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman so there is still much work to be done before the Mopar team can celebrate a third championship. He’s been to the final of this race in each of the last three seasons and has wins in 2017 and 2019 so history is on his side. Barring something crazy, this is a done deal if he makes it to another final round here.
Infinite Hero Dodge
When it comes to the championship, the Infinite Hero team doesn’t exactly control their own destiny, but it’s close. Best strategy is to qualify well, and go out and win the race. We know, that’s much easier said than done but at this stage of the season it’s much easier to count win lights than it is to count points.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
MD Anderson Cancer Center Dodge
Well, look who showed up late to the party. Last week’s Houston win was his third of the season in four final rounds, and it also put the MD Anderson team squarely in the middle of the title fight. Much like Beckman, the best course of action here is to just try and win another race and not worry too much about what his DRS teammates are doing.
You don’t suppose he intentionally qualified on the bump last week in a last-ditch effort to close the gap on the leaders? We may never know for sure but whether accidental or intentional, it worked to a point. Technically, the NAPA team is still mathematically in the running for the title but they are 163 points back with only 183 left to be earned. Regardless, they’ve had a solid season with two wins and a runner-up in just ten events.
With three wins in his last four starts here, this is “Mr. Vegas” at least as far as the NHRA Funny Car class is concerned. However they do it, the DHL team seems to have a handle on racing here, which is why Tipster has given them a nice bump this week. If nothing else, they’d love to finish the season on a high note.
Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
As we noted last week, this is perhaps the best bet to break up the DSR monopoly that currently exists in Funny Car. They’ve been off a tick lately, but Las Vegas is vastly different from St. Louis, Dallas, or Houston so we’ll see who is best at adapting. Usually, crew chief Mike Neff is among the best at that.
She’s made headlines lately for all the adversity her team has faced including an explosion in St. Louis and a fire in Dallas, but the real story here is the progress the RoKit/ABK Beer team has made lately. In spite of all the mayhem, they’ve responded with two semifinal finishes in the last three races and their 3.87 in Houston was low E.T. of the entire event. Oh, and she absolutely loves racing in Las Vegas.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
The 2008 Las Vegas winner had a rough outing last week in Houston but overall, this has been a fairly decent season with a runner-up in Gainesville and a pair of semifinal finishes. They’re capable of at least that much here if not more. In fact, a win would not be the least bit surprising.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
There is a good chance this will be his last race in Pro Stock and what better way to wrap up a Hall of Fame career than with a victory? He’s probably going to need that, and possibly more in order to win a sixth championship. With five Las Vegas wins on his resumé, he’s been rock solid here over the years.
It’s never a bad thing to come into the final race of the season as the point leader and it certainly helps if you’ve got arguably the best car in the field. She’s been here before and managed to close the deal three times so there’s no reason to expect anything less this time around. She’s also the defending event winner here.
Summit Racing Camaro
By all rights last week’s holeshot loss in Houston should have ended his hopes for a title but he’s still alive, albeit 55-points out of first place. That’s actually a manageable number given the bonus points available at this race. The ladder might need to fall a certain way, but there is definitely a path to a fourth championship here.
Janac Bros. Camaro
By winning in Houston, he gets a big bump from Tipster this week but it’s not just the fact that he won Houston that justifies the move. He won it with great driving and a very fast car. Assuming he brings the same power to Vegas, he’s going to challenge for another victory and this time, he doesn’t have to deal with the pressure of the Factory Stock battle.
Summit Racing Camaro
What are the odds that the KB team tries to duplicate last year’s strategy where he qualifies at or near the bottom of the field in order to hook one of the championship contenders in round one? Quite honestly, there is no reason not to. It’s a high risk move that often backfires but what do they have to lose? That being said, this car is quick enough to win the race.
Total Seal Camaro
He gets a mulligan on last week’s disappointing showing in Houston. This car has been great for most of the season and one has to figure that whatever happened last week will quickly be forgotten. The Total Seal car can’t win the championship, but they might just have a say in who does.
Had the car to beat in Houston, especially after landing the No. 1 qualifying spot but then lost a tough race against rookie Kyle Koretsky in the quarterfinals. That’s merely a small speed bump in what has otherwise been an impressive season. It was only four races ago that he won in Gainesville. Absolutely no reason to think it can’t happen again this week.
Nitro Fish Camaro
It’s fairly easy to see that he’s becoming more and more comfortable behind the wheel of a Pro Stock car and the results are starting to show it. Last week’s semifinal was a prime example and he nearly beat Aaron Stanfield to get to the final. And, he did all of this from the bottom half of the field. NHRA’s next new pro winner? Don’t be surprised.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Best bike in the field? Yep, no one should argue that but when it comes to reliability and consistency, there are some genuine concerns. He’s got a big enough lead that he should be able to coast to the title but and early loss here could be a catastrophe.
The reality is that he’s facing a deficit of 78 points with one race left and event though the Vegas Finals has an expanded points structure, that’s a tall mountain to climb. Basically, he’s going to have to go three rounds further than teammate Matt Smith in order to overtake him. Possible, but not likely.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Well, well, look who’s back and just in time to join the point battle, or is he? Tied with Pollacheck, he trails by 78 markers so a fourth title will likely require some assistance. What might not require much assistance is a second victory because his bike was just that good last week.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
With 86 points to make up in one race, his shot at a seventh title will almost certainly have to wait for another year but he can help his teammate Krawiec win a fifth championship should the ladder fall a certain way. Just speculating here, but look for him to qualify on the bottom side of the ladder in the hopes he can take out Matt Smith early. Let the game begin.
Flyin’ Ryan EBR
Man, it’s hard to handicap this team. One week, it looks like they are ready to take on the world and start winning more races. The next, it’s a struggle. That being said, the general trend is upwards and he was fairly strong last week in Houston so let’s take a shot at him this week as a solid middle of the pack guy.
White Alligator Suzuki
The White Alligator team generally runs well here even though this isn’t supposed to be a “Suzuki track”. Truthfully, they run well everywhere and they’re coming off an impressive win just two races ago in Dallas. Lately, his qualifying results have improves and that usually translates to success on Sunday.
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
A big move for the Lucas Oil team following a very impressive performance in the Lone Star state that included a couple of nice 6.8-second runs during eliminations in Houston. He’s also won two of the last three Las Vegas races so it looks like everything is set up for a competitive finish to the season.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
Her qualifying numbers have been very impressive including the No. 2 spot in Gainesville and Houston but final eliminations have been a mixed bag. Mechanical issues and mental errors have taken their toll, but when everything is clicking, she has the potential to be as good as any rider in the field. You might also see her do a bit of blocking for teammate Krawiec.
Years from now the answer to the trivia question, “Who won the first NHRA Pro Mod event with a ProCharger?” will be Justin Bond. Now that he’s earned that title, why not go back-to-back? He’s certainly capable as a driver and we know just how good this car is.
From winning his first-ever NHRA Pro Mod racer to becoming the championship favorite with one race left, this guy is living his best life right now. A red-light start in the semifinals last week in Houston could prove costly, but he’s still the incoming points leader so someone else is going to have to pass him in order to win the title.
He isn’t used to having come from behind, but the reigning series champ is now having to shake off a tough loss in Houston in order to defend his title. The entire Pro Mod class is a free for all right now with at least a half dozen drivers battling for the top spot and he’s certainly one of them
To paraphrase last week’s Tipster, he’s still hanging tough in the battle for the championship and could still use a strong showing here in order to make a move on leaders Snider and Jackson. Losing in the opening round last week was a big blow, but there is still time to recover, barely.
Yes, he’s also still in the running for the title but it would take a combination of several things to make it happen, first and foremost winning the race. This car is definitely quick enough to get the job done but it’s hard to imagine everything else falling into place just perfectly.
Bond Coat Camaro
A lot of the early favorites didn’t make it out of the first round last week including the Bond Coat car. They say that it’s tough to race a nitrous car in Las Vegas but we’re not buying it. He may not be the favorite, but a final round showing isn’t at all out of the question. Technically, he can also still win the championship.
J&A Service Chevelle
Back when he was dominating the Top Alcohol Dragster class, he won four times here in a three year span. Yes, Pro Mod is a much different class than Top Alcohol Dragster, but winners tend to find a way to get the job done no matter what. He’s long overdue for a good showing.
PJS Racing Camaro
Seemingly came out of nowhere to reach the final round last week in Houston but that was hardly a fluke. He’s got plenty of experience with fast doorslammers so don’t be surprised to see another strong showing here.