Heading into this week’s Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor in Topeka, we’ve officially hit the halfway mark in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series with 10 races in the books and 10 more still to come. In the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, we’re also roughly at the midway point with 23 of 44 scheduled events already completed.
Given that 34 national, regional, and divisional events have already been completed (including the JEGS SPORTSnationals in Columbus), the championship picture in each of the nine Lucas Oil Series classes is beginning to take shape and a favorite — or, in most cases, multiple favorites — has begun to emerge. That being said, it’s entirely possible for a new racer to come in, start fresh, and accumulate enough points to win a title, so in reality, nothing has yet been decided.
This week, we’re going to take a closer look at each class along with our assessment of the current leader, the championship favorite, and at least one sleeper pick who appears poised to make a late-season run to the title.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
Leader: Rachel Meyer
At this point, Meyer has racked up an impressive first half, and she is a strong bet to follow her sister, Megan, as a world champion in the Top Alcohol Dragster class. Meyer has already scored five wins and a runner-up finish. Her average is also impressive because she’s only attended two events where she did not reach the final round. Meyer is currently 66 points in front of her teammate, Julie Nataas, and 85 points clear of third-ranked Shawn Cowie. Recently, Meyer has won back-to-back races in her home state of Kansas, including the regional events in Topeka and Great Bend, and her next event will also be in Kansas, the Menards NHRA Nationals in Topeka.
Favorite: Rachel Meyer
Meyer isn’t just the current leader, she’s also got the best average score of 64.88 per event, which equates to a runner-up finish at every scored event. Her points total is especially impressive at regional events, where she’s got two wins and a runner-up in the three races that count toward the final score. Meyer can compete in five more national events, and it’s not at all out of the question that she could win four of them to compile a near-perfect score on the season.
Sleeper pick: Shawn Cowie
Second-place Nataas is still very much in the mix for the championship with three wins on the season, but the biggest threat to Meyer would appear to be Cowie, who has four wins in six final rounds so far this season. His average (55.44) isn’t as strong as Meyer’s, but Cowie has the same regional score with two wins and a runner-up. He’ll need to make up ground at national events, where he’s got two wins and a runner-up in four appearances.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
Leader: Doug Gordon
So far, Doug Gordon’s title defense has been just about everything he’d hoped it would be with three wins and three runner-up finishes. Gordon hits the halfway mark nursing a tenuous 32-point lead against two-time champion Sean Bellemeur and a slightly more comfortable 132-point bulge over third-ranked Bob McCosh. Gordon has just one bad race on his scorecard; a round-two loss at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com in Pomona. Almost everything else is a final round.
Favorite: Sean Bellemeur
Trailing Gordon by 32 points should not be a big concern for Bellemeur and the Hussey Performance team because they’ve attended one less event this season. Bellemeur has four wins, which is one more than Gordon and carries a slightly better average score (63.75 to 60.22). This is a battle that could easily come down to the last event of the season and might well be decided by just a handful of points, but Bellemeur rates a slim edge over Gordon and the rest of the field headed into the second half of the season. It also helps that he’s been in several tough points battles and has emerged as the champion twice.
Sleeper pick: D.J. Cox
This is probably a bit of a stretch, but Cox swept the national and regional events at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk and has attended just six total events (four national, two regional), which means he’ll have ample opportunities to improve his score. The problem is he’s 174 points out of first place, so there is much work to be done in order to challenge the leaders. Stranger things have happened, but this is going to take some work.
Leader: Peter D’Agnolo
Bracket racers in the Northeast Division have long known that Peter D’Agnolo is a heck of a driver, and now, that’s becoming evident to Comp eliminator racers. Driving the 104 Contractors Cobalt, D’Agnolo is having a breakthrough season in 2021 with four victories, including the JEGS SPORTSnationals in Columbus. He’s currently got a 31-point lead over second-ranked Greg Kamplain with each driver competing in nine total events.
Favorite: Joe Mozeris
D’Agnolo has a fair amount of momentum on his side, but when it comes to the average score, it’s perhaps best to look down the standings to Joe Mozeris. Although he’s currently ranked No. 5, and 184 points behind D’Agnolo, Mozeris has competed in just five events and has three wins, a runner-up, and a semifinal on his scorecard. That’s a 74.4-point average for those keeping score. The Mopar-powered dragster that Mozeris drives is very competitive, and he’s having by far his best season ever as a driver. He’s also got three national events and six divisional races where he can improve his score, so there are multiple opportunities for him to move up the ladder, especially once the tour heads west this fall.
Sleeper pick(s): Bruno Massel, Richard Preiser, Doug Engels
Former and two-time world champ Bruno Massel already has two wins and a runner-up with his turbocharged Chevy Cobalt, so he’s off to a great start. Massel maintains a very busy schedule that also includes his jobs as a television host on the NHRA on FOX broadcasts, so it’s not entirely clear if he can race in enough events to pursue the title. Richard Preiser is also worth watching after he scored a win and two runner-up finishes early this season. Finally, there is Doug Engels, who has raced just four times but has two wins and a runner-up to show for it.
Leader: Anthony Bertozzi
He’s already got one championship in Super Stock and is the defending champ in Top Dragster, and now Anthony Bertozzi has a chance to add one, or possibly two, more titles to his résumé. While his best chance for a title might be in Top Dragster, it’s hard to overlook Bertozzi’s current total of 485 points in Super Stock, which is just 11 more than No. 2-ranked Kent Hanley. So far, Bertozzi has earned three wins on the season, but he’s also got a number of early losses, meaning he’s got a tough hill to climb in order to hang on to the lead. He can’t afford to have many more bad races.
Favorite: Greg Stanfield
Suddenly, it’s the early 1990s again with Greg Stanfield in contention for another Super Stock world championship. Some might remember that Stanfield won four titles in a five-year span between 1990-94, and now he’s got an excellent shot to add a fifth title this season. Racing a limited schedule, Stanfield already has three wins and a quarterfinal on his divisional scorecard. He’s raced in just one national event and has a round-one loss, so there is a lot of work to do there, but also a lot of room for improvement. Stanfield spends a lot of time taking care of his engine customers and helping his son, Aaron, so the championship might not be his biggest priority. Then again, he’s just 38 points out of first place and can better his score at five nationals.
Sleeper pick(s): Jody Lang, Ricky Decker
Jody Lang, the reigning NHRA Stock champ, got off to a flying start this season when he won his first three events in Super Stock. He suffered a round-one loss at the Sonoma national event but came back with a quarterfinal a week later in Pomona. Lang has attended just five races, but his 75.4-point average is worth taking note of. In his last five starts, Decker has been to three finals and has two wins, which is enough to be among the Top 5 at midseason. Currently just 29 points out of first, he’s got plenty of races left in which to improve his score. His only bad race is a round-two finish in Atlanta, and he’s already made that up on the national level with a win, a runner-up, and a quarterfinal in his three scored events.
Leader: Wes Neely
Mississippi’s Wes Neely came out swinging in 2021 with a win and a runner-up in his first two races, and so far, he’s done nothing but add to his points total. Currently, Neely has raced in two national and seven divisional races, and he’s got a solid score of 486 points. On the divisional level, Neely has been money, but his two national events represent a first and a second-round loss. He’s got four chances to improve on that and will need to make good on at least a couple if he’s to remain in the top spot.
Favorite: Joe Santangelo II
It’s really hard to pick a favorite in Stock because the field is so tightly packed, but Santangelo would seem to have a great shot at first place given his solid start and his prior championship experience. Santangelo is currently in eighth place, but he’s only been to five events and has two wins and a semifinal finish. Santangelo also races primarily out of the Northeast Division, where they have completed just two of seven scheduled Lucas Oil Series events.
Sleeper pick: Justin Lamb
Honestly, it’s hard to envision Lamb as a sleeper because he’s already got five championships, and he’s almost always at or near the top of the points standings, but we’re going to bestow that honor on him this time. Lamb’s 2021 season has been a mixed bag with one win, one runner-up, and a couple of early losses. He’s been to just three national and three divisional events, so he’s completed less than half of a season. No matter how far back he is, no one should ever take Lamb for granted. He’s proven time and time again that he’s almost never totally out of it, and he’s almost guaranteed to be fighting for a sixth title in the closing weeks of the season.
Leader: Ray Miller III
Two years ago, Ray Miller III was crowned the Lucas Oil Super Comp world champ, and his odds to win another title this season appear to be very good. Racing in Division 2, Miller started early and turned on a lot of win lights at the events held in Florida during the month of March. A win, a runner-up, and a semifinal have given him a solid foundation in which to build. Currently, Millers stands at 445 points with seven races in the books. There are a host of accomplished racers in hot pursuit, but all of them will have to pass Miller in order to gain the top spot.
Favorite(s): Sherman Adcock Jr., John Labbous Jr.
If Miller isn’t the favorite, then it will likely be his fellow Division 2 racers John Labbous Jr. and Sherman Adcock Jr., both of whom are also past world champs. Adcock is just one point behind Miller, but he’s attended one more event, so his average score isn’t as impressive. He does, however, have a bunch of quarterfinal and semifinal finishes. Labbous got off to an uncharacteristically slow start with early losses in three of his first four races, but he’s been solid ever since, and he’s 55 points out of the lead.
Sleeper pick: Ross Laris
Currently, in the Top 10 in both Super Comp and Top Dragster, Laris is having one of the best years of his career. In Super Comp, Laris has a win and a semifinal, and he’s ranked No. 7 despite having raced in just one national event. Laris can’t do too much to improve his divisional score because he’s already been to six races, but he can improve at national events with five more chances to do so. That makes him dangerous.
Leader: Luke Bogacki
At this point, nothing is certain, but if there is one driver who is a near-lock to win a title, it’s current Super Gas leader Bogacki. Already a two-time champ, Bogacki has been brilliant this year with three wins in five final rounds. He’s currently got a 71-point lead over John Labbous Jr., and he’s only been to two national events, which means his next one counts as a full score. Bogacki can also clean up a round-two loss at a divisional race.
Favorite: Luke Bogacki
If Bogacki doesn’t win another round this season, he would finish with 573 points, which is a fairly impressive score and almost certainly enough to guarantee a Top 10 finish. The greater likelihood is the Bogacki will continue to win rounds, and it’s not hard to see him pushing his total deep into the 600 range or possibly even 700. Remember, no one has ever scored 700 points and not won the championship.
Sleeper pick: Jeremy Mason
This might be a bit of a stretch given Bogacki’s sizable lead, but former world champ Jeremy Mason is currently sitting at 379 points, and he’s been to just three national and four divisional races. In order to challenge for the top spot, he’s going to need to win several races, or at least make it to several final rounds. Yes, that would be difficult, but not impossible.
TOP DRAGSTER presented by Vortech Superchargers
Leader: Anthony Bertozzi
Last year, when he won the Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers championship during a COVID-19-shortened season, Bertozzi said he wanted to successfully defend his championship in order to remove any doubts, and it appears that he’s well on his way to doing just that. With three national events and five divisional races under his belt, Bertozzi has a robust 502-point score, which gives him a solid lead over the rest of the field.
Favorite: Anthony Bertozzi
With two wins and two runner-up finishes already, Bertozzi isn’t just the points leader, he’s also a fairly significant favorite to win back-to-back titles. Bertozzi can clean up a round-two loss at national events, and he’s got a first- and second-round loss at Lucas Oil Series divisional races where he can improve. Bertozzi is also more than willing and able to travel wherever necessary in order to pursue another title so don't be surprised to see him make a West Coast trip later this season.
Sleeper pick: Danny Nelson
Another former champ who is in the mix for another title is chassis builder Nelson, who hasn’t raced much, but his six events (one national and five divisionals) already include a win and a runner-up. Nelson has a lot of catching up to do in order to challenge for the lead, but he’s given himself plenty of opportunities to do just that.
TOP SPORTSMAN presented by Vortech Superchargers
Leader: Allen Firestone
The battle for the championship in Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers is wide open with the Top 10 drivers separated by just 69 points. At this point, Firestone is nursing a slim seven-point lead over Division 2 racer Doug Gbur, and his lead over third-ranked Ronnie Proctor is just nine points. Firestone has attended three national events and six divisional races, and he’s got a win and a few late-round finishes to show for it. In order to stay atop the standings, he’s almost certainly going to need to finish strong with at least one or two more final rounds.
Favorite: Darian Boesch
With so many contenders, it’s hard to label anyone a favorite, but reigning champ Boesch would seem to have a decent chance to defend his 2020 title. Boesch, who’s supercharged Camaro is one of the quickest cars in the Top Sportsman class, has two wins and a runner-up, and he’s only been to one national event, so there is a lot of room to improve. In fact, he can pass leader Firestone simply by attending two more national events.
Sleeper pick: Bob Gulitti
We’re going pretty far down the list for this pick, but Gulitti has only competed in four divisional races, and he’s been to the final in two of them with a win and a runner-up. That’s a solid foundation upon which to build, but the clock is ticking on the season, and he’s going to need to make up some ground quickly. Of the final 10 national events on the schedule, just six of them feature the Top Sportsman class, not counting the rain-delayed Houston event from earlier this season.