The first four-wide race in two years took place last month in Las Vegas, but this weekend marks the first race at exquisite zMAX Dragway since 2019 and the excitement is palpable.
It’s also the first four-wide race at the birthplace of the sport’s most unique spectacle in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s created plenty of anticipation among fans for this weekend's NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, who are eager to witness 44,000-horsepower in action for the 11th time at zMAX Dragway.
The race is the fourth of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and things have reached a good rhythm. Atlanta took place just two weeks ago and after racing this weekend in Charlotte, teams will compete again next week in Houston.
Having everyone in a regular racing routine should bring out the best in everyone, as will the ideal temperatures slated for the weekend at zMAX Dragway. Being the second four-wide race in as many months should make for plenty of exciting action as well, with the race in Las Vegas delivering a number of memorable moments. That should only continue in Charlotte with all four professional classes set to put on a show at zMAX Dragway, starting with Friday’s lone qualifying session under the lights.
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence has dominated the four-wide scene in recent years, but it’s Antron Brown who has the most momentum in the class after his thrilling Atlanta victory. It was a major step in getting the three-time world champ back to being a consistent contender, and he’ll look to keep that rolling in Charlotte, where he’s won five times, including twice in the four-wide format.
Of course, Torrence has been dominant in the four-wide format, winning in Las Vegas last month and taking the last three four-wide victories in Charlotte. He’s been nearly unstoppable with four dragsters on the track and the points leader will look to keep rolling this weekend.
Shawn Langdon is after his own bit of history, as he can become the first driver in NHRA history to win a four-wide race in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. He has the Funny Car victory — that coming in 2019 at zMAX Dragway - but he’s just missed out in Top Fuel. Langdon’s also done everything but win in 2021, so this might be his weekend. Others, including Doug Kalitta, Leah Pruett, Clay Millican, Josh Hart and Brittany Force would beg to differ.
Kalitta, Pruett and Millican are coming off rough first-round losses in Atlanta, so each is ready to bounce back in Charlotte, while Force seems to be closing in on a win. She has gotten a little better at each race, advancing to the semifinals in Atlanta, and Force will look to close the job at the four-wide race for the second time at Charlotte.
There’s been nobody hotter in Funny Car than Bob Tasca, who has pulled off back-to-back wins in the class. Nobody has won three straight in Funny Car since Ron Capps did it in 2017. One of those wins in that stretch — which included four straight wins for Capps - came during the four-wide race at zMAX Dragway, and Tasca will try to follow in those footsteps this weekend.
He’s been impressive in every regard, making quick, consistent runs in qualifying and in eliminations, and Tasca will look to keep growing that points lead in Charlotte.
It was John Force’s best outing of the 2021 season in Atlanta and he won the inaugural four-wide race in Charlotte way back in 2010. Now, 11 years later, he’ll look to replicate that feat following a momentum-grabbing race two weeks ago. There’s a host of standouts still looking for their first victories of the season, including defending world champ Matt Hagan, Capps and Robert Hight, who struggled mightily in Atlanta.
The good news for Hight is he’s been dominant at zMAX Dragway, with his six victories doubling the next closest competitor. Of those wins, two have come in the four-wide format and Hight is after a sizable turnaround after a first-round exit in Atlanta.
Other competitors to watch include Gainesville winner J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria and Cruz Pedregon, who won the four-wide race in Charlotte in 2018.
Greg Anderson just keeps rolling right along in Pro Stock, staying at least a step ahead of everyone in the class. He’s qualified No. 1 at every stop, something he’ll look to keep going in Charlotte, and he’s won two fo the first three races. A victory at zMAX Dragway would be historic, too, as it would tie Anderson with Warren Johnson for the most wins in Pro Stock history. That will certainly be on Anderson’s mind as he looks for his third four-wide win at Charlotte and fourth overall at the track.
Defending world champ Erica Enders is the last driver to win in the class at the four-wide race in Charlotte, doing so in 2018. She put up the biggest fight against Anderson in Atlanta, but the Elite Motorsports team will need to keep working to catch up with the veteran. Enders more than has it in her to get there and will be poised for a big weekend.
Joining her with those thoughts is Deric Kramer, Aaron Stanfield, Mason McGaha, Kyle Koretsky and Troy Coughlin Jr.
Winning close to home would be a big deal for Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader and defending champ Matt Smith and his team, and he’s looking for new four-wide memory in Charlotte. He won the inaugural race in 2010, but hasn’t since, something he’ll try to rectify this weekend. If he doesn’t there’s good odds his teammates could be there to succeed. Scotty Pollacheck won in Atlanta after qualifying No. 1, while Angie Smith has been solid all year.
Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines made quite the season-debut in Atlanta, with both combining to make multiple 200-mph runs. That’s a first for Hines, as they picked up right where they left off a year ago despited the extended time off.
The class will have another huge, 20-plus bike field in Charlotte, leading to what surely will be a terrific weekend of racing in the two-wheeled category.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
Saturday, May 15, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, May 16, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, May 16, FS1 will televise final eliminations from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET)