An exquisite racing facility, first-class treatment, and yes, $1 ice cream, awaits everyone at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park this weekend as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to northern Ohio for the first time since 2019.
Heavy on showmanship and entertainment, the Bader family has long known how to create a platform for the stars of NHRA drag racing to shine and it was something sorely missed a year ago.
It returns for this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals and the excitement surrounding the race is undeniable. The track didn’t open a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with this weekend’s race, the facility is back to being one of the preeminent stops on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series tour.
Racers and fans alike have nothing but praise for the top-notch facility in Norwalk, making it the perfect stop to officially kick off the summer. It’s the seventh race of the 2021 season and with the Countdown to the Championship starting to inch its way closer, every team will look to be performing at a high level in Norwalk.
The Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing team already appear to be there in Top Fuel, with the combination of Steve and Billy Torrence winning the last three races. S. Torrence is back in his usual perch atop the class and won the race in 2019, putting him in prime position to add another Wally — and the honorary ice cream scoop trophy given out by the track to the winners this weekend — to his collection.
B. Torrence won in Epping, showcasing some of his best work behind the wheel en route to knocking off Mike Salinas in the final round. One major item to keep an eye on is drivers looking to make a move into the top five, as it’s currently an impressive bunch sitting just outside that position.
While S. Torrence is comfortably ahead, Antron Brown, B. Torrence, Shawn Langdon, and Brittany Force make up the first five positions in the class, with all being plenty capable of winning this weekend. In the next six spots sits an impressive array of talent, with the likes of Doug Kalitta, Justin Ashley, Gainesville winner Josh Hart, Clay Millican, Leah Pruett, and Salinas separated by just 66 points. In fact, the seventh through 11th spots have just 19 points — or less than one round — between them.
Kalitta trails Force by just 11 points and that group of six drivers are looking at Norwalk as the place to get hot and begin their ascent up the standings.
In Funny Car, John Force is already in the midst of his impressive climb to what he hopes will be the top spot in points by the end of the weekend.
By winning two of the past three races, he’s climbed to within 15 points of points leader Bob Tasca III, who is the defending race winner in the class. Force’s unique brand of entertainment is also perfectly suited for Norwalk and the Bader family’s desire to put on a show, making him a natural pick to keep this stretch rolling.
Tasca, of course, would like a word and so would Force’s teammate, Robert Hight, who won in Houston and took on Force in the final at Epping. After struggling early in the season, Hight and Jimmy Prock are rolling and that’s a scary predicament for the rest of the class.
When touching on the rest of the class, it’s the question that has to be asked — Is this the race where Don Schumacher Racing gets it going? After 14 straight Funny Car wins, the team is still searching for its first of 2021, putting the spotlight on Ron Capps and defending world champ Matt Hagan. Both are plenty capable of winning in Norwalk, which would give both teams a major boost.
It’s also a big race for Gainesville winner J.R. Todd, who is third in points. Norwalk is close to home for the Michigan-based Kalitta Motorsports operation, which puts added significance for that group. Add in the likes of Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson, who again ran well in Epping, Cruz Pedregon, and Blake Alexander and it should be must-see action in the class.
Now that Greg Anderson has shown to be human in Pro Stock by not winning the last few races, can somebody pounce?
The obvious answer might be Aaron Stanfield, who raced past Anderson in the final round in Epping to move to second in points. One of the best young drivers behind the wheel and on the starting line, Stanfield has proven to be the real deal. He’s qualified in the top three in three of the past four races, advanced to two finals, and has no fear of the big moments.
This weekend will be the first time he’s raced Pro Stock in Norwalk, adding another level of excitement, and it could be a thrilling duel between him and Anderson, who has always raced well in Norwalk. He continues to perform at a high level, qualifying No. 1 five times in six races and a win — which would tie him with Warren Johnson for the most in Pro Stock history — would put him right back on his dominant path.
Currently, spots three through six — occupied by Mason McGaha, Deric Kramer, Erica Enders, and Matt Hartford — have just a 29-point gap between them, with someone looking to make a major move this weekend. Factor in the likes of rookie Dallas Glenn, Ohio native Troy Coughlin Jr., Kyle Koretsky, and 2019 winner Chris McGaha and you’ve got all the makings of what should be another Pro Stock barnburner in Norwalk.
The same can be said for Pro Stock Motorcycle, which boasts an impressive 21 entries for this weekend’s stop in Norwalk. It’s the first race in nearly six weeks for the class and there’s plenty to watch for after everyone went wild in Charlotte when it came to setting records.
While 200-mph runs suddenly became the norm that weekend, Steve Johnson put on a show on his four-valve Suzuki. He obliterated the previous track record, dipping into the low 6.70s, and Johnson also earned his first win in more than seven years. It’s been a remarkable season for Johnson, and he’s loved the thrill of learning this new combination, which has made him a contender in a loaded category.
Succeeding in Norwalk almost always means going through Andrew Hines, who has dominated at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park like no other competitor in the series. He has five victories here, including the most recent race in 2019, and considering he hasn’t been outside of the second round through his first two races this year, it might be the perfect place to jumpstart his season.
The rest of the class, however, doesn’t want to see Hines get going, that’s for sure, so look for the likes of Eddie Krawiec, points leader Matt Smith, Scotty Pollacheck, Angelle Sampey, Ryan Oehler, and Karen Stoffer to be on top of their games as well.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
Saturday, June 26, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 2 to 3:30 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, June 27, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, June 27, FOX will televise final eliminations from 2 to 5 p.m. (ET)