There’s a lot to like about Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, including the neatly manicured grounds, the enthusiastic fan base, and, of course, the ice cream that’s available for just $1 per pound. Moreover, each of the champions crowned at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals also receives a special-edition ice cream scoop that has become one of the most coveted trophies in drag racing.
So, who’s going to get ice cream this year? We’re now six races into the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the points battles in each of the Professional classes are beginning to take shape. We know that Steve Torrence is already doing what Steve Torrence does best, which is winning races. He’s obviously the favorite in Top Fuel. Tipster, whose favorite flavor just happens to be Rocky Road, has also labeled Bob Tasca III, Greg Anderson, Matt Smith, and Justin Bond as the favorites in Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, and Pro Mod.
It’s been a while since we went to Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, but if you’ll recall, the last time we were there in 2019, the Capco team left with the hardware. Oh, and they also got the job done in 2017, and for what it’s worth, they have a runner-up finish in 2012.
The three-time world champion and 2014 Norwalk winner is back, and in a big way. Although he’s more than a full race behind leader Torrence, Brown is solidly in second place in the Camping World standings, and that’s a huge improvement over the last two seasons. A recent test session in Indy was also very helpful.
Recently, we openly wondered why the second Capco car hasn’t been able to duplicate the results (or even come close) to what Steve has done. Then, we went to Epping, and Billy led the way with an impressive victory that was honestly long overdue. And, it’s not likely to be his last win this season. That’s almost a given.
Monster Energy/Flavor Pak
There is a breakout weekend coming for the Monster Energy team, and it’s bound to happen sooner than later. Crew chief David Grubnic has lofty expectations every time the car goes down the track, and he’s certainly not happy with back-to-back early losses in Houston and Epping. If they don’t get a win here, expect to see at least one on the upcoming Western Swing through Denver, Sonoma, and Pomona.
Speaking of teams that are overdue for their first win of the season, the Mac Tools car definitely fits that description. Norwalk is somewhat of a home race because it’s not too far from Ypsilanti, Mich., and the Kalitta team has a respectable record here with a win in 2015 and a pair of runner-up finishes. He’s currently in sixth place but could leave Norwalk as high as third should the stars align correctly.
We’re going to look past a tough loss in Epping to teammate Kalitta and focus on the positive, which is the fact that he’s been ranked in the top four all season, has a runner-up in Gainesville, and a very respectable 8-6 record in eliminations. He’s also got a win here in Top Fuel during the 2016 race. After a couple of tough races, he’s also back to qualifying in the top half of the field. This field is massive (18 cars), so a solid qualifying performance is critical.
To be honest, the Scrappers team did not get off to a great start in 2021 but their fortunes appeared to turn at the last race in Epping, where they qualified No. 2 and went to the final round. That wasn’t enough. They also loaded up and headed to Indy for a two-day test session last week, where they made a number of competitive runs. Whatever issues they may have had at the start of the season appear to be a thing of the past.
Top Fuel is so tough right now it’s hard to imagine anyone who doesn’t run a full season making the Top 10, but here we are with the Hart team, who will be flying the special R+L Carriers paint scheme this weekend. They have sat out two races but remain solidly in the playoffs thanks to a win in Gainesville and a runner-up in Charlotte. They’ve also recently announced an expanded schedule for this season, which might not be good news for the rest of the field.
Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
You’ve undoubtedly heard this before but consistency wins championships, and right now, there isn’t a Funny Car that is more consistent than the Motorcraft Mustang. Consider that they’ve gone six events this year without a round-one loss, and they’ve got two wins and two semifinals, and they’ve led the points since Las Vegas. When it comes to Norwalk, they’ve also got a special bond here. Tasca won the nitro Funny Car title in 2019 and was a runner-up in 2009. And, his first alcohol win came here in 2007.
Blue Def Chevy
OK, be honest, when he made his much-anticipated comeback in 2021, how many of you expected that he’d win two of the first six races and have a 12-4 record? Tipster certainly didn’t expect that sort of performance, but then again, they don’t call him GOAT for no reason. He’s also a former Norwalk winner who is on top of his game right now. It's not even taboo to think about the possibility of a 17th championship.
Auto Club Chevy
It’s not just John Force that has enjoyed a great return to the sport this season. The Auto Club team is also right on schedule with a win in Houston and a pair of runner-up finishes, including the most recent event in Epping. Oddly enough, they’ve struggled at times during qualifying, starting as low as No. 15, but that hasn’t seemed to have much effect on their Sunday results.
Much like Tasca, he’s been consistent this year with a clean sheet when it comes to round-one losses. The DHL team also has a win, although it came back in March in Gainesville. They have not been to a final round at Summit Motorsports Park, but there’s not a single reason to think that can’t change this weekend.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
Tipster gives the Levi, Ray, & Shoup team a nice bump this week thanks to back-to-back semifinals in Houston and Epping. Moreover, they are qualifying well and beating quality cars on race day, which speaks volumes about what a single-car team can do in this sport with the right mindset and personnel. Don’t be surprised to see the coveted ice cream scoop going to Springfield, Ill.
What happened in Epping was nothing short of a disaster, but rather than dwell on the past, it’s better to pick up the pieces and move on. In this case, the good news is that Norwalk has been pretty good to the NAPA team with four final rounds over the last decade and a big win here in 2016. The DSR team could use a win about now, and this team is the odds-on favorite to deliver it.
Good news and bad news for the reigning champ. First, the bad news is that he’s winless through the first six events of the season. The good news is that there are 14 races left, so there is plenty of time to get on a roll, which is something the Mopar team historically does well. The 2018 Norwalk winner should put together a victory sooner rather than later.
Signs of progress are evident for the Snap-on team even if their recent results don’t show it. Losses to Todd and Hight in Houston and Epping are difficult to swallow, but again, if one wants to focus on the positives, his average qualifying position is 5.83 this season. All that’s missing is a bit of race-day consistency.
There was a time when this guy won 15 races in a single season. Let’s be clear, that ain’t happening again anytime soon, probably not ever. Pro Stock is just too competitive for that. Then again, he’s been to the final in three of the first six races and has two wins, so that’s an impressive start. He’s also been in first place for the entire season (so far), and it doesn’t look like he’s willing to give that up anytime soon.
Janac Motorsports Camaro
You didn’t need a crystal ball to see this coming. There are a lot of talented kids in Pro Stock, but this guy is beginning to separate himself from the field. He’s doing that with two wins and two runner-up finishes in just 27 career starts. Lately, he’s been on the money with a confidence-inspiring win in Epping and the No. 2 spot in the Camping World standings.
Harlow Sammons Camaro
We often debate who the next first-time Pro winner will be and if there is any doubt this kid should be the favorite in that category right now. So far, his second season in Pro Stock has been even more impressive than his first with a runner-up and three semifinals accounting for nine round-wins. It’s not a surprise to see a McGaha in the No. 3 spot in the standings but most would have expected it to be Chris.
Total Seal Camaro
The slow start that held the Total Seal team to just three round-wins in the first four races is a thing of the past because this is arguably one of the best cars in the class right now with a win in Houston and a semifinal finish in Epping. Qualifying has also been impressive lately with back-to-back starts from the No. 5 position.
The world champ is rarely ranked this low by Tipster or anyone else, but it’s been a tough stretch for the Melling team with just two round-wins in the last three events. It’s also hard not to notice that Matt Hartford has been her kryptonite, winning their last three battles dating back to last season’s Dallas race. Enders won an emotional final here in 2014 and was a runner-up again in 2018, so there is a reason for optimism.
Get Biofuel Camaro
Following his solid drive in Houston, which netted a runner-up finish, it was certainly disappointing to go to Epping and shake the tires in round one. That’s not typical of the Get Biofuel team. They generally get down the track and make each opponent earn their victories. The loss meant a drop from second to fourth in the standings, but a solid race here would do a lot to get those points back.
RAD Torque Systems Camaro
He’s had so much success so soon that it's easy to forget he’s a true rookie who has let the clutch out maybe 30 to 40 times in a Pro Stock car. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to expect a few bumps in the road, including quarterfinal losses in Houston and Epping. It’s also reasonable to expect a quick rebound this week, especially when one considers he had the quickest car in the field two races ago.
Troy Coughlin Jr.
Apparently, he’s considering a car change this weekend in order to improve his results, so expect to see the Elite Mustang wearing the JEGS.com logo this time around. Whatever the cause or the solution, something has clearly been amiss with this team for the last few races. Once the Elite team gets that straightened out (and they will), we’ll get a chance to see the third-generation racer's real talent emerge.
It might not be the case much longer, but this remains the best bike in the class, and the four-time champ has a 10-3 record on race day to prove it. Going to three finals in the first four races will almost certainly get you the top spot in Tipster’s rankings, but there is a big pack of wolves pursuing the top spot. He’s going to need to keep winning in order to stay here.
Being an NHRA racer is a lot like being an NHL goalie or a MLB relief pitcher; you’ve got to have a short memory, so don’t be surprised if this guy has no recollection of the last Pro Stock Motorcycle race in Charlotte, where he qualified No. 1 but took a rare round-one loss. He’s better than that, and we all know it. Expect much better things this time around.
Vance & Hines Buell
Pro Stock Motorcycles have run in Norwalk 13 times, and he’s been in the final round six of them with five wins. That’s a lot of ice cream scoops. At the recent test session at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, he had one of the best bikes on the property, and his speed was actually faster than teammate Eddie Krawiec, which hasn’t happened much lately.
Reed Motorsports Suzuki
He’s still got a few bumps and bruises from his testing accident a few months ago, but that hasn’t prevented him from making some very impressive runs lately. In Charlotte, he went to the final round of the four-wide event, and in qualifying, he’s been ranked no lower than No. 5 at any event this season. A long-awaited first win seems imminent.
To suggest that his win in Charlotte was a surprise would be an understatement. To be honest, it was a total shock, but at the same time, it wasn’t a fluke. This Suzuki was arguably the best bike on the property that weekend, including a No. 2 starting spot and a career-best 6.72 to win the final. After 451 career races, there is obviously still a little something left.
Vance & Hines Buell
Three of his 48 career wins have come here, so don’t be surprised if he’s got 49 Wallys by the end of the weekend. The Vance & Hines team is a little behind the eight ball after missing the first two races of the season, but they’re catching up quickly. Expect both Krawiec and Hines to be solidly in the Top 10 after this race.
Flyin’ Ryan EBR
He came out swinging in 2021 with a win and a runner-up in the first two races but has cooled off a bit since then. Regardless, he’s ranked No. 4 in the class right now, and with the exception of Charlotte, his qualifying results have been spot-on. Yes, there is a touch of inconsistency here, but when he’s on his game, he’s as good as anyone in the class.
Mission Foods Suzuki
Sort of cruel to think a 6.76 in the first round in Charlotte was not enough to turn on a win light (or even good enough for second place), but that’s ancient history. Looking forward, the Mission Foods Suzuki has been strong this season, even if the results haven’t been there. She will almost certainly qualify better than No. 12 and will also be a favorite to win a few rounds on Sunday afternoon.
He followed his runner-up in Gainesville with a win in Atlanta and then a semifinal in Charlotte, and all of that is good for the current points leader in the class. He’s also qualified in the top three at each event, so we know the performance is there. There is a lot of parity in Pro Mod right now, but it’s hard to argue that this car isn’t just a touch better than the rest of the field right now.
He’s won six rounds at the last two events so it’s easy to forget that he began the year with a stunning DNQ in Gainesville. Everyone gets at least one mulligan per season, and the reigning champ used his early. He’s already climbed to No. 2 in the standings and could take over first with a solid showing this week. For sure, he’ll be right there at the end of the season.
If nothing else, Pro Mod racers are a resourceful group. When he crashed his new car in Charlotte, a replacement was just a phone call away. Actually, the car was reportedly in the Middle East, and it was flown here in time to make the Norwalk event. That should tell you how committed the Q80 team is to pursuing the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series championship.
We’re not 100% sure what combination he’ll be racing here, but it’s between a conventional supercharger and a ProCharger and either one will certainly be quick. He ran a bunch of 5.6s the last time out at zMax Dragway, and for what it’s worth, he’s also Norwalk’s most recent Pro Mod winner from the 2019 season.
The AAP team tested this week in Indy, and the results were positive. After missing the first event of the season, the 2011 Norwalk winner has made it to the No. 9 spot and would absolutely like to pick up a few more places. Honestly, it’s been a while since he visited the winner’s circle so the word “overdue” seems appropriate.
J&A Service Corvette
He followed a tough loss in Gainesville with a pair of semifinals at the next two races, so that means he’s right in the thick of the Pro Mod championship battle. There is still much work to be done in order to catch the leaders, but we’ve got a team here that seems more than capable.
Bahrain1 Lowe Toyota
The nitrous combination remains viable in Pro Mod, and this car is perhaps the best example of that. He comes to Norwalk ranked No. 6 in the standings, and that includes a tough early loss at his home event in Atlanta. As a former Top Sportsman world champ, he’s also got more than enough driving talent to get the job done.
Scrappers Racing Camaro
For a guy who is totally new to doorslammer racing, he seems to have adapted well to Pro Mod with some impressive numbers in his debut, and during a recent test session. As one might expect, he’s got the best of the best when it comes to equipment, so while there may be an adjustment period as a driver, all the tools are here for long-term success.