It’s hard to believe we’re back in Pomona and set to end the 2022 season. We’ve seen a lot this year in the previous 21 races, some of it expected and some not.
What we will see in Pomona is the remainder of the Camping World (and Lucas Oil Series champions) crowned. Erica Enders has already clinched the Pro Stock title but the Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock Motorcycle titles are still to be decided.
The battle in Top Fuel could not be closer with former champ Brittany Force leading Justin Ashley by just seven points. Force turned in perhaps the best performance of her career in Las Vegas, which is why she’s rating a slim edge against the rest of the field.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight has a solid lead, but he’s not out of the woods yet as Ron Capps and Matt Hagan are still very much alive. In this case, we’re also going with the leader as Hight has been solid all season long.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle title is Matt Smith’s to lose as he’s got a 104 point lead over Joey Gladstone, which means he doesn’t need to do much more than qualify in order to win a record-tying sixth title.
Finally, we’re obviously going with Enders, who has been the most dominant pro of the 2022 season with 10 wins in 18 races. There’s no reason to think she won’t bag an 11th title before we’re done.
The favorite: Brittany Force was the favorite for Las Vegas and she delivered with a strong performance to take the points lead heading into the season finale. Force will likely need another big outing to capture the championship but the Monster team should be brimming with confidence right now. If nothing else, Force figures to gain some qualifying points meaning that she’ll carry the lead into Sunday. It’s likely to be close, but Tipster has her surviving a close battle, perhaps event a winner-take-all final against Ashley.
The contenders: Ashley certainly is a contender especially since he won the season-opener in Pomona back in February. The same goes for Mike Salinas, Antron Brown, and Steve Torrence, who area all still mathematically in the running for the title should either of the leaders slip up. Let’s also throw in Austin Prock, who has run well lately and was a runner-up to Ashley at the Winternationals.
The dark horse(s): Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon. It’s hard for anyone to imagine that following the addition of Alan Johnson and Brian Husen, the Kalitta Motorsports dragsters would go winless on the season. That totally defies logic. The good news is both Kalitta cars have run better lately so there’s no reason to think they can’t finish the year on a high note.
Brittany Force Monster Energy 3-1
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 4-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 6-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 7-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 7-1
Steve Torrence Capco Contractors 8-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 9-1
Josh Hart R+L Carriers 10-1
Shawn Langdon DHL 12-1
Clay Millican Parts Plus 14-1
The favorite: It’s far from certain, but Robert Hight is in pretty good shape to win a fourth Camping World NHRA Series Funny Car title. Hight still has to hold off a late-season charge from Vegas winner Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, but he’s got two rounds to play with, and that should be enough, although we’ve seen some strange things happen at the season ending event in Pomona. Hight’s biggest edge is that he hasn’t lost in the first round at any points this season. That’s the sort of consistency he needs to stay on top.
The contenders: In terms of the championship, it’s just Capps and Hagan that have any sort of a realistic shot of catching Hight and both drivers are rightfully among the favorites to win the race as well. In addition, let’s throw in Bob Tasca III and J.R. Todd, who both seem overdue for some good luck. And then there is John Force, who won’t get his 17th Funny Car title this year but could easily win in Pomona, assuming he’s not in “blocker mode” to improve Hight’s chances.
The dark horse: We’ve been saying this for a while but how about Cruz Pedregon? He has struggled this year and it’s hard to explain exactly why. The Snap-on team has all the talent in the world and they recently added Lee Beard, who could easily be the difference maker.
Robert Hight Auto Club Chevy 3-1
Ron Capps NAPA Toyota 4-1
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 5-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 6-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 7-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 8-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 9-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 11-1
Tim Wilkerson LRS Ford 14-1
The favorite: Without the pressure of a championship battle, one has to wonder if Erica Enders still has the desire and motivation to win the final event of the season. We certainly think she does, and with the best car in the class under her, she’s a big favorite to do so. In fact, anything other than an Enders win this week should be considered an upset.
The Contenders: Everyone else in the Top 10 is a contender but they’re all chasing Enders and her Elite/Melling Camaro. Aaron Stanfield and Troy Coughlin Jr. have had great seasons, so it would not be a shock to see either of them (or both) in the final.
The KB team is also looking to end what has been a disappointing season on a positive note which means Greg Anderson, Dallas Glenn, Kyle Koretsky, Deric Kramer, or Matt Hartford gets the win. None of those scenarios are difficult to imagine, especially if Enders slips up.
The darkhorse: We went with Cristian Cuadra in Las Vegas, and he nearly delivered with a strong semifinal finish. So, guess what? We’re going with him again. He really is a talented driver who just needs an opportunity and a little luck to get over the hump. Cuadra remains our favorite to become NHRA’s next first-time winner.
Erica Enders Melling/Elite Camaro Even
Troy Coughlin Jr. JEGS.com Camaro 4-1
Greg Anderson Hendrick Cars.com Camaro 5-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro 5-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Torque Systems Camaro 6-1
Matt Hartford Total Seal Camaro 7-1
Deric Kramer Get BioFuel Camaro 8-1
Kyle Koretsky Lucas Oil/NitroFish Camaro 8-1
Camrie Caruso Powerbuilt Tools Camaro 11-1
Cristian Cuadra Jr. Corral Boots Mustang 14-1
Bo Butner JHG Camaro 15-1
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The favorite: We’re tempted to go with Hector Arana Jr. since he’s won the last two events, but something tells us that the safer pick is Matt Smith, who is looking to finish off his sixth championship run in style. Smith has had arguably the best bike in the class for most of the season and he’s not really under tremendous pressure since he’s got a sizable lead in the standings. It’s entirely possible that Smith wins the championship and someone else wins the race, but the odds don’t currently favor that.
The contenders: Much like Pro Stock car, the rest of the Top 10 is in the mix for a victory since the competition is really close. We also have to add Hector Arana Jr., for obvious reasons.
Let’s focus on Vance & Hines teammates Angelle Sampey and Eddie Krawiec, who have had the sort of results during the Countdown that they’d each like to forget. Maybe now that the pressure of the championship chase has eased, one of them can finish with a much-needed win.
The darkhorse: Speaking of much-needed wins, let’s take a closer look at Angie Smith, who should have a win by now. Smith has had a great bike for most of the season and her riding has been solid, but for whatever reason, the results have not been consistent. Tipster does not think it would be the least big surprising to see the Smith family head home with two trophies this weekend.
Matt Smith Denso Suzuki 5-2
Hector Arana Jr. GETTRX Buell 4-1
Joey Gladstone Reed Motorsports Suzuki 5-1
Jerry Savoie White Alligator Suzuki 5-1
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines Suzuki 6-1
Steve Johnson MacRak Suzuki 7-1
Angie Smith Denso Buell 8-1
Angelle Sampey Vance & Hines Suzuki 10-1
Karen Stoffer Skillman/Big St. Charles Suzuki 11-1