For what appears to be the final time, the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series will make a stop at Houston Raceway Park near Baytown, Texas. Not surprisingly, Tricky Tipster has tabbed Steve Torrence an Erica Enders, a pair of native Texans, as the favorites in Top Fuel and Pro Stock. Tipster also has his eye on Matt Hagan and Karen Stoffer in Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
The favorite: Two weeks ago, Tipster wrote the following, Steve Torrence hasn’t won yet this season, but does that mean Tipster shouldn’t pick him as a favorite?’ It didn’t affect his chances then and it doesn’t now. In fact, Torrence hasn’t won in four starts this season which means he’s overdue. Torrence rarely goes more than a few races without a win and as a proud Texan, he’d loved nothing more than to win in his home state. Two weeks ago in Las Vegas, Torrence went to the final before losing a close battle against Brittany Force’s Monster team. That’s a sure indicator that there is nothing to be worried about in the Capco pit. It’s just a matter of time before they finish the job.
The contenders: First and foremost, we have Brittany Force, who nearly made the top spot this week after her impressive Four Wide win in Las Vegas. Two things stood out there. Force was exceptionally quick, which is normal for the David Grubcic led squad but perhaps more importantly, Force’s driving was spot on as she won her 12th race as a professional.
Mike Salinas has yet to appear in a final in Houston but that could change this weekend as the Scrappers team continues establish itself as a genuine title contender.
This week we’re also going to to take a long hard look at Tony Schumacher simply because the eight-time world champ has been to the final eight times here with three victories. Schumacher’s most recent win also came here during the 2020 season.
The dark horse: There are plenty to choose from including Doug Kalitta, who also has prior success in Baytown, but we are going with Austin Prock this week. The former rookie of the year has cooled off a bit since his runner-up finish in Pomona, but the Montana Brands entry is capable of running with anyone in the class and he’s clearly capable of delivering under pressure.
Steve Torrence Capco 3-1
Brittany Force Monster Energy 4-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 5-1
Tony Schumacher SCAG/Maynard 6-1
Billy Torrence Capco 6-1
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 7-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 7-1
Josh Hart Burnyzz/Technet 8-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 9-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 14-1
The favorite: In four races this season, Matt Hagan has a win, two runner-up finishes and a semifinal which means almost everything has gone right for the Dodge Power Brokers team. Hagan brings his 11-3 record into Houston Raceway Park, a track where he’s enjoyed prior success with a win in 2010 and a runner-up in 2019. Hagan has also qualified No. 4 or better at every race this season, which tends to make life a bit easier on race day.
The contenders: Right now, there are several drivers who could easily challenge Hagan for the top spot but two that stand out are Ron Capps and Robert Hight. Capps already has a win in his first season as a car owner while Hight kicked off the season with back-to-back wins in Pomona and Phoenix to go with a semi in Las Vegas. Capps and Hight both have four Houston wins to their credit while Hight is also the defending event champion.
One other driver that we’re willing to throw in the mix is Bob Tasca III, who has never won in Houston, but has shown enough muscle lately to warrant Tipster’s attention. Tasca comes into this event as the No. 7 ranked driver and has a great shot to improve.
The dark horse: Blake Alexander missed the first two races of the season, but is already contending for a spot in the Top 10 thanks to a runner-up finish in Gainesville and a solid semifinal showing in Las Vegas. The Head Contractors Mustang has also been impressive in qualifying, starting from the No. 6 and No. 3 spots. The team also appears to have found some of the consistency that might have been missing in recent seasons.
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 4-1
Ron Capps NAPA Dodge 5-1
Robert Hight Auto Club Chevy 5-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 6-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 7-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 8-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 9-1
Tim Wilkerson LRS Ford 10-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 11-1
Blake Alexander Head Racing Ford 13-1
The favorite: The planets have aligned perfectly for Erica Enders to say goodbye to her home track and childhood playground with a final Pro Stock victory in Houston. Enders comes into the event following a confidence-building victory in Las Vegas. Enders won her 35th Pro Stock race with a combination of horsepower and solid driving, which sets the stage for a possible repeat this weekend. As for her record in Houston, it's solid with back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015 to go with a runner-up in 2018. Of course, she also won the super Gas title here many moons ago.
The contenders: In Pro Stock, everyone is a contender right now with more than half the field fully capable of winning at any given race. That means we have to dig a little deeper to find those who genuinely can hoist a Wally on Sunday afternoon. Two of the names that easily come to mind are Aaron Stanfied and Dallas Glenn. Stanfield is the current points leader who has also qualified No. 1 at the last two events (and No. 2 at the previous two before that). Stanfield won here in 2020 in a memorable race that also included a Factory Stock Showdown title.
As for Glenn, he’s still smarting after a small electrical gremlin cost him a shot to win the Las Vegas Four Wide race two weeks ago. The best medicine for a loss like that is a chance to win the next race. Glenn could stand to qualify a little better, but his race day results have so far been superb.
For this event, we also like Matt Hartford since the Total Seal driver has bagged two wins here in the last three races. Hartford hasn’t done much this season, but this would be a perfect place for a rebound.
The dark horse: NHRA has already had a first-time winner this season in Gainesville Top Fuel champ Tripp Tatum and the next to join that list could easily be Mason McGaha. The third-generation driver has steadily improved since his debut in 2020 and he’s currently sitting No. 5 in the Camping World standings. McGaha already has six round wins this season and what’s most impressive about that is the fact that he’s yet to qualify higher than No. 11 at any event.
Erica Enders Melling/Elite 3-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros. 4-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Torque Systems 4-1
Kyle Koretsky Lucas Oil/Nitro Fish 5-1
Matt Hartford Speed Pro 6-1
Greg Anderson HendrickCars.com 7-1
Mason McGaha Harlow Sammons 8-1
Troy Coughlin Jr. JEGS.com/Elite 8-1
Chris McGaha Harlow Sammons 9-1
Deric Kramer Get Biofuel 10-1
Bo Butner JHG/Butner Auto 11-1
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The favorite: After her stunning performance in Gainesville, including the sport’s first 6.6-second runs and a convincing victory, how could this be anyone other than Karen Stoffer? Competing in what could very well be her final season as a full-time pro, Stoffer looks to continue her quest for a championship in Houston, where she won back-to-back titles in 2004-05. The rest of the field has had more than a month to catch up to Stoffer, but there is a lot of work to be done. For now, the rider of the Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Suzuki has the edge.
The contenders: The second-best bike in Gainesville belonged to runner-up Angie Smith, who recorded a career-best 6.72 in the final round. With that level of performance, Smith could easily grab her third career win here. Smith’s husband, Matt, is rarely anything less than a contender no matter what bike he’s riding. Matt Smith began the season on a Suzuki and will likely stick with that bike in Houston, although the reigning champ has last year’s Denso Buell as an option if necessary.
The Vance & Hines team also merits contender status since riders Eddie Krawiec and Angelle Sampey have combined to win five times in Houston. Krawiec is also the defending event champion, winning the final against Ryan Oehler the last time the Pro Stock Motorcycle class ran here in 2020.
The darkhorse: Jerry Savoie has essentially the same equipment as his WAR teammate Stoffer so it stands to reason that he should be equally as competitive, or close to it. So far, that hasn’t been the case, although Savoie did go to the semifinals in Gainesville and ran a solid 6.78 in the process which proves he’s on the right track.
Karen Stoffer Big St. Charles Suzuki 3-1
Angie Smith Denso Buell 4-1
Matt Smith Denso Suzuki 5-1
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines Suzuki 6-1
Angelle Sampey Vance & Hines Suzuki 7-1
Joey Gladstone Reed Racing Suzuki 8-1
Jerry Savoie White Alligator Suzuki 9-1
Steve Johnson MacRak Suzuki 10-1
Ryan Oehler Flyin’ Ryan Buell 12-1
LE Tonglet Nitro Fish Suzuki 14-1