The recent Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol was not kind to the favorites and points leaders in any of the pro categories but such is the unpredictable nature of the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing series. This week’s event in Norwalk, which is expected to feature similar summertime conditions, will likely offer more of the same.
With that in mind, Tricky Tipster boldly offers his selections for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals and they include Brittany Force, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders, and Matt Smith.
The favorite: The Monster Energy team and Brittany Force appeared out of sorts in Bristol but we’re going to give them a pass because they are typically a solid group and crew chief David Grubnic is a stand-up guy who usually responds to a bad outing with a much stronger effort. It’s also worth noting that there are four qualifying sessions in Norwalk, which means the teams will have 25-percent more data to work with than usual. That’s a huge bonus for a guy like Grubnic. Force still leads the points standings, but her lead over Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley, and Steve Torrence is tenuous at best. This would be a perfect opportunity for the Monster crew to distance themselves from the field.
The contenders: We just named them; Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley, and reigning champ Steve Torrence are the three candidates most likely to unseat Force from the top of the standings. Salinas has been outstanding at almost every stop on the tour this season and even though he didn’t win in Bristol, his 3.75 in the opening round of eliminations was by far the best run of the event.
Ashley won in Bristol which automatically makes him one of the favorites for Norwalk, which will likely feature similar conditions. Ashley’s 3.80 run in the heat of the day in Bristol was also noteworthy. Finally, there is Torrence, who is now officially overdue to claim his first win of the season. Torrence has won the last two Norwalk events (2019-2021) and he’s won three of the last four events held at Summit Motorsports Park, which makes him an automatic contender.
The dark horse: There are 21 Top Fuel cars pre-entered this week so that helps improve the odds of an upset. Regardless, we’re going to play it safe and go with Shawn Langdon this time around. Yes, he was a runner-up last week in Bristol which doesn’t exactly make him a dark horse, but he’s also just 75 points in front of 11th place Tony Schumacher so round wins are critical right now.
Brittany Force Monster Energy 3-1
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 4-1
Steve Torrence Capco 5-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 6-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 7-1
Shawn Langdon DHL 9-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 11-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 12-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 14-1
Tony Schumacher SCAG/Maynard 16-1
The favorite: Let’s give Matt Hagan and the Dodge Power Brokers team a mulligan for their performance in Bristol so we can still (somewhat) comfortably say this is the best team in Funny Car racing, but their margin over the rest of the field has definitely shriveled over the past few races. Hagan won here in 2018 so he’s got a bit of history at this track and with four qualifying runs, they should be just fine come Sunday.
The contenders: Recently, we suggested the Funny Car battle was a two-horse race between Hagan and Robert Hight but Ron Capps had other ideas and went out and won the Bristol event. Truthfully, Hagan, Hight, and Capps are in an elite group and they rightfully should be among the favorites but they have some company.
First off, Cruz Pedregon is the defending event winner and he’s typically run well in Norwalk. The same can be said for Bob Tasca III who won this event in 2019 and was a runner-up last year which means he’s won seven of the last eight rounds here. Both of them are overdue for a win and the same goes for Bristol runner-up Tim Wilkerson, the 2010 Norwalk champ.
The dark horse: Alexis DeJoria is trending closer to contender status, but for now, we’ll label her and the Bandero Toyota team as our Dark Horse pick. DeJoria had a solid outing in Bristol and she’s climbed to No. 7 in the Camping World standings. Crew chief Del Worsham is making steady progress, particularly with his warm-weather tune-up, which suggests they’ll continue to rack up round wins.
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 2-1
Ron Capps NAPA Dodge 4-1
Robert Hight Auto Club Chevy 5-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 6-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 7-1
Tim Wilkerson LRS Ford 8-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 8-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 9-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 15-1
Blake Alexander Head Racing Ford 17-1
The favorite: Anyone who saw the Bristol Pro Stock final would agree that is was spectacular and entertaining, but it’s also worth noting that if not for a broken engine, Erica Enders would have won her fourth-straight race and fifth overall. Enders didn’t necessarily have the best car in Bristol but that didn’t prevent her from reaching the final and that might well be the case in Norwalk this weekend. Whatever the circumstances, its hard to bet against someone who has a 19-3 record in elimination rounds this season. Oh, and Enders is also the reigning Norwalk champ.
The contenders: Bristol winner Aaron Stanfield could rightfully be elevated to favorite status (or at least a co-favorite) because he’s equal to Enders in almost every category and rarely makes mistakes. Aside from Stanfield, Greg Anderson seems to have upped his game lately and we also like what we’ve seen from Kyle Koretsky and Dallas Glenn, who each made the semifinals last weekend in Bristol. With four qualifying runs, it’s likely that the entire Pro Stock field will be separated by a tenth or less, which makes this almost anyone’s race.
The darkhorse: Camrie Caruso continues to earn high marks in her first season in the Pro Stock class. She took a tough round one loss in Epping and bounced back with a solid quarterfinal last week. It’s also worth pointing out that she qualified No. 2 in Bristol which tells you all you need to know about the Titan engine program. When she made her debut in Pomona, Caruso boldly predicted that she’d win races this year. By now, does anyone doubt her?
Erica Enders Elite/Melling Camaro 2-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro 4-1
Greg Anderson HendrickCars.com Camaro 5-1
Kyle Koretsky Lucas Oil Products Camaro 6-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Torque Systems Camaro 7-1
Camrie Caruso SHA Camaro 8-1
Mason McGaha Harlow Sammons Camaro 9-1
Matt Hartford Total Seal Camaro 10-1
Deric Kramer Get Bio Fuel Camaro 11-1
Chris McGaha Harlow Sammons Camaro 12-1
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The favorite: This is a tough one because early-season favorites Karen Stoffer and Steve Johnson have struggled lately and even Bristol finalists Jerry Savoie and Angelle Sampey have been a bit too inconsistent for our liking. So, when all else fails, we go with the champion, who happens to be Matt Smith. The Richmond winner doesn’t have the best bike in the class right now, but he’s close and being a Smith, he’s like his father, Rickie, and knows how to win races that he otherwise shouldn’t. Finally, he’s the defending Norwalk champion.
The contenders: This is a pretty extensive list including Johnson and Stoffer, Bristol finalists Savoie and Sampey, as well as Angie Smith, who had the best bike in Norwalk. Smith is probably the leading contender since she was significantly ahead of the field last week. We’re not sure why her Denso Buell slowed in round two, but if that issue is fixed, she’ll contend for the win this week.
The darkhorse: Let’s take a real shot in the dark this week and go with Marc Ingwersen. We know, he’s a relative newcomer who has never been to an NHRA final, but he’s coming off back-to-back semifinals and his Buckeye Harley-Davidson V-twin doesn’t run half-bad. Winning a race might be a bit much to ask at this point, but he’s certainly trending in the right direction.
Matt Smtih Denso Suzuki 3-1
Angie Smith Denso Buell 5-1
Steve Johnson Slick 50 Suzuki 6-1
Angelle Sampey Vance & Hines Suzuki 7-1
Karen Stoffer Big St. Charles Suzuki 7-1
Jerry Savoie White Alligator Suzui 8-1
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines Suzuki 9-1
Joey Gladstone Reed Motorsports Suzuki 9-1
Jimmy Underdahl Scrappers Suzuki 11-1
Marc Ingwersen Buckeye HD Buell 15-1