You would think that the No. 1 qualifier at any event should be the favorite to win, having proven to have the quickest car throughout whatever number of qualifying sessions have been run, right?
Not in Top Fuel, at least if you judge off the last two dozen or so races on the schedule where the No. 2 qualifier has won more than half the races, including at the recently completed NHRA SpringNationals, where Brittany Force won from the second position.
(Crazily enough, Pro Stock winner Erica Enders and Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Steve Johnson also won from the No. 2 spot at the SpringNationals.)
Of the last 25 Top Fuel starts — spanning the 2021 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals to this year’s SpringNationals — the No. 2 Top Fuel qualifier has won 14 times (56%, or well more than half) compared to just five wins (20%) for the No. 1 qualifier.
It tails off pretty hard after that with one win apiece for the Nos. 3, 4, 5, and seven qualifiers and two wins for No. 8. The No. 6 qualifier has not won a single race over the last season and a quarter of Top Fuel competition, nor has anyone in the bottom of half of the 16-car field.
Reigning Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence is the king of wins from the No. 2 spot, with eight of his 11 wins over the past two seasons coming from the second position. (He also has two wins from the pole and one from third spot.)
Both of Force’s wins this season — at the SpringNationals and the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas — have come from the No. 2 spot.
While the lopsided stat is more prevalent in Top Fuel, the Pro Stock Motorcycle class also has had more winners from the No. 2 spot than from the top position (seven to four).
Across all four Pro classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle), the No. 2 qualifier has won 28 times in the last 88 starts (31.8%) compared to just 20 wins for the No. 1 qualifier.