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How the points battles for Countdowns to the Championship shape up in Indy

The final fields for the 2023 Countdown to the Championship will be determined this weekend at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals. Here's a look at who's in, who's not, and scenarios that will keep them there. Here's our Friday preview.
01 Sep 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Countdowns to the Championship

The Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals is not only the biggest and richest drag race in the world, but it's also the final regular-season event of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series that will set the fields for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs that start Sept. 14-17 in Reading.

There will be battles of varying intensity to shape the final fields, mathematics made infinitely more bendable by the points-and-a-half format available at the event, plus five qualifying sessions for drivers to earn bonus points and higher awards for qualifying positions over the other regular-season events.

A maximum of 195 are on the line in Indy, broken down thusly:


Entering the event and making at least one qualifying pass


Maximum session bonus points (four max for five sessions


No.1 qualifier


Event win

(You can see the complete breakdown of points here.)



Even though only five drivers — Justin Ashley, Steve Torrence, Antron Brown, Brittany Force, and Leah Pruett — have officially clinched their berths in Top Fuel, it’s looking like 12 drivers will make up the Countdown field: the Top 10 points earners and positions 11 and 12, as all seven of those drivers will qualify for the playoffs either by position or by meeting the requirement for running a minimum number of qualifying session at all 15 regular-season events (providing they make the required runs in Indy, of course).

Austin Prock, Mike Salinas, Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican, and Josh Hart currently hold positions 6-10, with Shawn Langdon and Tony Schumacher sitting 11th and 12th, respectively.

With so many points available, Langdon potentially could work his way into 8-10, depending on how much those ahead of him struggle.

Schumacher probably can’t crack the Top 10 as he’s 162 points behind 10th-place Josh Hart, but he has made the required qualifying sessions, and the eight-time world champ will undoubtedly be in the Countdown.


The scenarios in Funny Car are a little more clear-cut as nIne drivers – Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Robert Hight, Bob Tasca III, Chad Green, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson, J.R. Todd, and John Force – have locked down spots. Cruz Pedregon sits in 10th place with only Blake Alexander and Alex Laughlin having chances to make the Countdown.

The situation for Laughlin, who probably won’t crack the Top 10 in points (he’s 149 points behind Pedregon) is much simpler as he just needs to make the required qualifying runs in Indy to be eligible, but the math is much more dire for Alexander.

Despite his win in Norwalk, Alexander sits in 11th place, an even 100 points behind Pedregon, BUT Alexander’s Jim Head Racing team missed attending the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals, so he’ll have to make it up in points alone.

Can Alexander do that? With 190 points on the line, it’s certainly mathematically possible, but by merely qualifying for the event, even in the 16th spot, Pedregon will have earned 45 points, leaving a slim margin for Alexander that would almost certainly have to include session bonus points and a top-half qualifying position and a long day Monday coupled with Pedregon’s early exit.

For the record, Pedregon has seven first-round losses in 14 starts this season.

A Pedregon DNQ would surely help Alexander’s case, but considering that the two-time world champ hasn’t missed a field in more than five seasons (2018 Norwalk), that seems unlikely.


Although just six Pro Stock drivers – Dallas Glenn, Matt Hartford, Deric Kramer, Troy Coughlin Jr., Erica Enders, and Greg Anderson – have already clinched, it looks like there will be a stunning 16 cars in the Pro Stock playoffs.

Aaron Stanfield, Camrie Caruso, Kyle Koretsky, and Cristian Cuadra are holding down spots 7-10, but Bo Butner, Jerry Tucker, Mason McGaha, Fernando Cuadra Jr., Chris McGaha, and Fernando Cuadra Sr. all have met the qualifying requirements through Brainerd.

Butner and Tucker have the best shots to climb into the Top 10 as they are 34 and 39 points, respectively, behind 10th-place Cristian Cuadra. Only Cuadra Sr. cannot make the Top 10 on points alone, but it’s also a steep uphill climb for either of the McGahas or Fernando Jr. to make it on points as well.


Even though the class has not competed since the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals in late July, the two-wheeled warriors will still have a fight for playoff spots.

Gaige Herrera, Hector Arana Jr., Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith, and Angie Smith have already locked down spots, with Steve Johnson, Chase Van Sant, Marc Ingwersen, Jianna Evaristo, and Kelly Clontz currently holding down spots 6-10.

Of those five drivers, only Johson, Van Sant, and Evaristo have run all of the required sessions at the class’ eight regular-season events. That trio, along with non-Top 10 drivers Ryan Oehler and Chris Bostick, will make it into the playoffs by making the required runs in Indy.

For Ingwersen, who missed two qualifying sessions in Charlotte, and Clontz, who only made one qualifying attempt in Gainesville, they’ll have to make the Countdown on points, which could be a battle because 11th-place Oehler trails Clotz by just six points. Ingwersen, in eighth, is 50 points up on Clontz and 56 ahead of Oehler.

Three-time tour winner Joey Gladstone, who sits 12th, 100 points behind Clontz, has skipped the last four events and will have to make it on points, which is certainly doable with a long race day aboard his powerful bike should both Clontz and Oehler stumble badly.

To check out the full current points standings, click here.


Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; Matt Smith, Pro Stock Motorcycle


Tony Schumacher, 10, TF; John Force, Ed McCulloch, 5, FC; Bob Glidden, 9, Pro Stock, Dave Schultz, 6, Pro Stock Motorcycle.


Top Fuel - 3.640 seconds by Brittany Force, Sept. '22; 337.75 mph by Brittany Force, Sept. ‘22

Funny Car - 3.799 seconds by Matt Hagan, Sept. '17; 338.77 mph by Hagan, Sept. '17

Pro Stock - 6.538 seconds by Jason Line, Sept. '11; 211.13 mph by Mike Edwards, Sept. '12

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.789 seconds by Scotty Pollacheck, Sept. 20; 201.16 mph by Matt Smith, Sept. 22.


Top Fuel - 3.623 sec. by Brittany Force, Sept. '19, Reading, Pa.; 338.94 mph by Brittany Force, Nov. ‘22, Pomona, Calif.

Funny Car - 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. '17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.

Pro Stock - 6.450 sec. by Erica Enders, March '22, Gainesville, Fla.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May '14, Englishtown, N.J.


FRIDAY, September 1

Lucas Oil Series Drag Racing Series qualifying and eliminations at 8 a.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 7 p.m.

SATURDAY, September 2

Lucas Oil Series Drag Racing Series eliminations at 8 a.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 2:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.

SUNDAY, September 3

Lucas Oil Series eliminations at 8 a.m.

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 2:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.

MONDAY, September 4

Pre-Race ceremonies begin at 9 a.m.

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series eliminations begin at 10:00 a.m.


SUNDAY, Sept. 3, FOX TV will televise 90 minutes of Funny Car Allstar Callout coverage at 4:00 p.m. ET

MONDAY, Sept. 4, FS1 will televise two hours of finals coverage at noon.

Monday, Sept. 4, FOX TV will televise three hours of finals coverage at 2 p.m.

Watch all day on NHRA.tv