After laying a goose egg in Denver with an uninspired 0-4 record in his predictions, Tricky Tipster looks for redemption as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series tour continues westward to Pacific Raceways for the annual Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals.
The drivers picked to win in Denver, Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, and Matt Smith, would all make good choices this weekend in Seattle, but we’re going to make a couple of changes. To that end, the favorites to shine in Seattle are Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Hight (Funny Car), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle). Oh, and it’s worth noting that the Pro Stock cars have the next two weeks off.
The favorite: Justin Ashley nearly got the top spot last weekend, but the unique challenges presented by racing in Denver made us go in a different direction. This week, we feel a bit more confident going with the championship leader, who has won four of the first 10 races and boasts a 20-6 record in elimination rounds.
For what it’s worth, Ashley went to the semifinals last year in Seattle before losing a pedalfest against eventual winner Tony Schumacher. There is no such thing as a sure bet in Top Fuel right now, and the difference between No. 1 and No. 10 is minute, but the Phillips Connect team seems to rate a slight edge at this point.
The contenders: There’s almost no way to pick the rest of the contenders because it includes just about every dragster that is entered this weekend. The obvious choices include Torrence, Leah Pruett, and Brittany Force, who just ran 337 mph in Denver. We also can’t forget Clay Millican, who now has two wins on the season, and the team Kalitta entries of Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon, who once again appear poised for a breakout.
That leaves Antron Brown, Austin Prock, Josh Hart, Mike Salinas, and defending event champ Tony Schumacher, and would it really be a surprise if any one of them won this week?
The dark horse: Of all of the above, Austin Prock stands out a bit especially because he’s returning to the site of his first national event win back in 2019. Prock comes into the weekend as the No. 5 driver in the standings, but he’s just 139 points out of first place, and with five races to go before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs starts, it’s not out of the question to think that a hot streak could find the Montana Brands/Rocky Mountain Twist team in contention for the top spot after Indy.
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 4-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 5-1
Steve Torrence Capco Contractors 6-1
Clay Millican Parts Plus 7-1
Brittany Force Flav-R-Pac 8-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 9-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 9-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 10-1
Josh Hart R+L Carriers 11-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 12-1
Shawn Langdon DHL 14-1
The favorite: The last four years that the NHRA tour has visited Seattle, Robert Hight and his Cornwell Tools team have left with the Wally, including last season, where they defeated J.R. Todd in the final round. Hight has a strong record in Seattle, and while past success isn’t necessarily an indicator of future potential, something tells us that Hight will have his best race since the Charlotte four-wide, which produced a victory. If you’re counting points, Hight has slipped to No. 4 following his round-two exit in Denver, but he’s just 132 behind leader Hagan, so nothing is clinched at this point.
The contenders: Matt Hagan and the Dodge Power Brokers team won convincingly in Denver, so why aren’t they favored to win again this weekend? Well, it’s really not that simple. There is a reason why sweeping all three legs of the Western Swing is so difficult, and it’s the massive changes required to go from Denver to Seattle and then to Sonoma. Sometimes, it’s almost better to miss the setup a bit in Denver and then focus on the next two legs of the Swing.
After Hagan, Ron Capps certainly has a positive history in Seattle, including his first win there in Top Fuel in 1995, while Tim Wilkerson has also won here three times. We’re also looking for Alexis DeJoria, J.R. Todd, and Chad Green to bust off their first wins of the season at any moment. We also can’t forget that Bob Tasca III landed in the winner’s circle just three races ago and has been the low qualifier three times this season.
The dark horse: The last time we picked Blake Alexander as a dark horse, he delivered a win in Norwalk. Some might argue that a recent victory should disqualify someone from dark horse status, the Head Contractors team skipped the Denver race, so we’re going to back them again this time around. The Norwalk win wasn’t a fluke. In fact, it seems there has been a fundamental change in the tuning strategy of that car that should enable them to win quite a few more rounds going forward.
Robert Hight Cornwell Tools Chevy 4-1
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 5-1
Ron Capps NAPA Toyota 5-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 6-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 7-1
Tim Wilkerson SCAG Mowers Ford 8-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 8-1
Chad Green Bondcoat Ford 9-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 10-1
Blake Alexander Pronto/Head Inc. Ford 11-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 12-1
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The favorite: Sometimes, Tipster does something foolish, and picking against Gaige Herrera in Denver seems to be one of them. While it’s true that Herrera didn’t win in Bristol or Norwalk, he’s still the class of the field and has a monstrous lead in the Camping World standings. Herrera has never raced a Pro Stock Motorcycle in Seattle. Then again, neither has anyone else because the class is making its long-awaited debut here. Herrera seems to adapt well to new surroundings, which helps him gain an edge here.
The contenders: Matt Smith was extremely impressive in Denver, especially because he avoided the temptation to dust off his Buell and remained loyal to his Suzuki. Of course, Hector Arana Jr. nearly stole the show with a track record 7.04 in Denver. The Arana team has work to do to in order to adapt to sea-level conditions, but this is a bike that can win anywhere.
Steve Johnson and Angie Smith occupy the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the standings, and both are anxious for a chance to move up. The unfamiliar nature of Pacific Raceways affords such an opportunity.
The dark horse: Can a four-time world champ be considered a dark horse? When it’s Eddie Krawiec, and he hasn’t won a race since the 2021 Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, then the answer is yes. Krawiec is on a Vance & Hines Suzuki, which means he’s got the power to win, but the cards haven’t fallen his way for a while. He’s previously won at 15 different venues, so this is his first opportunity to shoot for No. 16.
Gaige Herrera Vance & Hines Suzuki 3-1
Matt Smith Denso Suzuki 4-1
Hector Arana Jr. GETTRX Buell 5-1
Angie Smith Denso Buell 6-1
Steve Johnson Mac-Rak Suzuki 8-1
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines Suzuki 8-1
Chase Van Sant Trick Tools Suzuki 10-1
Marc Ingwersen Buckeye HD Buell 12-1
Karen Stoffer Stoffer Ent. Suzuki 14-1