Tipster had a pretty good run last weekend in Topeka with favorite Justin Ashley cashing in Top Fuel while second-ranked Bob Tasca III earned the Funny Car title and third-ranked Erica Enders went the distance for her second win of the season in Pro Stock.
To no one’s surprise, all three will be favored as the series moves north to rustic Brainerd Int’l Raceway for this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Ashley is a no-brainer since he’s win six times this year while Tasca is also the defending Brainerd winner. Enders is also no stranger to wins in Minnesota as she’s won the Brainerd race twice, in 2012 and 2015.
The favorite: At this point, Justin Ashley is going to have top billing here until someone steps up and knocks him off. The Phillips Connect dragster has been rock solid for most of the season and Ashley typically does his part with a reaction time that’s usually in the .030 range and that’s an awfully tough combination to beat.
Ashley is on the verge of locking up the top seed in the upcoming Countdown to the Championship playoffs and at this time of the season there is always a concern about a team peaking too soon, but that certainly doesn’t prevent them from being the favorite.
The contenders: Although he took a hit in Topeka, Steve Torrence remains the biggest threat to Ashley and he’s also bagged the last two titles in Brainerd.
Antron Brown has won five times in Brainerd although four of them came aboard a Pro Stock Motorcycle. Brown’s lone Top Fuel win came in 2011 but his Matco Tools team has been fairly solidly lately.
We also need to take a closer look at Brittany Force especially after her runner-up finish last week in Topeka. Honesty, given the performance of her Monster/Flav-R-Pak dragster, and her competitive light in the final, she deserved better than a runner-up. Force also won here in 2016, beating Brown in the final.
Leah Pruett also has a solid record in Brainerd with wins in 2017 and 2019. Pruett is No. 5 in the standings but could make a run at the Top 3 with solid results in Brainerd and Indy.
The dark horse: With just one final round to his credit, Josh Hart clearly hasn’t had the type of season he expected but it’s not too late to turn that around. Hart was a runner-up in Chicago and his R+L Carriers team went to the semifinals two races ago in Sonoma so he doesn’t have to look far to see positive results.
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 3-1
Steve Torrence Capco Contractors 4-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 5-1
Brittany Force Monster Energy 6-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 7-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 7-1
Clay Millican Parts Plus 8-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 9-1
Josh Hart R+L Carriers 10-1
Shawn Langdon DHL 11-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 14-1
The favorite: Picking one driver as the favorite in Funny Car right now is a nearly impossible task since the favorite seems to change from week to week. This week were going to play the hot hand which means that Topeka champ Bob Tasca III gets top billing. Tasca had a tough Western Swing but quickly bounced back as the tour made its way East. Tasca is No. 5 in the standings but the No. 3 spot is easily within reach.
The contenders: Championship leader Matt Hagan had a solid outing in Topeka with a runner-up finish and Ron Capps and his NAPA team have a special relationship with the fans at Brainerd Int’l Raceway thanks in no small part to his six career wins here.
J.R. Todd followed his win in Sonoma with a semifinal in Topeka so he continues to make steady progress while Alexis DeJoria is also a past Brainerd winner who seems overdue to score this season.
It’s also hard to overlook John Force, who has visited the winner’s circle in Brainerd an amazing 11 times in 15 finals since 1994.
The dark horse: It’s tempting to take Chad Green here because he is still looking for his first career victory but with seven semifinals and a runner-up, he doesn’t really fit the bill of a darkhorse. One drove who does is Bobby Bode, who doesn’t get to race much due to his schedule of college studies, but generally makes his presence known when he’s here. A year ago in Houston, Bode showed a glimpse of what he’s capable of. He just needs a break to make that happen again.
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 4-1
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 5-1
Ron Capps NAPA Toyota 6-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 7-1
Robert Hight Flav-R-Pak Chevy 8-1
Chad Green Bondcoat Ford 9-1
Tim Wilkerson SCAG Mowers Ford 9-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 10-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 11-1
Blake Alexander Pronto/Head Inc. Ford 13-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 14-1
The favorite: Championship leader Dallas Glenn should certainly get some votes here but by a narrow margin, Tipster is going with Topeka winner Erica Enders. Why Enders? Well, the Elite team seems to have moved on from its early season woes and Enders can now see that a strong finish could place her as high as second or third going into the Countdown which would be a nice set-up for a run at a sixth championship. Obviously, Enders is driving well as she notched a big holeshot win over Glenn in the semifinals last week.
The contenders: Based on last week’s results, KB Titan teammates Greg Anderson and Dallas Glenn deserve to be here and one could event make an argument for either of them to be in the top spot. That’s especially true for Anderson, who loves racing at his home track.
Enders and Anderson are both former Brainerd winners so who is the only other driver entered in this week’s event who can make that claim? How about Deric Kramer who won here in 2018 over Tanner Gray. Kramer certainly appears capable of a repeat.
It’s also hard not to list Troy Coughlin Jr. and Matt Hartford as contenders since they’ve both been strong lately and appear capable of winning any race they attend.
The dark horse: Kyle Koretsky hasn’t had the sort of season he’d hoped for but there is still plenty of time to salvage something positive. The good news is that his qualifying performances haven’t been bad, which often sets the stage for a successful Sunday. Koretsky is No. 10 in the standings, but needs just one good weekend to make a move.
Erica Enders JHG/Elite Camaro 4-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Torque Systems Camaro 5-1
Troy Coughlin Jr. JEGS.com Camaro 6-1
Greg Anderson HendrickCars.com Camaro 7-1
Deric Kramer GetBioFuels Camaro 7-1
Matt Hartford Total Seal Camaro 8-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro 9-1
Camrie Caruso Tequila Comisario Camaro 10-1
Cristian Cuadra Corral Boots Mustang 13-1