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Tricky Tipster: Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals

Pomona in April seems a bit strange, but there is nothing odd about Tricky Tipster's picks for the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals as he's going with Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, and Erica Enders as the favorites.
31 Mar 2023
NHRA National Dragster staff
Tricky Tipster®
Tricky Tipster

What’s this? The Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in April? It’s no April fool’s joke and in light of the cold and rainy weather in most of Southern California over the last two months, moving the Pomona race off of it’s traditional February dates already looks like a stroke of genius by NHRA officials.

With Pomona as the third race of the season, Tipster also has a bit more data than usual and if Gainesville and Phoenix are any indication, we should continue to expect the unexpected.

Whether its held in February or April or any other month, a win in Pomona is a must for any serious racer and here are our best bets to make that happen this week.



The favorite: Last week, we picked Doug Kalitta and even though he lost in the second round, it wasn’t a bad pick at all as the Mac Tools car was solid for most of the weekend and had low E.T. with a 3.67. This time, we’re going to go back to familiar territory and take Steve Torrence. The four-time world champion didn’t win in either Gainesville or Phoenix, but he’s been both quick and consistent which means it’s just a matter of time before the Capco crew finds their way to the winner’s circle. Torrence also has three wins in Pomona, one at the 2016 Winternationals and two more at the Finals in November.

The contenders: Doug Kalitta is an excellent choice here for the reasons previously mentioned. The same goes for Justin Ashley who is coming off a win in Phoenix. Ashley is also a former Pomona champ and quite obviously, one of the best starting line drivers in the class.

Tipster also can’t overlook Shawn Langdon, who didn’t have the quickest car in Phoenix, but used a holeshot to take out Antron Brown in round one.

We’re also pretty high on Leah Pruett, who opened the season with back-to-back semifinals with her colorful Dodge Power Brokers dragster. Pruett, along with Ashley, Langdon, and Torrence, will also take part in the second Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge on Saturday and we like her chances there as well.

Finally, it’s never a good idea to overlook reigning champ Brittany Force, who has struggled a bit out of the gate, but still has arguably the quickest and fastest car in the sport.

The dark horse: How about Austin Prock? He’s not had the start that he’d envisioned but we’re only two races into the season so there’s nothing going on here that a final round wouldn’t cure. Prock nearly got past Torrence in the quarterfinals last week, losing by less than a hundredth of a second.

Steve Torrence        Capco Contractors                      3-1
Mike Salinas             Scrappers                                     4-1
Doug Kalitta             Mac Tools                                     4-1
Justin Ashley            Phillips Connect                          5-1
Leah Pruett             Dodge Power Brokers                 6-1
Brittany Force        Monster Energy                            6-1
Shawn Langdon     DHL                                                7-1
Austin Prock           Montana Brands                         8-1
Antron Brown        Matco Tools                                  9-1
Josh Hart                R+L Carriers                                 10-1
Field                                                                               16-1


The favorite: Last week, Robert Hight came through for his first win of the season and his first with Flav-R-Pak as a sponsor of his Chevy Camaro. Calling it a dominant win might be a bit of a stretch but Hight was certainly consistent with a string of low 3.9-second runs in eliminations including a best of 3.900. Hight also had top speed of the event at 330.07 mph. It’s going to be hard for anyone to win back-to-back events in Funny Car this season just because there are so many good cars in the class, but this could easily be the exception.

The contenders: We can start with Ron Capps simply because he’s the reigning champ and went to the final round last week in Phoenix. Capps also has a solid record in Pomona, with four Winternationals victories.

We can pretty much pencil in Matt Hagan and Bob Tasca III for almost every race this when it comes to evaluating contender status since they’re both capable of winning at any given moment. Hagan kicked off the season with a win in Gainesville while Tasca is off to a decent start with new crew chiefs Aaron Brooks and Todd Okuhara.

Alexis DeJoria has earned her way into the list of contenders following a pair of semifinal finishes and a win in Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge in Phoenix. DeJoria also made the best run of Sunday’s opening round, which often sets the tone for a long day.

The dark horse: It’s it about time we heard from Cruz Pedregon? This is the same driver, car, and team that dominated the last time we raced in Pomona last November. So far, the first two races of the season have been a nightmare but it’s nothing a few win lights in California wouldn’t fix. The Snap-on team should easily right the ship in the next race or two.

Robert Hight          Flav-R-Pak Chevy                            3-1
Ron Capps              NAPA Toyota                                  4-1
Matt Hagan            Dodge Power Brokers Dodge      4-1
Bob Tasca III          Motorcraft Ford                              5-1
Alexis DeJoria        Bandero Toyota                              6-1
J.R. Todd                DHL Toyota                                      7-1
Cruz Pedregon      Snap-on Dodge                              8-1
John Force             Peak/Blu Def Chevy                        9-1
Chad Green          Bondcoat Ford                                 10-1    
Tim Wilkerson      SCAG Mowers Ford                         11-1
Field                                                                                  18-1


The favorite: We’ve got a bit of a dilemma here and naturally, it involves five-time world champ Erica Enders. Historically, she’s had the most dominant car in the class for the better part of the last decade but Enders has had a dreadful start to the season with back-to-back round one losses. Obviously, that is not expected to continue much longer so we’re going to go with her one more time just because no one expects this to turn into a full-blown slump.

The Contenders: This could be almost anyone else in the class since the field is so tightly bunched. We’ve first got to acknowledge the breakout performance of Phoenix winner Camrie Caruso, who not only had a quick car, but also drove a solid race.

Bo Butner also looked solid by making his first final round in several years. Then again, there are the usual suspects including Greg Anderson, Dallas Glenn, Aaron Stanfield, Gainesville winner Troy Coughlin Jr., Kyle Koretsky, and Matt Hartford, who nearly went to the final round. As we mentioned, just about any of the 16 qualifiers can be considered a contender in this day and age.

The darkhorse: After reaching the final round in Gainesville, we were inclined to think that Mason McGaha would become Pro Stock’s next first-time winner but Camrie Caruso beat him to the punchline in Phoenix. McGaha could make it two-for-two in the first time winner category with a victory in Pomona. Come to think of it, the same goes for Cristian Cuadra, who was the top qualifier in Phoenix.

Erica Enders            JGH/Elite Camaro                               3-1
Greg Anderson       Hendrick Cars.com Camaro             4-1
Troy Coughlin Jr.     JEGS.com Camaro                              5-1
Dallas Glenn           RAD Torque Systems Camaro          6-1
Camrie Caruso       PowerBuilt Tools Camaro                 7-1
Aaron Stanfield      Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro           7-1
Matt Hartford        Total Seal Camaro                               8-1
Bo Butner               JHG Camaro                                         9-1                
Kyle Koretsky          Lucas Oil/NitroFish Camaro             10-1
Cristian Cuadra Jr.  Corral Boots Mustang                       11-1
Mason McGaha        Harlow Sammons Camaro              12-1
Field                                                                                         15-1