It all comes down to this. There is one race remaining on the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series tour, and all four of the Professional championships are still up for grabs, although two of them are nearly clinched. Regardless, there will be a lot of drama and excitement.
As for the favorites, we’re going with championship contender Steve Torrence in Top Fuel, largely because he’s been in this spot many times before and normally comes through. We also like Matt Hagan in Funny Car for largely the same reason. As for Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, it’s mostly a no-brainer to choose incoming leaders Erica Enders and Gaige Herrera, both of whom are big favorites to win their respective championships.
The favorite: The Capco team is on the verge of their fifth championship in Top Fuel, but this one will not be easy. Steve Torrence leads Doug Kalitta by just 15 points and is 34 points ahead of Leah Pruett. Mike Salinas and Justin Ashley are also within striking distance, and with the bonus points available in Pomona, it’s entirely possible that one of the leading contenders for the championship will need to win the race in order to earn the title. There’s not much separating the top five drivers in terms of talent and resources, but Torrence’s four prior titles give him a slim edge.
The contenders: we just noted that Leah Pruett, Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas, and Justin Ashley are all still alive in the fight for the championship, and that automatically makes each of them a contender. Kalitta has six Pomona wins during his long career, while Ashley has won back-to-back NHRA Winternationals titles the last two seasons. Pruett also has a pair of wins at the Winternationals.
In addition to the championship contenders, Brittany Force, Antron Brown, and Austin Prock seem like solid bets to finish the season on a high note. Prock especially bears watching because he closed out the 2022 season with a Pomona victory.
The dark horse: Clay Millican fits the bill here because of the great lengths his Parts Plus team has had to go to in order to finish the season. After damaging a chassis in Las Vegas, the team retreated to Indy in order to make repairs in a roughly 10-day window. Millican has had his ups and downs this season, but this car can be as good as any in the field.
Steve Torrence Capco Contractors 4-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 5-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 6-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 7-1
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 8-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 9-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 10-1
Brittany Force Monster Energy 11-1
Clay Millican Parts Plus 13-1
Shawn Langdon DHL/Kalitta Air 15-1
The favorite: The situation in Funny Car does not differ greatly than the scenario in Top Fuel, where multiple drivers have an opportunity to win the title at the final event of the season. In this case, Matt Hagan, Bob Tasca III, and Robert Hight are all within 17 points of each other, which means essentially that whoever goes the furthest in Pomona will be the champion. In this spot, we tend to make Hagan a slight favorite, although this deal could go multiple ways. Hagan is perhaps the hottest driver in the class this season with six wins in eight finals, although it’s fair to point out that Hight was dominant in his most recent win in Las Vegas and Tasca is also having a career season.
The contenders: Hight and Tasca are actually the co-favorites along with Hagan because there just isn’t much difference between the three teams in terms of talent, resources, and desire. Should one of the three championship contenders not win the race, we’ll once again look to Ron Capps, J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson, John Force, or possibly Chad Green to pick up a late-season victory here.
The dark horse: Naturally, we’re going with Cruz Pedregon here largely because of what he did at the 2022 Pomona finale. For those who might not remember, Pedregon dominated the event, and quite frankly, it’s surprising to realize that is his most recent victory. At times this year the Snap-on car has shown signs of steady improvement. A strong finish here would go a long way towards making a long offseason just a bit shorter.
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 3-1
Robert Hight Flav-R-Pak Chevy 7-2
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 7-2
Ron Capps NAPA Toyota 5-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 6-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 7-1
Chad Green Bondcoat Ford 9-1
Tim Wilkerson SCAG Mowers Ford 11-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 12-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 14-1
Blake Alexander Pronto/Head Inc. Ford 15-1
The favorite: There shouldn’t be much pressure on Erica Enders going into Pomona because she’s just about got championship No. 6 in the bag. Sure, there are a lot of things that could happen, but Enders realistically needs to win just one round in order to secure the title. Naturally, the Elite team wants more, and because they’ve had the best car during the Countdown to the Championship, there is every reason to think they close the season with another win.
The contenders: For the rest of the field, which includes contenders Greg Anderson, Dallas Glenn, Troy Coughlin Jr., Matt Hartford, Deric Kramer, and a few others, the best they can hope for is to close out the season with a victory because the championship is just about out of reach for most of them.
For what it’s worth, Aaron Stanfield, Bo Butner, Dallas Glenn, Greg Anderson, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. have each won in Pomona before, so they should be among the contenders.
The dark horse: If you’re looking for a first-time winner to close out the year, why not take a shot at Cristian Cuadra? He’s been to final rounds before, and when he’s on his game, which is most races, his lights are as solid as anyone in the class. Honestly, the Cuadra team just needs a little luck to break through for their first professional victory.
Erica Enders JHG/Elite Camaro Even
Greg Anderson HendrickCars.com Camaro 4-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Torque Systems Camaro 5-1
Jeg Coughlin Jr. SCAG Power Equipment Camaro 6-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro 7-1
Matt Hartford Total Seal Camaro 8-1
Troy Coughlin Jr. JEGS.com Camaro 9-1
Kyle Koretsky Lucas Oil/Nitro Fish Camaro 10-1
Deric Kramer GetBioFuels.com Camaro 11-1
Cristian Cuadra Corral Boots Mustang 14-1
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The favorite: At this point, Gaige Herrera can only lose if he makes a mistake (which is very rare) or he has some sort of a mechanical problem (which is also quite rare). Other than that, he’s going to win the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals and will be crowned the 2023 NHRA Camping World Pro Stock Motorcycle champion as soon as qualifying is complete.
The contenders: After Herrera, we still have Eddie Krawiec searching for career win No. 50 and Matt Smith looking to close out the season with a victory. The same goes for Hector Arana Jr., who is also more than capable of winning this race should something unusual happen to Herrera.
We’re also going to assume that Joey Gladstone will once again be riding a Matt Smith Racing entry, which greatly increases his odds of making it to the final round.
The dark horse: Former world champ Jerry Savoie hasn’t raced much this year, but he’s been effective in his limited appearances, and his WAR Suzuki is as good as almost any bike in the field.
Gaige Herrera Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki Even
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki 5-1
Matt Smith Denso Suzuki 6-1
Hector Arana Jr. GETTRX Buell 7-1
Joey Gladstone Precision Services Suzuki 7-1
Jerry Savoie White Alligator Suzuki 8-1
Kelly Clontz Steamfitters UA 602 Suzuki 9-1
Jianna Evaristo Scrappers Suzuki 12-1
Steve Johnson Mac Rak Suzuki 14-1