NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Tricky Tipster: NHRA Arizona Nationals

Who will win the final NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park? Tricky Tipster has evaluated the field and has tabbed Doug Kalitta, Matt Hagan, and Erica Enders as the favorites.
22 Mar 2023
NHRA National Dragster staff
Tricky Tipster®
Tricky Tipster

The season-opening Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals was an amazing event, especially for pro winners Mike Salinas, Matt Hagan, and Troy Coughlin Jr. Now, the challenge is to maintain that momentum as the tour heads west for the final NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Winning the first or last event at a particular track is always special but quite honestly, NHRA’s Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock drivers do not need additional motivation to want to get into the winner’s circle as early as possible this season. Each class is loaded with talent and wins are going to be hard to come by.

As difficult as it may be, we’ve taken our best shot at predicting this weekend’s winners. Here goes:


The favorite: Mike Salinas would be a good bet here based on his performance in Gainesville and the same goes for reigning champ Brittany Force or runner-up Steve Torrence. However, we’re going off the board with Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team. Yes, it’s been a long time since a Kalitta Motorsports car visited the winner’s circle but there is a method to the madness here. Kalitta had low elapsed time in Gainesville with a brilliant 3.64 run, and he does have a win in Phoenix, albeit from 2001. Sooner or later, the Kalitta team is going to snap out of its funk, and Tipster believes it will be sooner.

The contenders: We just named Force, Salinas, and Torrence as possible favorites and while there are valid reasons for each, they most certainly fit contender status based largely on their performance in Gainesville.

In addition to the two Gainesville finalists and Force, let’s take a good look at three-time world champ Antron Brown and Josh Hart, who left Gainesville $80,000 richer after winning the Pep Boys Allstar Callout event on Saturday. Finally, there is Leah Pruett, who opened the season with a solid semifinal finish in her neon green Dodge Power Brokers dragster.

The dark horse: For the second-striaght race let’s go with Clay Millican, who almost doesn’t fit the profile of a dark horse since his Parts Plus dragster often cranks out 3.6-second runs. Millican also has a career-best of 3.628, which is just a few thousandths off the current NHRA elapsed time record held by Brittany Force.

Doug Kalitta        Mac Tools                                4-1
Brittany Force        Monster Energy                  9-2
Mike Salinas        Scrappers                               5-1
Steve Torrence        Capco Contractors           6-1
Antron Brown        Matco Tools                        7-1
Austin Prock        Montana Brands                   8-1
Leah Pruett        Dodge Power Brokers            8-1
Josh Hart            R+L Carriers                             9-1
Justin Ashley        Phillips Connect                    9-1
Clay Millican        Parts Plus                               12-1
Field                                                                      22-1


The favorite: Matt Hagan kicked off the season with a big Gainesville victory but by no means did he have the best car on the property. Oh, the Dodge Power Brokers Charger was good, but it was not the quickest or the most consistent. Regardless, we’re going to double-down on Hagan simply because he finds a way to get the job done more often than not. We gave a lot of consideration to others including runner-up J.R. Todd, Ron Capps, Bob Tasca III, and Robert Hight. But we’re going to ride with Hagan until someone steps up and knocks him off the top step.

The contenders: The obvious picks here are Capps, Tasca III, Hight, and Gainesville runner-up Todd. Of the four, we tend to lean toward Todd because he arguably had the best car in Gainesville in both testing and the Gatornationals. After such a dry spell, would it be too much to ask for a Kalitta double? Don’t laugh, it could happen.

The other intriguing contender here is Tasca, who many expected to struggle out of the gate after a major crew chief change this winter. Actually, the Motorcraft Quick Lane team has come together very quickly with solid runs in both testing and the Gainesville opener.

The dark horse: We like both Chad Green and Alexis DeJoria in this spot since they both reached the semifinals in Gainesville and with a bit of luck, could easily have won another round or two. Green looked really solid while flying the Levi, Ray, & Shoup colors while DeJoria continues to make steady progress alongside crew chief Del Worsham. We also like both of them to potentially become the first champion of the Mission Foods 2Fast 2Tasty Challenge on Saturday.

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


The favorite: Remember what happened last time Erica Enders lost in the first round in Gainesville? If not, we’ll refresh your memory. She went on to win five of the next seven races and cruised to her fifth world title with a dominant 10 win season. It’s way too early to tell if the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Elite flagship will go on a similar tear, but after missing the first round in Gainesville with a mechanical gremlin, Enders clearly has something to prove. Enders also has had reasonable success at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park with a pair of victories in 2013 and 2020.

The Contenders: The easy choice here is Troy Coughlin Jr., who was the No. 1 qualifier in Gainesville and won the race. In fact, he should be the favorite although we like Enders just a wee bit more. Coughlin could easily go back-to-back, in fact, he did just that last year with his first two Pro Stock victories in Seattle and Topeka.

Aaron Stanfield remains a solid pick as a contender in spite of his struggles in Gainesville while the KB Titan team can’t be overlooked, particularly Greg Anderson and Dallas Glenn. We also need to give a nod to Mason McGaha who got to the semifinals in Gainesville and nearly had enough race car to finish the job. That represents a major step forward for the Harlow Sammons team.

The darkhorse: Hmm, anyone named Cuadra comes to mind here as the Corral Boots team continues to make steady progress. Red-light are sometimes an issue here, but all three Cuadra team drivers, including brothers Fernando Jr. and Cristian, can get the clutch out on time when properly motivated. We also think that Deric Kramer and Matt Hartford are overdue for victories.

Erica Enders        JGH/Elite Camaro                                    2-1
Troy Coughlin Jr.    JEGS.com Camaro                                3-1
Aaron Stanfield        Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro          5-1
Dallas Glenn        RAD Torque Systems Camaro              6-1
Greg Anderson        Hendrick Cars.com Camaro             6-1
Mason McGaha        Harlow Sammons Camaro              7-1
Matt Hartford        Total Seal Camaro                               8-1
Kyle Koretsky        Lucas Oil/NitroFish Camaro               8-1
Deric Kramer         Get BioFuel Camaro                           9-1
Cristian Cuadra Jr.    Corral Boots Mustang                    11-1
Field                                                                                       15-1