Now that we have six events in the books, there should be more than enough data available to accurately predict the winners of each NHRA event. Then again, when we’re dealing with nitromethane-powered cars, and when combined with nearly unprecedented parity, unexpected things are bound to happen.
As the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series tour makes its annual stop at historic New England Dragway, Tricky Tipster, NHRA’s longtime in-house odds guru, has elected to go with Brittany Force and Ron Capps as the early favorites.
The favorite: At this point in the season, nobody seems to want to take control of the points battle, which makes it extremely difficult to pick a winner but also great for the fans. We’ve already had five different winners in the first six races, and the winners have not always been the usual suspects. In this case, we’re going with consistency, and so far, Brittany Force and her Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac team have been fairly consistent even as crew chief David Grubnic has worked to improve their combination. We’re talking about a razor-thin margin here, but for now, we are going with Force, who also happened to win this race in 2017.
The contenders: Steve Torrence nearly got the nod for the top spot, also based on consistency and the fact that he’s the championship leader. The roster of contenders also has to feature Justin Ashley, Antron Brown, Leah Pruett, Austin Prock, Mike Salinas, and Josh Hart, who nearly won the most recent event in Chicago. For that matter, we’ve also got to give a nod to Chicago winner Clay Millican. For those paying attention, his latest win was no fluke as the Rick Ware-owned Parts Plus team has all the tools necessary to make a run at the title.
Tipster also recommends taking a closer look at Pruett, who has risen to No. 5 in the standings and is just 34 points out of first place. The Dodge Power Brokers dragster appears poised for a breakthrough, and it could easily happen this weekend.
The dark horse: It’s been a tough start for Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team, but there is light at the tunnel. For one thing, Kalitta has qualified No. 6 and No. 3 at the last two events (and was the low qualifier in Phoenix). While he’s in 10th place, he’s just 110 points out of fifth with enough time to make up the difference before the start of the Countdown to the Championship. Certainly, there are better times ahead for the Kalitta team.
Brittany Force Monster Energy 4-1
Steve Torrence Capco Contractors 9-2
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 5-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 6-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 7-1
Clay Millican Parts Plus 8-1
Josh Hart R+L Carriers 9-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 9-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 10-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 11-1
The favorite: The Top Fuel class is hard to handicap, and Funny Car isn’t much easier with more than a half-dozen contenders at any given race. Three-time world champ Ron Capps bagged his lone Epping win in 2016, but as we’ve seen, the NAPA Toyota Supra GR is capable of winning just about anywhere and on any given weekend. In fact, they nearly pulled off a victory two weeks ago in Chicago, but Tim Wilkerson had other ideas. Capps comes to Epping facing a 13-point deficit to leader Matt Hagan, meaning he could easily be the new leader next week.
The contenders: Going into the season, we knew that Capps, Matt Hagan, Robert Hight, Bob Tasca III, JR Todd, Cruz Pedregon, and John Force would be the biggest threats to win races, and that remains true. Now, we’ve got to add a few more, including Alexis DeJoria, who is No. 4 in the standings, Chicago winner Wilkerson, and his protégé, Chad Green, who is off to a remarkable start. In fact, Green will make his second appearance in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge this weekend, which automatically makes him a contender.
The dark horse: This might be a bit of a stretch, but then again, perhaps not, as Alex Laughlin seems to have adapted to his new surroundings quite well. Laughlin has qualified in the bottom half of the field at each event but got his second round-win in Chicago when he defeated leader Hagan. It’s probably a bit premature to suggest he’s going to win races, but the Jim Dunn entry is not one to be taken lightly.
Ron Capps NAPA Toyota 4-1
Robert Hight Flav-R-Pak Chevy 5-1
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 6-1
Tim Wilkerson SCAG Mowers Ford 7-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 7-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 8-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 9-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 10-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 11-1
Chad Green Bondcoat Ford 12-1