Tricky Tipster is riding high as he heads to Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park after correctly picking Ron Capps to win the Funny Car title in Bristol. Tipster also had Gaige Herrera to win in Pro Stock Motorcycle, and he went to the final round before an untimely red-light start ended his long winning streak.
Capps and Herrera are going to retain the top spots heading into NHRA’s annual mid-summer stop in Ohio, and they’ll be joined by Justin Ashley, who already has four Top Fuel wins this season, and Erica Enders, who overcame a slow start to the 2023 season to collect her first victory in Bristol.
The favorite: Currently, there is parity in the Top Fuel class that hasn’t been seen in many years but that also hasn’t stopped Justin Ashley from winning four events including a double-up in Bristol that also included the rain-delayed Epping event. Ashley has a strong 17-4 record through the first eight events of the season, and he’s got a solid lead in the Camping World standings. So, can he win this weekend in Norwalk? Of course he can, even though the odds of winning three-straight events are pretty tall. Conditions in Norwalk shouldn’t be that much different than Bristol, so that’s another variable that could also favor the Phillips Connect team.
The contenders: So what’s wrong with Steve Torrence and the Capco team? Well, actually nothing at all. While he remains winless so far this season, Torrence has put together 13 round wins including two finals and he’s ranked second in the standings. The Capco team has also qualified in the top half of the field at each event, which is no small feat these days. Torrence has also won here in 2017, 2019, and 2021 so he’s got a lot of positive history in Norwalk.
Torrence isn’t the only drive who could get his or her first win of the season this weekend. It’s hard to believe that Brittany Force, Leah Pruett, Josh Hart, Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon, and Tony Schumacher are all winless. That’s not likely to be the case much longer as they’ve all shown signs of improvement at various times this season. Then again, you’ve got Antron Brown, Mike Salinas, Austin Prock, and Clay Millican each seeking a second title.
The dark horse: There’s a lot to choose from here with 20 Top Fuel dragsters on the pre-entry list. Canadian Dan Mercier qualified No. 5 and No. 7 in his two most recent appearances in Epping and Bristol so he’s got a part-time entry with full-time potential. The same goes for T.J. Zizzo and Spencer Massey, who is scheduled to return to the seat of Pat Dakin’s dragster this weekend. Would it be a surprise if any of them won this race?
Justin Ashley Phillips Connect 4-1
Steve Torrence Capco Contractors 5-1
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 6-1
Antron Brown Matco Tools 7-1
Brittany Force Monster Energy 7-1
Josh Hart R+L Carriers 8-1
Austin Prock Montana Brands 9-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 10-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 11-1
Dan Mercier Amalie Oil 13-1
The favorite: NHRA has held 15 races in Norwalk since 2007 and Ron Capps has been in four final rounds with a victory in 2016. While it’s not accurate to call him dominant, he’s certainly got a solid handle on the Summit Motorsports Park track surface. Coming off a big win in Bristol, all the momentum is on the side of the NAPA Auto Parts team, especially as they attempt to widen a narrow 32 point lead over Matt Hagan in the Camping World standings. By a very slim margin, Capps is once again the favorite.
The contenders: We’re sure that Bob Tasca III would have loved to win the Epping event in Epping, but he’s also not likely to complain about finishing the event in Bristol as long as his Motorcraft team left with the Wally. Tasca won here in 2019 and also captured the Top Alcohol Funny Car title at the inaugural NHRA event in 2007.
In this “what have you done for me lately?” world, it’s easy to forget that Matt Hagan has three wins on the season and Robert Hight has two, especially since neither of them has won since the Charlotte Four Wide race. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re ranked 2-3 in the standings and figure to be in the championship hunt till the bitter end.
Any chance Chad Green and Alexis DeJoria don’t each win at least one race this season? We certainly think it’s going to happen especially since they’ve combined for 10 semifinal finishes so far this season and DeJoria is coming off her second runner-up in Bristol.
The dark horse: Let’s take a bit of a shot here and go with Blake Alexander. Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons to think the Pronto/Head Racing entry might be on the upswing. First off, they recently tested in Indy and reviews were favorable. Secondly, the car is based in Ohio and while that doesn’t exactly guarantee success, it would be the perfect place to cobble together a few round wins.
Ron Capps NAPA Toyota 4-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 5-1
Robert Hight Flav-R-Pak Chevy 5-1
Tim Wilkerson SCAG Mowers Ford 6-1
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 7-1
Chad Green Bondcoat Ford 8-1
Alexis DeJoria Bandero Toyota 8-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 9-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 10-1
J.R. Todd DHL Toyota 10-1
The favorite: It’s tempting for us to stick with Dallas Glenn since he still holds a sizable lead in the Camping World standings but after what she did in Bristol, we’re thinking that Erica Enders is back, and plans to stick around for a while. We still don’t know exactly what caused Enders to stumble at the first few races; honestly, it was likely a combination of a few things, but she’s clearly back and headed to an event that she’s won three times including the last two. We’re not 100-percent sure which version of the Elite team is going to show up, but smart money says the five-time champ is back.
The contenders: If Glenn isn’t the favorite, he’s certainly the leading contender although he’s got a lot of company most notably Deric Kramer, who followed his win in Charlotte with back-to-back final rounds in Chicago and Bristol. It’s also worth taking a closer look at Bristol runner-up Greg Anderson as well as Aaron Stanfield, Matt Hartford, and Cristian Cuadra, who qualified No 3 in Bristol and went to the semifinals for the second time in the last four races.
The dark horse: Since her breakthrough win in Phoenix, Camrie Caruso’s results have been mixed. She went to the semifinals in Pomona, but has just one round win since then. On the bright side, Caruso has qualified in the top half of the field at every race since Gainesville, including No. 5 in Chicago and No. 6 in Bristol.
Erica Enders JHG/Elite Camaro 4-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Torque Systems Camaro 5-1
Deric Kramer GetBioFuel.com Camaro 5-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro 6-1
Matt Hartford Total Seal Camaro 7-1
Greg Anderson HendrickCars.com Camaro 8-1
Troy Coughlin Jr. JEGS.com Camaro 9-1
Cristian Cuadra Corral Boots Mustang 10-1
Camrie Caruso Tequila Comisario Camaro 11-1
Kyle Koretsky Lucas Oil Camaro 12-1
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
The favorite: Okay, so perhaps Gaige Herrera is human after all since his impressive win streak ended with a red-light start in the final of the Bristol event two weeks ago. One simple foul doesn’t change the fact that Herrera is still a very capable rider who has the fastest bike in the class and it’s not likely that a recent five-pound weight adjustment is going to slow him much. It will be interesting to see how Herrera responds to his first loss of the season, but we’re thinking he’s not going to dwell on it.
The contenders: Steve Johnson made his debut in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class in 1987 and nearly four decades later, he’s still competitive as he proved in Bristol. Johnson sometimes struggles with consistency, but he’s got a very quick bike and he didn’t have to add weight this week. Outside of Johnson, there are plenty of leading contenders this week including Matt and Angie Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Chase Van Sant, Joey Gladstone, and Hector Arana Jr., who has qualified especially well, and reached the semifinals at the last two Pro Stock Motorcycle events.
The dark horse: Jianna Evaristo came out swinging in 2023 with a great semifinal performance in Gainesville that also included a personal best 6.78 elapsed time. Since then, it’s been a bit of a struggle for the former Pomona winner but the potential remains. The Pro Stock Motorcycle class is a bit more predictable than the nitro categories, but every now and then we have one of those crazy races where things do not go according to script.
Gaige Herrera Vance & Hines Suzuki 3-1
Steve Johnson Mac-Rak Suzuki 5-1
Matt Smith Denso Suzuki 5-1
Hector Arana Jr. GETTRX Buell 6-1
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines Suzuki 7-1
Chase Van Sant Trick Tools Suzuki 8-1
Joey Gladstone Reed Motorsports Suzuki 8-1
Angie Smith Denso Buell 10-1
Jianna Evaristo Scrappers Suzuki 14-1