What could be: Looking ahead at some possible historic milestones in 2023
The record books of NHRA Drag Racing are filled with more than 70 years of history, and many great drivers have left what once were indelible marks on the scoresheet, marks that this year could be in jeopardy.
As the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series prepares to kick off at Gainesville Raceway with the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, here’s a class-by-class look at some memorable movements that could take place on the all-time winners' lists.
While Tony Schumacher’s class-leading 86 career Top Fuel wins won’t be challenged for at least another couple of years, both Antron Brown and Steve Torrence are prepped to possibly take over second place in all-time Top Fuel wins. Three-time world champ Brown has 55 fuel dragster wins and four-time titlist Steve Torrence has 53, both within striking range of currently sidelined Larry Dixon’s 62 career scores.
Torrence, the sport’s most prolific winner since 2018, has had eight or more wins in five of the last six full NHRA campaigns, while Brown’s three wins last season were his most since a mid-2010s rampage that included career-high seven wins in both 2015 and 2016.
Doug Kalitta is poised to join the 50-win club and possibly challenge Joe Amato’s once unassailable class record of 52 wins to take over fifth place all-time but has not won since the fall 2020 St. Louis event.
Reigning world champ Brittany Force, coming off of a career-high five wins last season, is just three wins away from becoming Top Fuel’s winningest female racer. Her 16 wins are two behind class icon Shirley Muldowney (and one behind the late two-time world champ Scott Kalitta).
Like Schumacher’s Top Fuel record, John Force is assured to remain Funny Car’s biggest winner — perhaps forever — as reigning world champ Ron Capps is second with 72 victories, less than half that of Force, and Robert Hight will almost assuredly finish the season still in third with his 61 career wins.
Two-time world champ Tony Pedregon, retired now since the end of the 2015 season, remarkably still sits in fourth place all-time despite more than seven seasons on the sidelines, but he’s tied there with Matt Hagan, who assuredly will win more than one race in 2023 — he’s won at least three every season since 2015 — while Pedregon’s older brother, Cruz, sits just four wins behind them both with 39 scores and finished the 2022 season on a high note with a win at the season finale in Pomona.
Bob Tasca III’s 12 career wins have him just one victory behind another Ford hero, late three-time world champion Raymond Beadle (ranked 18th), while J.R. Todd is just two Wallys behind Tasca.
Like Force in Funny Car, no one is likely to ever challenge Greg Anderson’s Pro Stock-leading 101 wins as his closest active rival, five-time world champ Erica Enders, sits on 43, but Enders is almost assured this season to become the sport’s most successful female racer.
The current leader, Pro Stock Motorcycle legend Angelle Sampey, has 46 career wins but is expected to be largely sidelined without a full-time ride this season, while Enders had 10 wins last season and four each in the prior two seasons. Counting her Super Gas win, she's just three victories from taking over the top spot and just six victories away from also joining the 22 drivers before her to have recorded 50 career wins. Enders is also poised to catch Jason Line (51 wins) for fifth overall in Pro Stock history.
Bo Butner, the only other active driver on the list of Top 25 Pro Stock winners, is currently tied with fellow Chevy Pro Stock legends Bill Jenkins and Frank Iaconio for 18th with 11 victories, so his next win could be very meaningful.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
With his Vance & Hines teammate Andrew Hines no longer riding (but still tuning), four-time world champ and 49-time winner Eddie Krawiec has the chance to gain some ground on Hines’ class-leading 56 wins and also join the 50-win club. Krawiec has been stuck on 49 wins since his big triumph at the 2019 NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Six-time and reigning world champ Matt Smith, who had four wins last year and six in 2021, is within nine wins of catching late class legend Dave Schultz’s 45 wins for fourth overall and within 10 of Sampey’s third-ranked 46 wins. Both would take a monster season for Smith, but worth noting.
Seventeen-time winner Hector Arana Jr., who closed 2022 on a bit of a hot streak, is within four wins of tying class legend Terry Vance’s eighth-ranked 21 wins.