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Tricky Tipster: Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals

As the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing tour heads west for the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, Tricky Tipster has listed Shawn Langdon, Austin Prock, and Erica Enders as the favorites to win in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock.
22 Mar 2024
NHRA National Dragster staff
Tricky Tipster®

Even though it’s just one race, we learned a lot from the recent Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, including a hint of who might and might not contend for NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series titles this year.

The Kalitta Motorsports team heads to Pomona with the most reason for optimism as drivers Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd gave the team their first nitro sweep, while reigning and six-time champ Erica Enders continued to make short work of a stacked Pro Stock class.

As a result, Langdon and Enders are favored for this week’s Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, while Gainesville runner-up Austin Prock gets the nod in Funny Car.


The favorite: It might seem a bit risky to select Shawn Landon as the favorite, but his performance in Gainesville wasn’t just solid, it was outstanding. Langdon’s Kalitta Motorsports crew gave him the best car in the field, and he did the rest. Long acknowledged as one of the class' best natural drivers, the former Super Comp champ will be a handful this season if his team continues to provide a car that is anything close to the one he had in Gainesville.

The contenders: While his teammates grabbed most of the headlines, reigning champ Doug Kalitta wasn’t totally left out in Gainesville as he made the quickest run of the weekend with a 3.658 and set top speed of the meet for dragsters at 337.75 mph. The last time Kalitta raced in Pomona four months ago, he fulfilled a lifelong dream by winning his first world title.

Capco teammates Steve and Billy Torrence also had a solid outing in Gainesville as they both qualified well and went to the semifinals, where Billy prevailed against Steve. Antron Brown, who has also had some great moments in Pomona, also went to the semifinals in Gainesville, so his 2024 season is off to a solid start.

The dark horse: It’s hard to label Tony Stewart as a dark horse given his extensive résumé, but when it comes to Top Fuel, he’s still a newcomer, although he sure didn’t look like it in Gainesville. Yes, Stewart lost in the first round in his Pro debut, but he cut the best light of eliminations and pedaled the car like a veteran. He is going to win rounds this year and probably sooner rather than later.

Shawn Langdon        Kalitta Air                                         3-1
Doug Kalitta               Mac Tools                                        4-1
Steve Torrence          Capco Contractors                         5-1
Antron Brown            Matco Tools                                    6-1
Billy Torrence             Capco Contractors                        7-1
Brittany Force            Monster Energy                             8-1
Clay Millican               Parts Plus                                       9-1
Justin Ashley               SCAG Power Equipment             10-1
Tony Stewart              Mobil 1                                          12-1
Josh Hart                     R+L Carriers                                 15-1
Field                                                                                    19-1


The favorite: We’re gonna make another bold move here and go with Austin Prock, even though his experience behind the wheel of a Funny Car is limited. So far, Prock has looked like a natural behind the wheel of the Cornwell Tools Camaro, including a runner-up finish to the start the season in Gainesville. Prock also had the quickest car at the Gatornationals, and his lights were both quick and consistent. Prock will undoubtedly win races this year, and his first Funny Car win could easily come this weekend.

The contenders: So far, we like what we’ve seen out of Bob Tasca III, who has consistently topped the speed charts lately. Tasca also went to the semifinals in Gainesville before losing a pedalfest to eventual winner J.R. Todd. Tasca was a contender at almost every race last season, and there is no reason to think he won’t be even better this year.

Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, and J.R. Todd are perennial championship contenders, and most years, they are a near lock to finish in the top five. That’s especially true of Hagan, who has won four championships, including the most recent won. Hagan struggled in Gainesville but is primed for a quick rebound. The same can be said for Capps, who had a decent car at the season opener but got caught up in a weird race with Todd that resulted in a foul start.

Finally, there is Chad Green, who always seems to make it to at least the semifinals with his Bond Coat Ford. Green finished off 2023 with his first nitro win in Pomona and made it to the final four in Gainesville, which means he’s got another shot to win a Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in Pomona. He’s capable of that and even more.

The dark horse: There’s 21 Funny Cars entered in Pomona, including a handful of strong-running part-timers. There is also Terry Haddock, who might have been the happiest racer in Gainesville after he was handed his first three-second time slip. Haddock actually ran a pair of threes at the season opener, and with that sort of performance, he should not be taken lightly on race day. He only needs a break or two in order to makes some waves.

Austin Prock            Cornwell Tools Chevy                     4-1
Bob Tasca III           Motorcraft Ford                                5-1
J.R. Todd                   DHL Toyota                                      6-1
Matt Hagan             Dodge Power Brokers Dodge        7-1
Ron Capps               NAPA Toyota                                    8-1
Chad Green            Bondcoat Ford                                 10-1    
John Force              Peak/Blu Def Chevy                         11-1
Daniel Wilkerson   SCAG Mowers Ford                         12-1
Cruz Pedregon      Snap-on Dodge                                13-1
Alexis DeJoria        Bandero Toyota                               14-1
Blake Alexander    Pronto/Head Inc. Ford                   15-1
Field                                                                                   18-1


The favorite: It took about 20 attempts, but Erica Enders finally won the Gatornationals in Pro Stock, and perhaps more importantly, she was dominant in doing so. It’s far too early to tell if Enders can win 10 or more races, as she did in 2022, but if the Elite flagship continues to run the way it did in Gainesville, it might be a long year for the rest of the class.

The contenders: Next to Enders, the best performing cars in Gainesville were driven by Cristian Cuadra, Troy Coughlin Jr., Greg Anderson, and Dallas Glenn. All but Coughlin went to the semifinal round. The entire Pro Stock field in Gainesville was separated by just .043-second, which makes everyone who walks through the door on Sunday for driver introductions a contender.

The dark horse(s): The Cuadra family fielded three cars in Gainesville with Cristian, David, and Fernando Jr. each making the show with several solid runs. When it comes to the debate about NHRA’s next first-time Pro winner, it’s more than likely that it will go to one of the Corral Boots entries. That’s especially true for Cristian, who went to the final in Gainesville and chops the Tree down more often than not.


Erica Enders                        JHG/Elite Camaro                                   5-2
Dallas Glenn                       RAD Torque Systems Camaro              4-1
Greg Anderson                   HendrickCars.com Camaro                  5-1
Aaron Stanfield                   Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro             6-1
Troy Coughlin Jr.                 JEGS.com Camaro                                 7-1
Cristian Cuadra                  Corral Boots Mustang                           8-1
Jeg Coughlin Jr.                   SCAG Power Equipment Camaro       8-1
Matt Hartford                     Total Seal Camaro                                10-1
Deric Kramer                      GetBioFuels.com Camaro                   12-1
Field                                                                                                      19-1