The recent Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol were not kind to favorites and points leaders in any of the professional categories, but such is the unpredictable nature of the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series. This week’s event in Norwalk, which is expected to feature similar summer conditions, will likely offer the same.
With that in mind, Tricky Tipster boldly offers their picks for Summit Racing Equipment’s NHRA National Championships and they include Brittany Force, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders and Matt Smith.
Favorite: The Monster Energy team and Breton strength appeared uncomfortable at Bristol but we’ll give them a bye as they’re usually a strong group and team leader David Grubnic is a stand up guy who usually responds to a bad outing with a lot more effort strong. It’s also worth noting that there are four qualifying sessions in Norwalk, which means teams will have 25% more data than usual. That’s a huge bonus for a guy like Grubnic. Force still tops the points standings, but its lead over Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley and Steve Torrence is tenuous at best. This would be a perfect opportunity for the Monster crew to distance themselves from the field.
The pretenders : We have just named them; Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley and defending champ Steve Torrence are the three most likely candidates to knock Force off the top of the leaderboard. Salinas has been exceptional at almost every stage of the tour this season and although he didn’t win in Bristol, his 3.75 in the first round of eliminations was by far the best streak of the event.
Ashley won at Bristol which automatically makes him one of the favorites for Norwalk, who will likely come on similar terms. Ashley’s 3.80 run in the heat of battle at Bristol was also noteworthy. Finally, there’s Torrence, who is now officially overdue for his first win of the season. Torrence has won the last two Norwalk events (2019-2021) and he has won three of the last four events held at Summit Motorsports Park, which makes him an automatic contender.
The black horse: There are 21 Top Fuel cars pre-registered this week, helping to improve the odds of an upset. Either way, we’re going to play it safe and go with Shawn Langdon this time around. Yes, he was runner-up last week in Bristol, which doesn’t really make him a dark horse, but he’s only 75 points clear of 11th-placed Tony Schumacher, so round-robin wins are key right now. .
Brittany Force Monster Energy 3-1
Justin Ashley Phillips Connection 4-1
Steve Torrence Capco 5-1
Mike Salinas Scrappers 6-1
Austin Prock Montana Scores 7-1
Shawn LangdonDHL 9-1
Antron Brown Matco 11-1 Tools
Leah Pruett Dodge Power Brokers 12-1
Doug Kalitta Mac Tools 14-1
Tony Schumacher SCAG/Maynard 16-1
Favorite: Give me Matt Hagan and the Dodge Power Brokers team a mulligan for their performance in Bristol, so we can (somewhat) comfortably say they’re Funny Car’s best racing team, but their margin over the rest of the field has definitely shrunk in recent races. Hagan won here in 2018 so he has a bit of history at this track and with four qualifying rounds they should be fine on Sunday.
The pretenders : Recently we suggested that the Funny Car battle was a two-horse race between Hagan and Robert Hight, but Ron Capps had other ideas and came out and won the Bristol event. Honestly, Hagan, Hight and Capps are an elite group and they should rightfully be among the favorites, but they have company.
First off, Cruz Pedregon is the defending winner of the event and he generally runs well at Norwalk. The same can be said for Bob Tasca III who won this event in 2019 and was a runner-up last year, meaning he has won seven of the last eight rounds here. Both are down for a win and so is Bristol runner-up Tim Wilkerson, the 2010 Norwalk champion.
The black horse: Alexis DeJoria is closing in on contender status, but for now, we’ll label him and Team Bandero Toyota our Dark Horse pick. DeJoria had a strong outing in Bristol and she climbed to No. 7 in the Camping World rankings. Team leader Del Worsham is making steady progress, especially with his hot weather tune-up, which suggests they will continue to rack up wins.
Matt Hagan Dodge Power Brokers Dodge 2-1
Ron Capps NAPA Dodge 4-1
Robert Hight Auto Club Chevrolet 5-1
Bob Tasca III Motorcraft Ford 6-1
John Force Peak/Blu Def Chevy 7-1
Tim Wilkerson LRS Ford 8-1
Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Dodge 8-1
JR ToddDHL Toyota 9-1
Alexis De Joria Bandero Toyota 15-1
Blake Alexander Head Racing Ford 17-1
Favorite: Anyone who saw the Bristol Pro Stock final would agree that it was spectacular and entertaining, but it’s also worth noting that if not for a broken engine, Erica Enders would have won his fourth consecutive race and his fifth place overall. Enders didn’t necessarily have the best car at Bristol but that didn’t stop her from reaching the final and that could well be the case at Norwalk this weekend. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s tough to bet against someone who is 19-3 in the playoffs this season. Oh, and Enders is also the defending Norwalk champion.
The pretenders : Bristol winner Aaron Stanfield could rightfully be elevated to favorite (or at least co-favourite) status as he is equal to Enders in almost every category and rarely makes mistakes. Stanfield aside, Greg Anderson seems to have upped his game lately and we also like what we’ve seen from Kyle Koretsky and Dallas Glenn, who each made the semis last weekend in Bristol. With four qualifying races, it’s likely the entire Pro Stock field will be separated by a tenth or less, making it almost anyone’s race.
The black horse: Camrie Caruso continues to get high marks in her first season in the Pro Stock class. She suffered a tough first-round loss at Epping and bounced back with a strong quarter-final last week. It’s also worth pointing out that she qualified No. 2 at Bristol, which tells you everything you need to know about the Titan engine program. When she made her Pomona debut, Caruso boldly predicted she would win races this year. At the moment, does anyone doubt her?
Erica Enders Elite/Melling Camaro 2-1
Aaron Stanfield Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro 4-1
Greg Anderson HendrickCars.com Camaro 5-1
Kyle Koretsky Lucas Oil Products Camaro 6-1
Dallas Glenn RAD Camaro 7-1 Torque Systems
Camrie Caruso SHA Camaro 8-1
Mason McGaha Harlow Sammons Camaro 9-1
Matt Hartford Total Seal Camaro 10-1
Deric Kramer Get Bio Fuel Camaro 11-1
Chris McGaha Harlow Sammons Camaro 12-1
Favorite: It’s tough because early season favorites Karen Stoffer and Steve Johnson have struggled lately and even Bristol runners-up Jerry Savoie and Angelle Sampey have been a bit too inconsistent for our liking. So when all else fails, we go with the champion, who happens to be Matt Smith. The Richmond winner doesn’t have the best bike in the class right now, but he’s close and being a Smith, he’s like his dad, Rickie, and knows how to win races he otherwise shouldn’t. Finally, he is the defending champion of Norwalk.
The pretenders : This is quite a long list including Johnson and Stoffer, Bristol runners-up Savoie and Sampey, as well as Angie Smith, who had the best bike in Norwalk. Smith is likely the main contender as she was way ahead of the pack last week. We don’t know why her Denso Buell slowed down in round two, but if that issue is resolved, she’ll be in contention for the win this week.
The black horse: Let’s take a real shot in the dark this week and go with Marc Ingwersen. We know he’s a relative newcomer who’s never made an NHRA final, but he’s just won back-to-back semifinals and his Buckeye Harley-Davidson V-twin isn’t running badly. Winning a race might be a bit too much to ask at this point, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.
Matt Smith Denso Suzuki 3-1
Angie Smith Denso Buell 5-1
Steve Johnson Slick 50 Suzuki 6-1
Angelle Sampey Vance & Hines Suzuki 7-1
Karen Stoffer Big St. Charles Suzuki 7-1
Jerry Savoie Alligator White Suzui 8-1
Eddie Krawiec Vance & Hines Suzuki 9-1
Joey Gladstone Reed Motorsports Suzuki 9-1
Jimmy Underdahl Scrappers Suzuki 11-1
Marc Ingwersen Buckeye HD Buell 15-1