This year’s NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs feels like a trip down a racetrack. Fast, quick and filled with drama.
The third race in the playoffs takes place this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway’s (WWTR) drag strip. It’s actually the fourth race in a row for the Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock combatants (Pro Stock Motorcycle is off until the Texas round), as they contested the Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals just a week before these seven races in the Countdown began.
As is customary in NHRA pro drag racing, the standings changed after the second race of the Countdown, as Steve Torrence relinquished the top spot he’s held in Top Fuel since nearly the start of the season (remember, both Steve – and father Billy – were gone at Gainesville after the second round – an anomaly). Brittany Force is now the Top Fuel leader with a 21-point advantage over S. Torrence.
Justin Ashley’s semifinal result at Charlotte last weekend, after snagging runner-up honors in Reading, vaulted the second-year racer into third place (-74), hounded by Reading winner B. Torrence in fourth and 82 points in arrears. Leah Pruett, Mike Salinas, Antron Brown Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican and Doug Kalitta retain top-10 points, with last year’s runner-up tenth and 210 points to make up. Last week’s winner, Josh Hart, who took the opening salvo at Gainesville is in 11th place despite missing a number of races.
There are 21 dragsters on the grounds here at WWTR, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. That’s a lot of nitro-burning lunacy and there are quite a few drivers here capable of bringing down NHRA’s Top 10 in the Top Fuel division. Hart is back to ruin others’ days like he did last Sunday to Brittany Force, as is Trip Tattum III, Lex Joon, Pat Dakin, Chicago sizzler T.J. Zizzo, Buddy Hull, Joey Haas, Keith Murt, Kyle Wurtzel, the ageless Luigi Novelli and Scott Palmer. It’s nice to have such a full field.
Some interesting tidbits for nitro fans: only Shawn Langdon and [now kinda retired] Del Worsham have raced to victories in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at this track; Worsham was Langdon’s crew chief in 2019 when the Californian earned his Funny Car win. Although he’s been having a tough Countdown thus far, Antron Brown is looking for his sixth WWTR victory in Top Fuel; he won four straight dragster titles here in 2012-2015.
Tim Wilkerson’s second 2021 victory in three races helped the independent Funny Car Ford Shelby Mustang driver vault from ninth to sixth in the Flopper standings, while his final round opponent at Charlotte, Cruz Pedregon now holds fifth place points with his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Ron Capps once again assumed the lead from Don Schumacher Racing teammate and fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat racer Matt Hagan who’s a scant five points behind him. John Force is third in his Chevrolet Camaro SS (-25), J.R. Todd and his Kalitta Motorsports Toyota Camry hold down fourth place at the moment, 46 points back.
Fifth through ninth places in Funny Car are held by Pedregon, Wilkerson, Robert Hight (Camaro SS), Bob Tasca III’s Ford Mustang and Alexis DeJoria in her Camry, all of them less than 100 points behind Capps. Blake Alexander’s Mustang is the outlier, 160 points in arrears. Everyone Funny Car on-site gets to race this weekend with 16 entries, including Jack Wyatt’s Charger, Terry Haddock’s Mustang Dale Creasy Jr.’s Stratus, Chris King in his Camry, Jim Campbell’s Charger and Bobby Bode III in his Mustang.
Kyle Koretsky’s long-awaited first Pro Stock victory in Charlotte scotched points leader Greg Anderson’s plans to celebrate being the winningest class driver in NHRA history. That 98th victory for the Minnesota-born racer is bound to happen and he’s hoping it’ll occur in this, NHRA’s 70th anniversary season. Koretsky, racing in his fourth final round in only his 21st Pro Stock contest, finally secured is first Wally winner’s trophy at Charlotte but there’s definitely more to come for this second-generation racer. The win placed KK in third, 91 behind his team leader and 26 behind second-placed reigning class champ Erica Enders. KB Racing’s Dallas Glenn holds fourth place points, but is 147 back.
Elite Motorsports’ Aaron Stanfield and Troy Coughlin Jr. are fifth and sixth (-157 and -158 respectively), followed by Matt Hartford Mason McGaha Deric Kramer and Chris McGaha in tenth. The entire top 10 drive Chevrolet Camaro products. There are 19 Pro Stock cars on the entry list, with Rodger Brogdon proving there is no cure for drag racing as he again returns to compete, Kenny Delco, Bo Butner III and Martin Robertson, all driving Camaros, Alan Prusiensky in the lone Dodge Dart, the Cuadra contingent of Fernando, Fernando Jr. and Cristian racing Ford Mustangs and Robert River in his Cobalt.
Although Pro Stock Motorcycle has the weekend off, we’ve got to note the recovery of rider Cory Reed, who crashed his Suzuki Hayabusa into winning teammate Joey Gladstone in the semifinals last weekend. Reed tried to keep his bike straight, but it veered from left lane to right, hit Gladstone’s bike and went airborne, throwing the rider to the ground. Reed has a broken leg. “Thank you to everyone who has called, texted, reached out to my family and friends checking on me,” he said in a Facebook post. Reed had a successful surgery on Monday and noted, “There was a possibility of two but it’s looking good after the first. Can’t wait to be home and see my wife and baby and then hopefully be back at the track to finish out the season with my team.”
It should be a good weekend for racing outside St. Louis, as current forecasts allow tuners to deal with cooling temps – from a high of 82 – Friday night for the first qualifying attempts, while Saturday offers a partly-cloudy day with a high in the mid-70s. Race day is looking to be hotter (86) with sunny conditions, so those who work best with a hot track should have a leg up on their competition.