NHRA Story
National Dragster presents Tricky Tipster's Sonoma picks
Thursday, July 24, 2014


For more than five decades, the National Dragster staff has tested its prognosticating skills prior to each national event, putting odds on the top eight racers it thinks have the best shot at victory in Tricky Tipster, which is first posted on NationalDragster.net the Wednesday before each event, then on NHRA.com the following day. This week, Tricky Tipster handicaps the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Sonoma Logo
TOP FUEL
Funny Car I Pro Stock I Pro Stock Motorcycle
Doug Kalitta DOUG KALITTA
Mac Tools
There’s always a little magic at the venue where a driver scored his or her first win. The points leader has a whopping five wins at this event. Kalitta Motorsports drivers have qualified No. 1 here in each of the last two seasons. 5-2
  
Antron Brown ANTRON BROWN
Matco Tools
He has five wins already in 2014. He scored three wins in Sonoma between 2009 and 2012. He has been closing in on Kalitta’s once-massive lead. 3-1
  
J.R. Todd J.R. TODD
Optima Batteries
After going six years without a victory, the still-hungry driver wants to go back for seconds. He won in Denver and Sonoma in his 2006 rookie season and is halfway to doing the same in 2014. 4-1
  
Shawn Langdon SHAWN LANGDON
Al-Anabi Racing
This race is one of the majors in the eyes of tuner Alan Johnson and the defending event winner. Langdon has scored here in Top Fuel and in Super Gas in 2010. 5-1
  
T Schumacher TONY SCHUMACHER
U.S. Army
It’s odd that all of his semifinal-or-better finishes this season have come from the Nos. 5 through 8 qualifying positions, and he only has two round-wins to show for the four times he qualified in the top three. “The Sarge” has been to six finals here with wins in 2007 and 2008. 7-1
  
Brittany Force BRITTANY FORCE
Castrol Edge
She cemented her win-waiting-to-happen status with her third final-round appearance of the season in Denver. The California native is in prime position to break through for that victory on the West Coast. 8-1
  
Richie Crampton RICHIE CRAMPTON
GEICO/Lucas Oil
He goes rounds when he gets going early enough during qualifying. The rookie’s Aaron Brooks-led team made a turnaround last year when it reached the final round at this event and won in Seattle the next week. 10-1
  
Steve Torrence STEVE TORRENCE
Capco Contractors
All those close races he has been on the short end of lately are eventually going to pay off in the form of race-day luck. His performance hasn’t wavered. 11-1
 

FUNNY CAR
John Force JOHN FORCE
Castrol GTX
Ford
It’s probably not wise to bet against Ron Capps in Sonoma, but with the way Force’s car is running, we think it’s a bet worth taking. Seriously, would you want to line up against Force right now? 2-1
  
Ron Capps RON CAPPS
NAPA Dodge
The NAPA driver really excels in Napa Valley, collecting three wins in the last four years. Plus his car continues to steadily go rounds, advancing to the semi’s in Denver. 3-1
  
Robert Hight ROBERT HIGHT
Auto Club
Ford
Boy did he prove Tipster was wrong dropping him in the rankings last week. After a stretch of relatively quiet Sundays, the points leader went the distance in Denver and earned a spot back near the top. 5-1
  
Tommy Johnson Jr. TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Make-A-Wish
Dodge
Slipping a little bit lately (or is it just that others are stepping up?), but we still believe this is a very strong entry that is more than capable of going the distance on Sunday. 6-1
  
Tim Wilkerson TIM WILKERSON
Levi, Ray & Shoup
Ford
If there is a time of year during which Wilk really shines, it’s the Western Swing, and he further proved that with a semifinal showing in Denver. A two-time winner here, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wilkerson's among the final cars this weekend. 8-1
  
Cruz Pedregon CRUZ PEDREGON
Snap-on Toyota
We’re still a little unsure about this car and what it may or may not do each week, but he’s been good for a round-win or two consistently for several races, so he has earned a spot in the rankings. 9-1
  
Matt Hagan MATT HAGAN
Mopar/Rocky
Boots Dodge
Was a little inconsistent in Denver, but with the unique nature of that race, it makes it hard to gauge what that means in the big picture. The two races prior to that were pretty good, so he stays in our top eight. 11-1
  
Jack Beckman JACK BECKMAN
Valvoline Dodge
It was a toss-up between him and Courtney Force for this last slot, both showing just enough to catch our attention in Denver but not enough to really wow us. Beckman was better on Sunday, so he gets the slight edge. 13-1
 

PRO STOCK
Allen Johnson ALLEN JOHNSON
Team Mopar/
J&J Dodge
A.J. (and the J stands for Jekyll) is coming off another win in Denver. But will Hyde reappear in Sonoma and go out in the first round? However, with Erica Enders-Stevens on the sidelines for the next two races, we expect this team to show some championship form. 3-1
  
Dave Connolly DAVE CONNOLLY
Charter
Communications
Chevy
D.C. continues to pile up round-wins, and with his performance in Denver, that’s four straight races of making it to at least the semi’s. If a Chevy goes to the winner’s circle in wine country, there is a strong chance it will be this one. 4-1
  
Vincent Nobile VINCENT NOBILE
Mountain View
Tire Chevy
Tipster must admit, Nobile let us down in Denver. He didn’t even have one guarantee or prediction to share; so unlike him. Still, we’re going to give him a pass because we like his odds in Sonoma. He’s the defending event champion, and he’s confident he’ll repeat – even if he won’t say it out loud. 5-1
  
Jason Line JASON LINE
Summit Racing
Chevy
It will be very interesting to watch the brewing rivalry between the Summit team and the J&J gang. Line started the year with his "ugly Dodge" comment, and A.J. ramped it up with his "That’s my tune-up" talk last weekend. Line, who turned 45 this week, would love nothing more than to earn win No. 33 in NoCal – and then take the microphone once again. 6-1
  
Jeg Coughlin Jr. JEG COUGHLIN JR.
JEGS.com/
Mopar Dodge
Perhaps for more than any other driver on this list, Sonoma could be a real watershed moment for the reigning world champ. There are three groups in Pro Stock right now — we should win, we might win, and we’re having fun in qualifying. Jeg clearly isn’t in the last but has yet to solidify which of the other packs he’s part of this season. Time is running out. 15-2
  
Shane Gray SHANE GRAY
Gray Manufacturing
Chevy
Denver scmenver. Just forget about everything that happened on the mountain. You have to; the elements are just too unique to draw significant conclusions. Gray qualified No. 2 here last year, and Tipster wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he was there again. Can this car go rounds on Sunday? That remains a much bigger question. 11-1
  
Greg Anderson GREG ANDERSON
Summit Racing
Chevy
Some might call this a respect-based pick, and we’ll accept that comment. By his own admission, Anderson’s car is not up to snuff lately, yet he’s desperately trying to string four wins together on Sunday. With the Camaros of his two teammates showing improvement lately, the white car should pick up as early as this weekend. 13-1
  
Chris McGaha CHRIS McGAHA
Harlow Sammons
Chevy
Adding Brian Self as crew chief appears to have given this team some much-needed consistency with its tune-up. Now if McG can get to work on those reaction times, we can increase the threat level for this car in eliminations. We’ll predict No. 5 qualifier and two round-wins in Sonoma. Prove us wrong; we dare you. 16-1
 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Andrew Hines ANDREW HINES
Screamin’ Eagle
Harley-Davidson
He has won the last two races, is undefeated on his new V-Rod chassis, and wants nothing more than to double up with the event win and the MiraMonte Records NHRA Pro Bike Battle title. 3-1
  
Eddie Krawiec EDDIE KRAWIEC
Screamin’ Eagle
Harley-Davidson
You can’t call it a slump, but for whatever reason, he has not been able to get the job done on race day. That trend could stop at any moment. 4-1
  
Hector Arana Jr. HECTOR ARANA JR.
Lucas Oil Buell
Had the bike to beat in Denver before he was ambushed by his father. He has been solid since winning in Chicago, so a repeat of his 2013 Sonoma win shouldn’t be counted out. 5-1
  
Hector Arana Sr. HECTOR ARANA SR.
Lucas Oil Buell
Suddenly he seems to have found the fountain of youth. His riding hasn’t been this good since his championship season in 2009, and he’s determined to get that long-overdue win sooner rather than later. 11-2
  
Michael Ray MICHAEL RAY
Star Racing Buell
Very hard to handicap this team. It could run the table or be done after the first round, but things appear to be headed in the right direction lately. 7-1
  
Steve Johnson STEVE JOHNSON
Johnson Racing
Suzuki
Deserves some love in the good ol’ Tipster after his performance in Denver, which included solid numbers in qualifying and a pair of round-wins on race day. He’s not consistent but has the ability to be spectacular. 9-1
  
John Hall JOHN HALL
B.R.A.K.E.S. Buell
Since when is the top Matt Smith entry ranked seventh? After a tough Denver outing, when just one of its four bikes made it out of round one, it has taken a small step backward. That being said, a final here isn’t out of the question. 13-1
  
Scotty Pollacheck SCOTTY POLLACHECK
Petrolhead Buell
A bit of a hunch here, but this is his home race, and he has a new sponsor that is also based in Northern California. Can’t think of a better place for him to land his first NHRA national event title. 15-1