NHRA Story
National Dragster presents Tricky Tipster's Denver picks
Thursday, July 17, 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 Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Denver Logo
TOP FUEL
Funny Car I Pro Stock I Pro Stock Motorcycle
Antron Brown ANTRON BROWN
Matco Tools
The 2012 world champion is scoring wins at a breakneck pace with five already in 13 events. He has two wins in Denver, including a 2009 victory that gave him the first step toward a sweep of the Western Swing. 5-2
  
Spencer Massey SPENCER MASSEY
Battery Extender
The reigning event champion has never fared worse than a semifinal finish on "the Mountain." Two of those events have been victories. His poor race-day luck of late hasn't coincided with his improved performance. 3-1
  
Doug Kalitta DOUG KALITTA
Mac Tools
While Sonoma might be his favorite race, the one that precedes it on the Western Swing hasn't been unkind to him in recent years. Since his win here in 2010, he hasn't qualified lower than No. 3. 4-1
  
Shawn Langdon SHAWN LANGDON
Al-Anabi Racing
A runner-up finish in Norwalk from the No. 1 qualifying position seems to establish positive momentum following significant changes in his tune-up, though he also smoked the tires twice in a row at the end of it. Regardless, this is a team that can make horsepower in the thin air at Bandimere Speedway. 5-1
  
Tony Schumacher TONY SCHUMACHER
U.S. Army
He has won here twice. Collectively, the Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel teams have dominated this race with wins in each of the past three seasons and in five of the last six seasons. 7-1
  
Brittany Force BRITTANY FORCE
Castrol Edge
The John Force Racing Top Fuel program showed its first real spark at this event last season. With two final rounds thus far in 2014, the second-year driver is ready to reach the winner's circle for the first time. 8-1
  
Steve Torrence STEVE TORRENCE
Capco Contractors
He qualified No. 1 here last season. He broke out of his first-round slump in Norwalk and is hungry to get back in the winner's circle for the first time in more than a calendar year. 9-1
  
Khalid alBalooshi KHALID ALBALOOSHI
Al-Anabi Racing
This has been a special place for him ever since he scored his first Professional round-win here during his rookie season. He has qualified between the Nos. 6 and 10 spots at the last six events and could heighten his chances by breaking away from the middle of the field. 11-1
 

FUNNY CAR
Ron Capps RON CAPPS
NAPA Dodge
May not always be putting up the big numbers, but it’s hard to argue with his results as of late: a win, runner-up, and semifinal finish in the last three events. 3-1
  
Cruz Pedregon CRUZ PEDREGON
Snap-on Toyota
Based on recent performances alone, we probably wouldn’t rank him this high, but Pedregon really knows how to excel in Denver. He has set the track record the last two years (and done so convincingly), and he’s last year’s winner. 4-1
  
Tommy Johnson Jr. TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Make-A-Wish
Dodge
We still think he has one of, if not the best cars in the class. Oh, and if you like patterns, he has been going to the final every other race, so he seems due for a late finish on Sunday. 5-1
  
John Force JOHN FORCE
Castrol GTX Ford
The champ seems to have his mojo — and car — back, qualifying No. 2 and making some nice runs on race day en route to victory in Norwalk. 7-1
  
Matt Hagan MATT HAGAN
Mopar/Rocky
Boots Dodge
Heading into Norwalk, we said we needed one more good race to jump on the Hagan-is-back bandwagon. Low e.t. of the first round in Ohio has made us believers. 8-1
  
Jack Beckman JACK BECKMAN
Infinite Hero
Dodge
Like Pedregon, Beckman also has a pretty strong record in Denver. Combine that with a solid semifinal showing last time out, and we think he could be primed for a breakout weekend. 9-1
  
Robert Hight ROBERT HIGHT
Auto Club Ford
It does make us pause dropping the points leader down this much in the rankings, but others are stepping up their games, and we haven’t seen much from him lately. 10-1
  
Del Worsham DEL WORSHAM
DHL Toyota
Once again, Tipster was conflicted over which of four deserving drivers to put in this last spot, but we just can’t shake the feeling that this very-good car is going to have its moment very soon. 12-1
 

PRO STOCK
Erica Enders-Stevens ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS
Elite Motorsports
Chevy
If you need us to write something here, you haven’t been paying close enough attention during the first half of the season. This is the best doorslammer on planet Earth. Period. Thank You. Goodnight. [P.S. She’s one of three drivers on this list who didn’t compete here last year.] 3-2
  
Dave Connolly DAVE CONNOLLY
Charter Communications
Chevy
Don’t ever let it be said that D.C. isn’t a complex fella. Over the season’s first eight races, he had an average qualifying position of fourth. In the last five races, he has been slotted eighth (and as low as 12th in Bristol). Yet, he only had eight round-wins in the first eight races, compared to 12 win lights over the last five events. Can you explain it? 2-1
  
Allen Johnson ALLEN JOHNSON
Team Mopar/J&J
Dodge
If you think D.C. is Jekyll and Hyde, check this cat out: Over the first 10 races this season, A.J. went to four finals and had five first-round exits. That tide may be changing, though, because he has been to the semi’s at two of the last three events. Now for the real story — he has been to seven straight finals on "the Mountain" (picking up five Wallys) and been the No. 1 qualifier four years running. If that’s not owning a track, what is? 3-1
  
Vincent Nobile VINCENT NOBILE
Mountain View
Tire Chevy
As we begin the three-race Western Swing, Tipster can share a few secrets with you: Vincent will show up on Friday and predict they will win the race. Then he’ll beat Shane Tucker at some point during eliminations. Beyond that, you’ll need to tune into ESPN to see just how far he goes on Sunday. 5-1
  
Jason Line JASON LINE
Summit Racing
Chevy
We went all-in on Line before Norwalk, putting him as the Tipster favorite — and he rewarded us with a first-round exit. On a more positive note, he has qualified in the top four at four of the last seven events. Line has also lost to Jonathan Gray at three of the last four events. Thus, easy solution time — avoid the rookie on Sunday, go rounds. Simple. Done. 6-1
  
Jeg Coughlin Jr. JEG COUGHLIN JR.
JEGS.com/Mopar
Dodge
Even past the halfway point of the season, we’re still not quite sure what to do with the champ. After going to three straight finals not that long ago, Jeg only picked up two round-wins total at the last three events. Still, his 21-11 round record on the season gives him the third best winning percentage in the class this year (.656, compared to Erica’s .763 and A.J.’s .677). 8-1
  
Chris McGaha CHRIS McGAHA
Harlow Sammons
Dodge
Tipster loves drag racing history, so we’re going to use a little here. McG won a race at Bandimere Speedway back when he was a wee lad driving a Jr. Dragster. He also came to Denver for his first race in a Comp car and won his first round that weekend, too. He’ll be making his mile-high Pro Stock debut this time around. Add in the birthday he’s celebrating this week, and we like his chances. 10-1
  
V. Gaines V. GAINES
Kendall Oil Dodge
We know, this is a pretty interesting pick, right? Well, Gaines has been the runner-up here two years in a row. In 2013, he rolled into his home track having only seen the second round one time in the previous six races. That didn’t stop him from thrilling the faithful. This year, he arrives with a single round-win in 10 races, capped off with a DNQ a few weeks ago in Norwalk. There is no better time than the present for his Dart to find the mark. 20-1
 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Andrew Hines ANDREW HINES
Screamin’ Eagle
Harley-Davidson
Debuted a new bike in Norwalk and after some initial gremlins, turned in an impressive performance on Sunday. Rates a slim edge here. 4-1
  
Hector Arana Jr. HECTOR ARANA JR.
Lucas Oil Buell
He has had arguably the best bike at the last few races and looked very strong during his recent Chicago win. Likely more of that to come. 9-2
  
XXX EDDIE KRAWIEC
Screamin’ Eagle
Harley-Davidson
As he noted recently, “I’ve got a great qualifying bike, but I’m not so great on race day.” Once that gets fixed, he’ll start winning races again. 5-1
  
Hector Arana Sr. HECTOR ARANA SR.
Lucas Oil Buell
He hasn’t been ranked this high for a while primarily because he hasn’t won in a while. That being said, he has turned the corner lately and looks to be on the verge of ending a long dry spell. 7-1
  
Matt Smith MATT SMITH
MSR/Stockseth
Racing Buell
One of these days, all the bad luck he has had so far this season is going to go away and he’s going to lap the field. Look for the reigning champ to make a big move in the points soon. 8-1
  
John Hall JOHN HALL
B.R.A.K.E.S. Buell
Been in a bit of a funk lately, but that won’t last long. He almost always qualifies well, which should set the table for a long stay in eliminations. 10-1
  
Angie Smith ANGIE SMITH
Kandy Magazine
Buell
Over the last few races, she has carried the entire MSR team with seven round-wins in the last three races. It would not be the least bit surprising to see her win another race this season 11-1
  
Chaz Kennedy CHAZ KENNEDY
Star Buell
Qualified No. 4 in Norwalk and defeated teammate Michael Ray in round one. Was that the start of something big for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award candidate? We’ll know soon. 15-1