NHRA Story
National Dragster presents Tricky Tipster's Brainerd picks
Thursday, August 14, 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 Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Brainerd Logo
TOP FUEL
Funny Car I Pro Stock I Top Alcohol Dragster I Top Alcohol Funny Car
Doug Kalitta DOUG KALITTA
Mac Tools
He has nine final-round appearances in 2014 and got the job done in the clutch against the driver nearest his No. 1 spot in points in the Seattle final round. Fresh pipe will serve him well in Brainerd and through the rest of the season. 3-1
  
Antron Brown ANTRON BROWN
Matco Tools
He’s 5-2 in final rounds, with the only two losses coming against “tool wars” adversary Doug Kalitta, which were Kalitta’s only two wins in his 2-7 final-round record. This Tipster ranking could flip flop depending on whether the two drivers are on the same or opposite sides of the ladder. 7-2
  
Tony Schumacher TONY SCHUMACHER
U.S. Army
“The Sarge” had a very, very good car that he drove to two No. 1 qualifying positions on the Western Swing. He’s ready to win and win now. 4-1
  
Shawn Langdon SHAWN LANGDON
Al-Anabi Racing
A new chassis in Sonoma has yielded runner-up and semifinal finishes thus far. Look for the reigning world champion to be in the picture again this Sunday. 6-1
  
Richie Crampton RICHIE CRAMPTON
GEICO/Lucas Oil
The Australian-born U.S. citizen reached the quarterfinals in Sonoma and the semifinals in Seattle. Our charts have him trending toward a final-round appearance in Brainerd. 7-1
  
Khalid alBalooshi KHALID alBALOOSHI
Al-Anabi Racing
His fate seems to be determined by how he races his teammate of late. He won in Sonoma by beating Shawn Langdon in the final round, then lost a close second-round race against him in Seattle. The versatile driver has to figure that it’s the gold team’s turn next time. 8-1
  
Brittany Force BRITTANY FORCE
Castrol Edge
Fun fact: The second-year driver has qualified higher at every event in 2014 than she did at the same event in 2013 with the exception of Denver. She has three runner-ups this year and is looking to close the deal. 9-1
  
Morgan Lucas MORGAN LUCAS
Lucas Oil/GEICO
He reached the semifinals in both of his appearances so far in 2014. The 2009 and 2012 Brainerd winner always seems to find a way to get it done at the event of which his family business is the title sponsor. 12-1
 

FUNNY CAR
John Force JOHN FORCE
Castrol GTX Ford
Are we the only ones feeling déjà vu with a midseason return to form and car that can seem to do no wrong? This team looks very much like the one that won the world championship last year. 3-2
  
Matt Hagan MATT HAGAN
Mopar/Rocky
Boots Dodge
Has been quietly putting together some very solid performances. Had the best overall qualifying effort in Seattle, and he is coming off back-to-back semifinal finishes. 4-1
  
Robert Hight ROBERT HIGHT
Auto Club Ford
Has slipped a little as of late but is still making good runs. Probably starting to feel the pressure of holding off his boss for the No. 1 spot, and this team has proven quite good at performing in pressure situations. 6-1
  
Courtney Force COURTNEY FORCE
Traxxas Ford
Has had some runs where we thought she showed real potential to give her dad a run for his money, but there is still a level of inconsistency here that is holding her back from doing so. 7-1
  
Alexis DeJoria ALEXIS DeJORIA
Patrón XO Café
Toyota
Beginning to again look like the team that won two races early and appeared primed for a big year. If she and her team can find a way to minimize missteps, they could be a real threat. 9-1
  
Cruz Pedregon CRUZ PEDREGON
Snap-on Toyota
Has been great in the first round with numbers at or near the top of the sheets. If only he could find a way to carry that performance past the first round. 10-1
  
Tommy Johnson Jr. TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Make-A-Wish
Dodge
His qualifying numbers show the car is still there, but it seems that they can’t catch a break on Sunday. If his team can find a way to get past the little problems and maybe find a little luck, he could easily go rounds. 11-1
  
Ron Capps RON CAPPS
NAPA Dodge
It wasn’t that long ago that the defending event champ was at the top of our rankings, but this class is so competitive, and his team has seemed just a little off lately. 12-1
 

PRO STOCK
Jason Line JASON LINE
Summit Racing Chevy
Line’s gut instinct was correct: He would visit the winner’s circle in Sonoma and Seattle. He has all the odds stacked against him in Brainerd, though. He has never won there, and he’s on the cover of the new National Dragster. Still, Tipster will tempt fate and predict a three-peat -- or a hat trick, depending on your preference. 2-1
  
Erica Enders-Stevens ERICA ENDERS-STEVENS
Elite Motorsports
Chevy
Nobody likes it when the injured quarterback returns to find the starting job has been taken over by the backup. While not exactly the perfect analogy, it’s close. E.E. left the tour with arguably the best car in the class, yet she’ll return to find the gap has closed considerably. Win here, and we’ll hand back her crown and scepter. 3-1
  
Dave Connolly DAVE CONNOLLY
Charter Communications
Chevy
After a string of five straight races in which he went to at least the semi’s, D.C. fell in the second round in Seattle. We still like his chances on Sunday, and there’s no shame in having the third-best Chevy in the class at the moment. However, if this team is going to make any real noise in the Countdown, this is a great time to start building momentum. 5-1
  
Jeg Coughlin Jr. JEG COUGHLIN JR.
JEGS.com/Mopar
Dodge
How often can we say things like great driver, great power, and lacks consistency? On a positive note, the reigning world champ has made it out of the first round at five straight races. That’s more than he did last year in Brainerd, where he qualified No. 8 and lost to Mark Martino in the opening stanza, 6.647 to 6.644. 6-1
  
Greg Anderson GREG ANDERSON
Summit Racing
Chevy
Well, Anderson did exactly what Tipster asked of him in Seattle: He found a way to get by the yellow car for the first time this season. Next up is Wally No. 75, but to do that here, he’ll need a little luck. Although his Camaro is making plenty of power again, the field above is as deadly as ever. 8-1
  
Allen Johnson ALLEN JOHNSON
Team Mopar/
J&J Dodge
A.J.’s Dart dominated qualifying in Seattle, had a bye in the first round, and still left town having defeated only one other car in eliminations. A similar showing in Minnesota likely won’t help his cause. To pass Enders-Stevens in the points, he’ll almost surely have to visit the winner’s circle this weekend. 9-1
  
Shane Gray SHANE GRAY
Gray Manufacturing
Chevy
Let’s see … he beat brother Jonathan for the first time this season. That was noteworthy in Seattle. Otherwise, it was standard operating procedure for this car – qualify in the top three, go a few rounds on Sunday, then pack up and keep on truckin’ to the next track. 12-1
  
Vincent Nobile VINCENT NOBILE
Mountain View
Tire Chevy
We won’t ask him about the Swing, just in case he’s undergone hypnosis to forget all about it. Instead, look for the native New Yorker to channel his 2013 visit to Brainerd, where he qualified on the pole and went to the semi’s. A repeat performance would put this team on the right path just in time for Indy. 15-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
JOEY SEVERANCE
J&A Service
The Seattle winner has never been here. Then again, he has never won multiple national events in a season or been the clear championship front-runner, and he seems to be navigating those positions quite well. 2-1
  
RANDY MEYER
Meyer Truck Centers/
SmartChicken
He has cooled a little since the incredible winning streak he was on while he and Shayne Lawson were taking turns behind the wheel, but the veteran A/Fuel driver/tuner knows this place better than most after following the Division 5 circuit for several years. 4-1
  
BILL REICHERT
Rislone
The five-time champion has won twice in regional action this year but can't seem to get past the semifinals in national competition. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him break out of his longest winless stretch since he scored for the first time in three years with his Reading victory in 2005. 5-1
  
ALAN BRADSHAW
Doucette Racing
The 2003 champion is a lock for the coolest tow vehicle award. When Doug Doucette's A/Fueler is on, it means business. 6-1
  
RICH McPHILLIPS
Audubon Service
A long shot to contend for the season title, the veteran racer has two wins in three regional finals and opened the season by reaching the final round in Gainesville. 7-1
  
GORD GINGLES
The Bull
The defending event champion will try to repeat the feat with Canadian fans again traveling across the border to root on him and owner/teammate Clif Bakx. 8-1
  
ROBIN SAMSEL
NGK/Goodson
It's remarkable how he and son Tony progressed to having a top-10 team and being national event winners in 2013. They're looking for another big showing at the home race of sponsor Goodson. 10-1
  
DUANE SHIELDS
Peak Motor Oil
The last two winners in this class failed to qualify at their previous national event appearance. That bodes well for the 2011 world champion, who surprisingly missed the cut in Norwalk. 12-1
 

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
DALE BRAND
Goalsetter/Co-Line Chevy
Everyone who picked Brand to succeed Frank Manzo as the next NHRA Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Funny Car champion, please raise your hand. Brand will be hard to catch if he notches another win. The year-end trophy has been kind to Brainerd winners in years past. 5-2
  
KRIS HOOL
CWYO.net/Wyoming Chevy
"The Ghost from Casper" and Jay Payne are the only two active TAFC drivers who have won this event. The 2011 winner's familiarity with this racetrack along with abundant horsepower from brother Kevin's tune-up will make him a player. 3-1
  
ANNIE WHITELEY
J&A Service Ford
There has been a lot to celebrate in the YNot Racing circle this season, and the primary focus is now on getting Whiteley back to the winner's circle. 4-1
  
SHANE WESTERFIELD
CP-Carrillo/Blake Bros.
Racing Chevy
The Southern California team likes to go to one new track every year, and this time it's headed to BIR and "the Zoo." The Las Vegas winner has the performance and the starting-line ability to make it to the end if the team gets dialed in to the track in qualifying. 5-1
  
CHRIS FOSTER
Foster Racing Ford
The Norwalk runner-up is hungry to find the winner's circle at a national event for the first time since his big score at the 2012 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. 6-1
  
JAY PAYNE
Peak Motor Oil Ford
"The Thunder Slug" has sat out what used to be a regular stop for him for the past couple of seasons. He'll try to win at the home track of right-hand man J.R. Clark as he did in 2001 and 2003. 7-1
  
SCOTT McVEY
Mobile Motorsports Chevy
Some of his best performances have been at this event. A Will Hanna tune-up ought to make him a factor on race day. 11-1
  
LANCE VAN HAUEN
Roling Chevy/Atomic
Performance Chevy
The Iowa driver shouldn't be discounted. He ran in the 5.6-second range here last season and reached the semifinals at this event in 2009. 13-1