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NHRA Carolina Nationals: Burning Questions

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Kalitta Motorsports (1); Tanner Gray (2)

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ second visit of the season to zMAX Dragway in Charlotte may not be a four-wide round like it is in the spring, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own set of compelling storylines for fans to follow. The Carolina Nationals kick off the second half of this year’s Countdown to the Championship, and with just three races remaining, it’ll take a heroic effort by some of the sport’s top racers to overcome major deficits in the championship standings.

Across Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, only three drivers are within 50 points of their respective class leaders; in fact, no one is within 100 points of a dominant Steve Torrence in the Top Fuel points race. As you’re watching to see if anyone can take advantage of this weekend and overcome the gaps, here are three of the top storylines to look out for:

Is Steve Torrence on the way to making NHRA history this fall?

After dominating the 2017 regular season only to lose the championship, Torrence has been torrid to start this year’s Countdown. Three wins in three races have given him a sizable lead over the competition, and a statement victory in Dallas—at the same track where he crashed last year—was proof that he and Torrence Racing have come correct. Now, it seems like the only question about the Texan is if he’ll sweep the six-race slate entirely in the Top Fuel class.

Will Tanner Gray continue his dominant streak in his final Pro Stock season?

Drag racing will lose a tremendous talent this offseason when Gray, a seven-time Pro Stock winner so far in 2018, makes the move to stock car racing full-time. He’s looking to end his time in the NHRA on a high note, though, and qualified third in Charlotte, behind only Drew Skillman and Erica Enders. Gray continues to lead the championship, and with Vincent Nobile and Jeg Coughlin 89 and 90 points behind in second and third overall coming into the weekend, he needs only to keep being consistent.

At this point in the Countdown, who’s your Pro Stock Motorcycle pick?

LE Tonglet’s win last time out was good enough to give him the PSM championship lead, which he now holds by 47 points over defending champion Eddie Krawiec and 48 over Matt Smith, who started to get hot at just the right time to capitalize on the playoff system. But Krawiec fought back with the pole-winning run in Charlotte, while Smith qualified fourth and Tonglet ran ninth. Assuming all three advance, considering that they’re all on the same side of the bracket, we could see some major points swings.

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