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NHRA SpringNationals: Weekend Preview

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via NHRA

If you’re looking for a round of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series that truly puts the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes front and center, look no further than this weekend’s round at Houston Raceway. The Mopar ExpressLane SpringNationals will be the first of four 2019 events not to feature either the Pro Stock or Pro Stock Motorcycle classes, allowing the former two classes to take center stage.

And while both will certainly be missed in Texas this weekend, there’s still more than enough excitement to be had in the professional ranks, plus a number of additional classes that will keep the fans entertained. Here’s a quick look at how both classes have played out so far this year:

Top Fuel

Despite a record-setting run through last year’s Countdown to the Championship, Steve Torrence is still searching for his first win of the 2019 season. Instead, four different winners have won the first four rounds of the 2019 season, with Mike Salinas, the champion of last weekend’s Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas, the latest to take home a Wally.

Torrence’s consistent performances still have him third in points, just 30 behind Salinas and a further 33 adrift of Winternationals champion and current leader Doug Kalitta. But the year is young, and that’s good news for names like Brittany Force, who sits eighth in points, and Antron Brown, who is currently 10th—especially since both have won in Houston before.

The Top Fuel class has seen different winners in each of the past three years, with Force on top last year and Leah Pritchett on top two years ago. Kalitta’s back-to-back victories in 2015 and 2016 make him the most recent repeat winner.

Funny Car

Defending Funny Car champion JR Todd is riding high coming into Houston. He successfully defended his 2018 Wally in Las Vegas last weekend, and now heads into another track where he won last year. Another victory would make Todd the first back-to-back winner of the Funny Car season, as well as the second repeat winner of the year, behind Robert Hight.

It should be no surprise, then, that Hight is the incoming points leader, boasting a 66-point advantage over Jack Beckman in second and 80-point lead over Tommy Johnson Jr. in third. Todd and Arizona Nationals winner Matt Hagan complete the top five, while John Force, just weeks shy of his 70th birthday and one win shy of 150, lurks in sixth.

Hight is one of multiple past Houston winners in the field this weekend, having won in 2005 and 2014. Ron Capps owns two of the past four Wallys at this track in 2015 and 2017, and went back-to-back here in 2006 and 2007, while Force, Hagan, and Cruz Pedregon are also among those to have won here.

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