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Tricky Tipster: NHRA 4-Wide Nationals, Las Vegas

The NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series tour makes the first of its two stops in Las Vegas this weekend, and Tricky Tipster, a well-known figure in these parts, has made Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd, and Erica Enders the favorites.
12 Apr 2024
NHRA National Dragster staff
Tricky Tipster¬ģ
Tricky Tipster

Excuse Tipster for a second while he savors last week’s Lucas Oil NHRA Arizona Nationals, where he successfully picked Shawn Langdon and Austin Prock to win in Top Fuel and Funny Car, and also had Pro Stock winner Greg Anderson at a respectable 6-1.

Now, we move on to the famed Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first of back-to-back four-wide events. We see few reasons to deviate from the script, especially in Top Fuel and Pro Stock, while we’re going to make a slight adjustment in Funny Car and give the nod to J.R. Todd as the pre-race favorite.


TOP FUEL

The favorite: Shawn Langdon is two for three on the young season, and one gets the feeling that new crew chief Brian Husen has only scratched the surface of what the Kalitta Air team is capable of.

Langdon has had arguably the best car at the first three events, and he’s certainly shown to be the best driver, or darn close to it. That combination lends itself well to success at four-wide events, where the driver typically plays a bigger role in the team’s success. As a sidenote, Langdon also played crew chief last week for Super Comp winner Madison Payne, so to suggest he’s rolling into Las Vegas on a hot streak would be a big understatement.

The contenders:  Justin Ashley made headlines last week with two holeshot wins against eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, and his worst light on Sunday was a respectable .060, so there’s every reason to think he’ll be right alongside Langdon when the final quad comes to the starting line.

Steve and Billy Torrence have yet to show their full potential this season, but they’re both in the top four in the points, so things aren’t too bad in Capco-land. We’re also waiting for the big awakening from reigning champ Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown, and while we’re at it, let’s see what Brittany Force and her team can do in Las Vegas.

The dark horse: Perhaps dark horse isn’t the best description for Tony Schumacher because he remains the sport’s most successful Top Fuel racer, and he’s actually off to a decent start this season with a runner-up in Pomona. Regardless, a pair of holeshot losses is tough for anyone to take, and the best medicine is a win light or two (or three). Schumacher will have a chance to do just that in Las Vegas, which has been the sight of some of his most memorable moments.

ODDS
Shawn Langdon            Kalitta Air                                  3-1
Justin Ashley                  Scag Power Equipment        4-1
Steve Torrence             Capco Contractors                  5-1
Billy Torrence               Capco Contractors                  6-1
Antron Brown              Matco Tools                              7-1
Doug Kalitta                 Mac Tools                                  8-1
Brittany Force              Monster Energy                       9-1
Tony Schumacher       Leatherwood Distilleries        11-1
Tony Stewart                Mobil 1                                      12-1
Clay Millican                 Parts Plus                                  14-1
Field                                                                                  19-1

FUNNY CAR

The favorite: We picked Austin Prock last weekend, and he came through in a big way, so why isn’t he the favorite this weekend? Well, one could easily make the case for the first-year Funny Car phenom, but four-wide racing usually hits different, and even though Prock has a bit of experience in four-wide events in Top Fuel, we’re gonna give a slight nod to J.R. Todd, who is the current points leader. We might regret this decision later, but it’s rarely a bad idea to put the DHL car at or near the top of the standings.

The contenders: We can go ahead and call Prock the co-favorite along with Todd, but that status can also apply to Matt Hagan, Bob Tasca III, and Ron Capps, all of whom are looking to bounce back after a less than memorable weekend in Phoenix. Hagan is the defending event winner, while Capps won this event in 2022 and Tasca scored here in 2021.

We cannot overlook the early season success of John Force, who didn’t just win the hail-delayed final round from Pomona but looked awfully good doing it. We’ve already had three different winners in the first three races in Funny Car, and Tipster has to think that number swells to eight or more by the end of the season.

The dark horse: There’s a number of ways we could go here, including Paul Lee, who has made great strides, or Blake Alexander, but fresh off a runner-up finish, we’re going with Alexis DeJoria, who has won a pair of events in Las Vegas and showed a dramatic improvement last weekend. Strange things happen in four-wide events, so a DeJoria victory would not be a huge surprise.


ODDS
J.R. Todd                      DHL Toyota                                     4-1
Austin Prock               Cornwell Tools Chevy                    5-1
Matt Hagan                 Dodge Power Brokers Dodge      6-1
John Force                   Peak/Blu Def Chevy                       7-1
Bob Tasca III                Motorcraft Ford                             8-1
Ron Capps                   NAPA Toyota                                  9-1
Chad Green                 Bondcoat Ford                             10-1    
Alexis DeJoria              Bandero Toyota                          12-1
Daniel Wilkerson        SCAG Mowers Ford                    12-1
Blake Alexander         Pronto/Head Inc. Ford               14-1
Cruz Pedregon            Snap-on Dodge                          15-1
Field                                                                                   18-1


PRO STOCK

The favorite: We went into Phoenix thinking Erica Enders might sweep the entire weekend, including the Pomona final, the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, and the reigning and six-time champ went 1-for-3. While the Elite team undoubtedly left Phoenix disappointed, they have much to look forward to because Las Vegas has been a virtual ATM for Enders during her career. Since 2014, Enders has bagged 10 wins in Las Vegas, including a sweep of both events in 2022.

The Phoenix event threw almost every 91įĶÕÝ Pro team a curveball with some unusual weather, but that shouldn‚Äôt be an issue here. Look for a very tight field, and the driver who prevails on Sunday will be the one with the best use of the left (clutch) foot.

The contenders: Throughout his career, Dallas Glenn has shown that he can consistently cut lights with the best drivers in the class, including Enders. That was certainly the case last weekend when he won the Pomona final and thenscored a runner-up on Sunday. Glenn also has two Las Vegas titles to his credit, including last year’s four-wide race.

In addition to Glenn, we like veterans Greg Anderson, who appeared to find the Fountain of Youth in his Phoenix win last week, and Jeg Coughlin Jr., who apparently doesn’t need the Fountain of Youth because he appears to have lost nothing from his championship seasons and his recent time off. There are a lot of talented young drivers in the Pro Stock ranks, but their road to the top goes through the veterans in the class who are still more than competitive.

The dark horse: Is this the weekend where Cristian Cuadra finally gets it done? The Corral Boots driver has been close on numerous occasions, including the season opener in Gainesville earlier this year and the 2022 Las Vegas four-wide, where he dropped a tough race against Enders. There isn’t anyone in the Pro Stock pits who doesn’t think Cuadra will win races. His time is coming, and soon.

ODDS

Erica Enders             JHG/Elite Camaro                                3-1
Dallas Glenn            RAD Torque Systems Camaro           4-1
Greg Anderson       HendrickCars.com Camaro                5-1
Jeg Coughlin Jr.       SCAG Power Equipment Camaro      6-1
Aaron Stanfield      Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro             7-1
Troy Coughlin Jr.    JEGS.com Camaro                                7-1
Cristian Cuadra     Corral Boots Mustang                          9-1
Matt Hartford        Total Seal Camaro                                10-1
David Cuadra         Corral Boots Camaro                           11-1
Mason McGaha    Harlow Sammons Camaro                   12-1
Field                                                                                         19-1