Running engines signal start of NHRA’s 2022 campaign
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing season begins the weekend of February 18-20 in Pomona, California.
In Top Fuel, the rivalry battle fans have been waiting for will return. Tony Schumacher returns full-time to racing in his new Maynard Family/Don Schumacher Racing dragster, to take on four-time reigning champion Steve Torrence and his mighty CAPCO team. Torrence has won the last four championships and is the No. 1 seed to win a fifth. John Force Racing will feature two Top Fuel cars in 2022, Brittany Force and Austin Prock.
Brittany Force (2017 champion), who finished second in 2021, will return to the Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac dragster. She holds both ends of the NHRA Top Fuel category records of 3.623 seconds and 338.17 mph. We can expect her to be a serious contender, once again, in Top Fuel. Three-time champion Antron Brown now has his own Top Fuel team, with support from sponsors MATCO Tools and Toyota. 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year Justin Ashley finished fourth in 2021 and has some of the best reaction times in the class. Leah Pruett is now married to Tony Stewart and is part of Tony Stewart Racing, along with Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and is still a strong contender and at every event. Stewart is licensed to drive a Top Fuel dragster, but he is not expected to drive in 2022. Stewart has won championships in Indy Car and NASCAR. Mike Salinas and his “Scrappers” team (finished third in 2021) now have Rob Flynn as their tuner, while Alan Johnson has moved to Kalitta Motorsports. The Scrappers team should once again be strong in Top Fuel. His daughters (Jasmine and Jianna) will also race in Top Alcohol dragster and Pro Stock Motorcycle, where they both picked up wins.
Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools team should be stronger with Alan Johnson involved in the tuning and look to capture that elusive first Top Fuel championship. Add in full-season regulars Shawn Langdon (one championship), Clay Millican and Josh Hart and the Top Fuel class should be much stronger in 2022.
In Funny Car, Ron Capps (reigning champion 2021) now has his own team; NAPA Parts/Dodge with John Medlen and Dean Antonelli tuning the car, looks to be solid for its third championship. Triple champion, Matt Hagan is now part of Tony Stewart Racing and will be a serious contender for a fourth title. Robert Hight will play his fourth championship. John Force is the winningest professional driver in NHRA history with 154 event wins and 16 season championships. At 72, he has not slowed down and is aiming for a 17th championship. With season regulars like JR Todd (one championship) Bob Tasca, Cruz Pedregon (two-time champion), Alexis DeJoria, Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Jim Campbell and Paul Lee, the Funny Car category should be a battle at every event.
In Pro Stock, the two main heavyweights will, once again, be Erica Enders and Greg Anderson. Enders has four Pro Stock championships and is the only female rider to win an event in the Pro Stock class. Anderson is a five-time Pro Stock champion, having won his fifth championship in 2021. Enders drives for Elite Motorsports, while Anderson races out of the Ken Black/Hendrick Motorsports stable. Dallas Glen (2021 Rookie of the Year), Troy Coughlin Jr, Kyle Koretsky, Aaron Stanfield, Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer will all be in the running.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending champion Matt Smith (Buell) will be the rider to beat. But, once the Vance and Hines team (Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec) get the bugs out of their Buells, they’ll be very tough to beat. The 2021 rule changes have made Suzuki motorcycles much stronger, so Steve Johnson, Karen Stoffer, Angelle Sampey and Jerry Savoie won’t be pushovers. Sampey and Johnson finished second and third in 2021. Last season there were three riders around 60 points apart for the championship at the final event of the season.
Final pro testing in Phoenix was conducted by Mike Salinas (Top Fuel) 3.677 @ 296.31 mph and John Force (Funny Car) 3.836 @ 335.40 mph.