Surprises, struggles: NHRA at one-third mark of ’15 season

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With the completion of the Kansas Nationals this past Sunday, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has reached the one-third point of the 2015 season.

Not surprisingly after eight races on the 24-race schedule, there have been some significant surprises and disappointments.

With this weekend off before the middle part of the season begins June 4-7 with the Toyota Summernationals at one of the most popular tracks on the circuit, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., let’s break down the four major pro classes to see who’s hot and who’s not.

Top Fuel: Don Schumacher Racing has made a big statement in the first eight races. Teammates Antron Brown (1st), defending 2014 champ and eight-time champ Tony Schumacher (2nd) and Spencer Massey (4th) have been leading the way.

source:
Antron Brown leads the Top Fuel points standings. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

One of the biggest surprises is the driver sandwiched among the three DSR drivers, namely Australian native Richie Crampton. With his win at Kansas, Crampton is now up to 3rd in the standings.

Crampton (Las Vegas, Topeka) and Brown (Charlotte, Atlanta) are the only two-time winners thus far this season.

Shawn Langdon, racing for Alan Johnson Racing, is a respectable seventh in the standings, despite the fact the team had its sponsorship pulled by former benefactor Al-Anabi just a month before the start of the season. Langdon won the season-opening Circle K Winternationals in storybook fashion, but has trailed off of late.

As for drivers who have struggled, Brittany Force, who signed with Monster Energy three weeks ago, is sitting 11th and continues in search of her first career Top Fuel win.

And Dave Connolly and Terry McMillen are 13th and 14th respectively, certainly not off to the kind of season start either expected.

Race winners thus far this season:

Pomona: Shawn Langdon
Phoenix: Tony Schumacher
Gainesville: Spencer Massey
Charlotte: Antron Brown
Las Vegas: Richie Crampton
Houston: Doug Kalitta
Atlanta: Antron Brown
Topeka: Richie Crampton

Top Fuel standings
(Following event 8 of 24 events)
(Includes events through Topeka, Kan.)
Position  Driver   Points   PB   Change Make
1    Antron Brown  628 0 DSR
2    Tony Schumacher  575 -53 DSR
3    Richie Crampton  547 -81 MLR
4    Spencer Massey  530 -98 DSR
5    Doug Kalitta  502 -126 Hadman
6    Larry Dixon  476 -152 Hadman
7    Shawn Langdon  473 -155 Hadman
8    J.R. Todd  411 -217 Hadman
9    Clay Millican  395 -233 Hadman
10    Steve Torrence  392 -236 Hadman
Drivers that have struggled thus far this season:
11    Brittany Force 384 -244 Force
12    Leah Pritchett 315 -313 Hadman
13    Dave Connolly 274 -354 Hadman
14    Terry Mc Millen 228 -400 MLR
15    Troy Buff 126 -502 Bill Miller

 

Funny Car: It’s a very tight battle in the Funny Car ranks as we head into the middle third of the season.

source:
Ron Capps is the current points leader in Funny Car. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Three drivers have won six of the first eight races – two each: Defending 2014 champ Matt Hagan (Pomona, Phoenix), Jack Beckman (Charlotte, Topeka) and Ron Capps (Gainesville, Houston).

The resurgent Capps is off to one of the best season starts of his career and holds the points lead in the standings. But Hagan is only five points back and Beckman, with former John Force crew chief Jimmy Prock, is 49 points behind Capps.

Perhaps the biggest positive surprise is series veteran Del Worsham. Even though he hasn’t won a race yet in 2015, Worsham is in fourth place in the standings, 73 points behind Capps and just five points ahead of fifth-ranked and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force, who has just one win this season (Las Vegas) thus far.

Force’s daughter, Courtney, is having a difficult time of it this season, currently ranked 11th. But perhaps having the toughest time among the top 15 drivers in the Funny Car ranks is former champion Tony Pedregon, who is 14th in the standings, already a massive 325 points behind Capps.

Race winners thus far this season:

Pomona: Matt Hagan
Phoenix: Matt Hagan
Gainesville: Ron Capps
Charlotte: Jack Beckman
Las Vegas: John Force
Houston: Ron Capps
Atlanta: Tim Wilkerson
Topeka: Jack Beckman

Funny Car standings:
Position  Driver   Points   PB   Change Make
1    Ron Capps  580 0
2    Matt Hagan  575 -5
3    Jack Beckman  531 -49
4    Del Worsham  507 -73
5    John Force  502 -78
6    Robert Hight  460 -120
7    Tommy Johnson  456 -124
8    Tim Wilkerson  447 -133
9    Alexis De Joria  395 -185
9    Cruz Pedregon  395 -185
 Drivers that have struggled thus far this season:
11    Courtney Force 388 -192
12    John Hale 369 -211
13    Chad Head 347 -233
14    Tony Pedregon 255 -325
15    Jeffrey Diehl 82 -498

 

Pro Stock: Although she got off to a slow start at the beginning of the season, 2014 Pro Stock champ Erica Enders has rallied back to become the hottest driver not just in Pro Stock of late, but in all four major NHRA pro categories.

source:
Erica Enders leads the Pro Stock standings. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Enders (who recently shortened her name from Enders-Stevens for business reasons) has won three of the last four Pro Stock national events (Las Vegas, Houston and Topeka).

As a result, she’s taken a commanding lead over 2nd-ranked Jason Line (58 points back) and 3rd-ranked Greg Anderson (65 points back).

After that, Enders spread over the rest of the field gets massive: 4th-ranked Chris McGaha is 177 points back, while 5th-ranked and Phoenix winner Rodger Brogdon is 226 points in arrears.

It’s good to see veteran drivers like Anderson and Larry Morgan having comeback seasons. Both earned victories this season (Anderson at Gainesville, Morgan at Charlotte) after long dry spells in their careers.

One big name missing from the Pro Stock class is five-time champion Jeg Coughlin, who announced earlier this year that he will not compete on a full-time basis.

This is the second time Coughlin has taken a hiatus from NHRA racing, having sat out the entire 2011 season, as well.

As for drivers who have struggled thus far in 2015, the most notable names are 11th-ranked Jonathan Gray (364 points behind Enders) and 12th-ranked V Gaines (425 points back).

Race winners thus far this season:

Pomona: Jason Line
Phoenix: Rodger Brogdon
Gainesville: Greg Anderson
Charlotte: Larry Morgan
Las Vegas: Erica Enders
Houston: Erica Enders
Atlanta: Jason Line
Topeka: Erica Enders

Pro Stock standings:
Position  Driver   Points   PB   Change Make
1    Erica Enders  719 0
2    Jason Line  661 -58
3    Greg Anderson  654 -65
4    Chris McGaha  542 -177
5    Rodger Brogdon  493 -226
6    Larry Morgan  452 -267
7    Drew Skillman  424 -295
8    Vincent Nobile  421 -298
9    Shane Gray  401 -318
10    Allen Johnson  369 -350
 Drivers that have struggled thus far this season:
11    Jonathan Gray 355 -364
12    V Gaines 294 -425
13    Jimmy Alund 250 -469
14    Deric Kramer 155 -564
15    John Gaydosh 93 -626
15    Joey Grose 93 -626
15    Matthew Hartford 93 -626

 

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Because PSM riders compete in a 16-race schedule, there have only been three races to date. The majority of events (13 will be contested at all but three of the remaining NHRA national event weekends) start with next week’s Summernationals.

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Eddie Krawiec leads the way in Pro Stock Motorcycle. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Thus far, the competition has been spread fairly even, with different winners in each of the first three races.

Not surprisingly, those three winners are all in the top five in the PSM points standings.

Former champ Eddie Krawiec, who won at Charlotte in late March holds a 74-point lead over defending series champ Andrew Hines. Hines has yet to win an event this season.

Veteran driver Hector Arana Sr., who is ranked third, 85 points behind Krawiec, won his first race since 2009 at Atlanta. Six points behind the senior Arana is his son, Hector Arana Jr., who like Hines is also seeking his first win of 2015.

Rounding out the top five is Karen Stoffer, who shocked the category by winning the season-opening race at Gainesville in March.

Race winners thus far this season:

Gainesville: Karen Stoffer
Charlotte: Eddie Krawiec
Atlanta: Hector Arana Sr.

Pro Stock Motorcycle standings:
Position  Driver   Points   PB   Change Make
1    Eddie Krawiec   286 0
2    Andrew Hines   212 -74
3    Hector Arana   201 -85
4    Hector Arana Jr   195 -91
4    Karen Stoffer   195 -91
6    Scott Pollacheck   175 -111
7    LE Tonglet IV  165 -121
8    Angelle Sampey   161 -125  Star Racing
9    Shawn Gann   155 -131
10    James Underdahl   128 -158
Riders that have struggled thus far this season:
11    Matt Smith 125 -161  Victory
12    Angie Smith 112 -174  Victory
13    Chaz Kennedy 93 -193
14    Mike Berry 92 -194
15    Gerald Savoie 78 -208

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2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage