Decade in Review: Best NHRA racers of the 2010s

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The past ten years have seen a multitude of drivers reach the winner’s circle in NHRA Mellow Yellow Drag Racing competition.

With multiple different drivers winning in multiple classes any given race weekend, it would be both difficult and unfair to pick just one driver as the best of the decade.

Instead, we’re going to offer our picks for the top five racers of the decade in each of the NHRA’s four major classes.

Do you agree with our picks, or do you have other drivers in mind? If so, please leave us a comment.

Without further ado, here’s our picks for the best NHRA racers of the 2010s:

 

TOP FUEL

 

Antron Brown. (Photo: NHRA)

1. Antron Brown: With 42 victories and three championships within the last decade, Brown is easily the most successful Top Fuel pilot of the 2010s.

In addition to winning the championship in 2012, 2015, and 2016, Brown finished second overall in 2013 and third overall in 2011. He is also one of only two Top Fuel drivers to finish in the top 10 final standings each year of the decade, and enters the 2020 season looking to extend his streak of 12 consecutive Countdown to the Championship appearances.

Brown is fourth on the all-time Top Fuel wins list with 50 total victories.

2. Tony Schumacher: “The Sarge” may have missed the 2019 season due to a lack of sponsorship, but with an eighth championship in 2014 and four second-place finishes over the course of the last decade, he continued to build on his legacy as one of the sport’s all-time greats.

Schumacher also accumulated 23 victories during the 2010s, including two victories in the U.S. Nationals in 2012 and 2016. He is the all-time Top Fuel wins leader, with 84 overall victories.

3. Steve Torrence: No Top Fuel racer has been more dominant over the course of the last three years than Torrence.

The 36-year-old Texan has led the class with the most victories each year from 2017 to 2019, and has 36 total victories to his name – all of which have come within the last eight years.

Torrence’s dominance towards the end of the decade led him to his first world championship in 2018, a season in which he also became the first driver in NHRA history to sweep all six races in the Countdown. He successfully defended his title in 2019, winning eight races en route to his second consecutive championship.

4. Doug Kalitta: Though he failed to win a championship during the 2010s, Kalitta remains one of the most successful drivers of the decade, finishing second overall in 2019 and 2016.

Kalitta joins Brown as the only Top Fuel driver to have finished in the top ten final standings every year this decade, and won 16 races over the last 10 years – including the U.S. Nationals in 2019.

With 47 career victories in Top Fuel, Kalitta is ranked fifth on the all-time wins list.

5. Shawn Langdon: Before moving to Funny Car competition in 2018, Langdon was one of the most successful Top Fuel competitors on the circuit, clinching 14 victories over the course of the decade.

Langdon’s best season came in 2013, where he won six events, including the U.S. Nationals, en route to his first NHRA title. He also finished fourth overall in 2012 and 2014, and fifth overall in 2010 and 2016.

Since moving over to Funny Car competition full-time, Langdon has accumulated one victory and two Countdown appearances.

 

FUNNY CAR

 

Matt Hagan. (Photo: NHRA)

1. Matt Hagan: The 2011 and 2014 Funny Car champion, Hagan finished outside the top five in points just twice over the course of the last ten seasons. 

In fact, he finished third or better overall six times in the last ten years, with runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2013.

Hagan also collected 32 Funny Car victories in the 2010s, including a win at the U.S. Nationals in 2016.

2. Robert Hight: No driver won more Funny Car races in the 2010s than Hight, who won a total of 37 over the last 10 years, including the U.S. Nationals in 2013.

Hight also won two championships over the last decade, coming in 2017 and 2019, respectfully. He also had a runner-up finish in 2018.

Third on the all-time Funny Car wins list, Hight will likely continue to bring both victories and championships to John Force Racing for many more years to come.

3. Jack Beckman: Having won the 2012 championship and accumulating three runner-up finishes, Beckman finished the decade with nine top 10 finishes.

In addition, he won 20 events, including the 2019 season finale at Pomona, where he narrowly finished second to Hight in the overall standings by a slim margin of eight points.

4. Ron Capps: In the past decade, Capps won 34 Funny Car events, including eight in 2017.

He also won his first championship in 2016, firmly establishing himself as not only one of the best drivers of the decade but also one of the best in NHRA history.

Capps enters 2020 with 63 career Funny Car wins, the second most all-time.

5. John Force: Though he may have not won races and championships as frequently as he did in the 1990s and 2000s, Force still had plenty of accomplishments to be proud of in the 2010s.

He won his 15th and 16th Funny Car titles in 2010 and 2013, respectfully, and also won 24 races during the 2010s – including his 150th victory, which came in the 2019 Northwest Nationals in Seattle.

 

PRO STOCK

 

Erica Enders. (Photo: NHRA)

1. Erica Enders: The record for then most Pro Stock titles won over the course of the past 10 years goes to Enders, who took the top honors in 2014, 2015, and 2019.

Enders also won 25 races in the 2010s, with her first career victory coming in 2012 when she beat Greg Anderson in the finals of the Route 66 Nationals. Enders also won the U.S. nationals in 2015.

2. Jason Line: One of the most consistent Pro Stock competitors of the decade, Line won the Pro Stock championship in 2011 and 2016.

Line also finished runner-up in 2012 and 2017, and finished within the top five overall in all but one season. In addition, Line won 29 races within the last 10 years.

Having won twice in 2019, Line remains a potential title contender for 2020 and beyond.

3. Greg Anderson: Already entering the decade as a three-time Pro Stock champion, Anderson began the decade with a bang when he won his fourth title in 2010.

But although he has yet to win another championship since then, Anderson remained a legitimate contender for the title throughout the decade, recording three consecutive second-place finishes between 2015 and 2017.

Additionally, he won 34 races over the course of the last decade, bringing his overall total to 94. Anderson enters the 2020s needing only four more victories to become the all-time Pro Stock wins leader.

4. Jeg Coughlin Jr:  Despite a four-year winless streak in the middle of the decade, Coughlin still managed to find plenty of success in the 2010s.

He won four races en route to his fifth championship in 2013, and also ended the decade with a runner-up finish in 2018 and again in 2019.

Coughlin won 15 total races in the last 10 years, bringing his total win count to 63.

5. Allen Johnson: 

Though he’s been racing in Factory Stock since 2017, Johnson’s previous achievements in Pro Stock should not be overlooked.

Johnson won 19 times between 2010 and 2016, and won his lone Pro Stock championship in 2012. He also finished runner-up in 2015 and third overall in 2013.

 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

Eddie Krawiec. (Photo: NHRA)

1. Eddie Krawiec: The 2011, 2012, and 2017 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, Krawiec dominated the circuit year in and year out.

In addition to his three championships, Krawiec had four second place finishes and two third place finishes within the 2010s

He also won more races than any other rider during the 2010s, with 42 total victories.

2. Andrew Hines: Like Krawiec, Hines won the PSM championship three times in the 2010s, taking the honors in 2013, 2015, and 2019.

He also had three runner-up finishes, and two third place finishes within the decade.

His 37 wins over the last ten years include two U.S. Nationals victories, which came in 2012 and 2016.

Hines is the all-time wins leader in PSM, with 57 overall victories.

3. Matt Smith: In addition to winning the PSM title in 2013 and 2017, Smith never finished worse than sixth in the final standings over the past decade, making him one of the most consistent riders on the tour.

Additionally, Smith won 14 races in the 2010s, including four in both of his championship seasons.

With two victories and a third place finish in the 2019 standings, Smith may very well be a title contender once again in 2020.

4. L.E. Tonglet: In 2010, Tonglet won five races, including the U.S. Nationals, to became just the third rider in PSM history to win the championship in his rookie season.

Though he has yet to win another title since, Tonglet continued to find success in the class throughout the 2010’s, picking up 15 more wins, including two more in the U.S. Nationals in 2011 and 2018.

Tonglet also recorded a 3rd place finish in in the standings in 2017 and a fourth place finish in 2018.

5. Jerry Savoie: Making his PSM debut in 2011, Savoie did not win his first race until 2014 at St. Louis. Since then, he’s won 11 more times, with two victories coming at the U.S. Nationals in 2016 and 2019.

In 2016, Savorie won three races less than both Krawiec and Hines, but still managed to accumulate enough points to win his first championship.

Savorie followed up with a second place finish three years later in 2019, and also finished third overall in 2015.

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Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).