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The latest update as of August 19, 2022

NHRA National News

The 15th race of the NHRA Camping World Series 2022 season started yesterday at Brainerd International Raceway. Despite very gloomy skies, almost a full day of sportsman qualifying was completed before the rains came. This morning dawned with the same cloudy skies, and more rain, but there is a small window of opportunity later today to run a session of Pro and Pro Sportsman (Top Alcohol & Pro Mod) qualifying before the next series of thunderstorms roll in. From there on, the weekend forecast is for much better, and warmer, weather that should allow the race to run to completion on Sunday afternoon.

The weather situation at Brainerd is a stark contrast to the high temps and sunny skies at the last three events on the NHRA national event tour. Sonoma, Seattle and Topeka all featured high air temps and higher track temperatures as the racers struggled at times to maintain traction and keep all the cylinders firing. And at this point in the season - with the final race of the regular (ie. non-countdown) season coming up in two weeks at Indy, good on-track performances are more critical than ever. Almost all of the countdown spots are finalized, other than possible position changes, but there is still one battle looming before the racers complete the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals on Labor Day.

The Funny Car category has five racers locked into the countdown portion of the season, with the next four drivers in the standings almost mathematically clinched. The current #10 driver, Jim Campbell, is less than 20 points (one round win) ahead of #11 Chad Green, and only 22 in front of #12 Blake Alexander. Both Green and Alexander can only earn a countdown spot by passing Campbell in the standings. However, only one of them can do it, as neither will be able to catch #9 Tim Wilkerson, unless the wheels totally fall off the Levi, Ray & Shoup car in the final two races of the regular season.

As long as they show up and make the required number of qualifying runs (three at Brainerd and Indy), Jim Campbell will qualify for the countdown based on the Jim Dunn Racing team having attended every national event this season. The extra racers in the countdown in other categories include two in Top Fuel, currently Clay Millican and Austin Prock. In Pro Stock there are five racers that will qualify based on attendance, including three members of the Caudra family: Cristian, Fernando, and Fernando Jr.. In addition, Deric Kramer, currently #12 in the standings, and Chris McGaha, in the #14 spot are also eligible, providing they meet the qualifying attempts rule.

While McGaha and Fernando Caudra have no chance of earning enough points to move into the Top Ten, the other "outsiders" do have mathematical chances to earn a countdown spot based on points, with Fernando Jr. sitting just five points in arrears of the current #10, Bo Butner. Only 25 points behind Butner is Deric Kramer, and 61 back is Cristian Caudra. With the bonus points (1.5 times the normal allotment) available at the U.S. Nationals, there is a good chance that there could be some shuffles at the bottom of the Pro Stock Top Ten. However, barring failing to attend an event, all 15 Pro Stock racers currently eligible for the countdown will be there, with the last one of that group starting the six-race countdown 150 points behind the top qualifier.

As has always been the case in the 15 years that the NHRA has used the Countdown format to decide world championships in the Pro categories, starting the six-race "playoff" season close to the top of the standings, and even more importantly, winning rounds at the first race can be critical to anyone aspiring to be crowned the champion. Starting 100 - or more - points behind the leader and losing in an early round at that first event is likely the end of a racer's chances to win the title, and falling early at the first two races almost certainly seals the deal.

While this week's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will not have a major impact on the final composition of the points standings going into the countdown, it will play a serious part in that final determination. Stay tuned for more updates as the weekend progresses.