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The latest update as of September 26, 2023

It's been quite a while since this page has been updated, but we've got the latest points standings and projections following the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at ZMAX Dragway (Charlotte, NC) on the weekend. There were some serious shifts in the standings, with some teams falling early in eliminations, and others gaining momentum towards the various championships. There were a few upsets and one major shocker, a rules infraction, that could have a major effect on the Top Alcohol Dragster title for 2023. However, let's start at the top, with TOP FUEL, and work our way down to the Top Alcohol ranks.

Countdown to the Championship TF

There were two competing stories in play at Charlotte, with the four-time (2018-2021) Camping World Top Fuel champion, Steve Torrence, and season-long points leader, Justin Ashley, both falling by the wayside in the opening round of eliminations. Neither qualified in a strong position, 12th and 7th, respectively, pitting them against tough opponents and ultimately costing them a chance to grab some much-needed points. Taking full advantage of their predicaments was the new points leader, Doug Kalitta, who finally has a consistently quick car under him. After nearly two years of disappointing performances, the tuning braintrust of Alan Johnson and Brian Husen found the magic the team had been lacking. It's possible that parking the canopy car due to damage suffered when a tire blew at the conclusion of a run at the Reading event, and replacing it with a different, open cockpit chassis, could have contributed to the turnaround for the Kalitta Motosports team.

Aside from Kalitta's three position jump to the #1 spot, the other Kalitta car, driven by Shawn Langdon climbed two spots to #9 on the list, but still 183 points in arrears of Doug's total. With four races remaining on the calendar that would require at least eight more round wins, PLUS qualifying and bonus points to overtake Kalitta for the championship. In the #2 spot now is Torrence, 63 points behind Kalitta, while Ashley is five further back at 68 points behind. Both racers can certainly make that up as it would be surprising to see Kalitta win this coming weekend in St. Louis, for a "hat-trick" of wins. Possibble, but unlikely.

In case you're wondering, the defending (and two-time) series champion, Brittany Force, has advanced past the first round at both countdown races, but failed to advance further in eliminations. After starting the "playoffs" in the #5 poistion, she has fallen to #6 on the list, 106 points behind Kalitta. She needs to make a serious run at St. Louis, or her championship aspirations could be evaporating quickly.

The one other BIG bit of news from ZMAX concerned the #7 racer on the list, Mike Salinas, as he became the first wheel-driven race car driver to exceed 300 mph in the 1/8-mile (660 feet) distance, recording a 2.936 - 300.80 at the "half-track" timers, before stopping the clocks with a top qualifying 3.647 - 388.00 at the 1000-ft finish line. The run earned the Scrappers Racing a $30,000 bonus from the Phillips Connect company for being the first to break the 300-mph barrier at the 1/8-th mile timers. Despite the great performances and a runnerup finish, Salinas remained in the 7th position on the chart, partly due to his first round loss at Reading. He's 119 points behind Kalitta heading into the NHRA Midwest Nationals.

Countdown to the Championship FC

It's turning into quite a battle in Funny Car, with the top four drivers separated by less than 70 points. The 2022 series champion, Ron Capps, entered the countdown in the top spot, but his first round loss at Charlotte saw him drop all the way to #4 in the standings, 69 points behind the leader. Moving up the charts with an event win at Reading, and a final round appearance at Charlotte, Robert Hight has taken over the points lead, but only 25 markers ahead of the Carolina Nationals winner, Bob Tasca III. Tasca began the countdown in the #4 spot, but has moved ahead of Capps and Matt Hagan to make a serious statement in the championship debate.

With consecutive first round losses, J.R. Todd has fallen from #5 to #8 in the standings, and is 176 points behind Hight, barely hanging on to any hope for a category title this year. Following the U.S. Nationals, Todd sat #5 on the list, only 56 points behind Capps, and well within striking distance of the lead. Three weeks later that hope has all but disappeared. The fifth racer in the current standings, Chad Green, followed up a runner-up finish at Reading with a first round exit at Charlotte that saw his deficit to the points leader grow from 65 to 132 and leave him on the precipice as the tour heads west this week.

At the very bottom of the countdown list in Funny Car is Cruz Pedregon, who started the 2023 season with major optimism following his team's dominating victory at the 2022 season finale in Pomona. However, it didn't last into the current season, as the only time they've advanced to the semifinals was at the U.S. Nationals, before starting the countdown with back-to-back first round losses. Moving ahead of them to #10 in the standings, was the underfunded Jim Dunn Racing entry, driven by Alex Laughlin, who carded his first semi-final finish in the class at Charlotte. Despite the good result, he enters the second third of the playoffs more than 200 points out of the lead, and nearing mathematical elimination from the championship chase.

Countdown to the Championship PS

The format of the Countdown series of races can drastically diminish the points lead for the top racers in the standings following the "reset" after the U.S. Nationals. A prime example of that phenomenom is Dallas Glenn, who saw his nearly 200-point lead shrink to just 25 going into the first event of the countdown. After two races in the ' countdown, Glenn finds himself in third place in the standings, but only 15 points behind the current leader, Matt Hartford. One major beneificiary of the reset was defending (four-time) champion, Erica Enders, who started the countdown just 32 points behind Glenn, after trailing him by 300 points before the recalculation. She's notched consecutive semi-final finishes in the past two weeks to sit just FOUR points behind Hartford.

The Charlotte winner, Greg Anderson, made a huge jump up the ladder, from #8 to #4 with his victory, leaving him just 61 points out of the lead, with four races left in the season. If he could continue his strong performances, a sixth world championship is a possibility. Among the other contenders, Kyle Korestky has bounced from #8 (after Indy) to #5, following his final round finish at Reading, then back to #8 after a first round loss at Charlotte. Despite that setback, he's less than 100 points behind the leader and within striking distance of the lead.

With the addition of "participants" in the countdown, Pro Stock has a total of 16 racers competing for the championship. However, all the racers in the bottom five in the standings, from #12 to #16, have failed to win a round in the countdown and range from 205 to 290 points behind the points leader. Obviously none of them are in any serious, or not serious contention for championship consideration. Perhaps it's time for the NHRA to consider tightening the entrance requirements for entry to the countdown sweepstakes.

Countdown to the Championship PSM

The final NHRA Pro category, the two-wheeled Pro Stock bikes, has seen a complete domination of the category in 2023, with sophomore competitor Gaige Herrara on the all-conquering Vance & Hines Suzuki entry, running away with the points lead. Leaving the U.S. Nationals with a 335-point lead, Herrara saw that gigantic margin trimmed to just 29 points before the countdown started. Despite six event wins in the nine races before the countdown, and 28 round wins, against just three losses, Hererra literally had to start all over in his quest for the championship. He "faltered" at Reading with a semi-final finish that dropped him to second in the standings, before rebounding with the event win at Charlotte to retake the points lead by 52 points over closest pursuer Matt Smith.

Sitting just below Smith in the standings is resurgent Hector Arana Jr., only TWO points behind Smith following his runnerup finish at Charlotte. Hanging in there in the #4 spot, just a little more than 100 points behind Herrara is former series champion Eddie Krawiec, hoping to have a chance for his fourth world championship. It's been 12 years since his last title, and he's certainly more than overdue. Below Krawiec, the gap between #1 and those in #5 and below, range from 133 points (Angie Smith, down to #9, Mark Ingwersen, sitting 199 points behind the leader, and realistically, out of any serious contention status.