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Revving Engines Signal Start Of 2022 NHRA Campaign
During the final testing sessions this past weekend in Phoenix, it was Top Fuel driver Mike Salinas leading the way in that category, putting up a 3.677 at (early shutoff) 296.31 mph. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing season starts on the weekend of Feb. 18 through 20 in Pomona, CA.

In Top Fuel, the rivalry battle that the fans have been anxiously waiting for will be back. Tony Schumacher returns full-time to racing in his new Maynard Family/Don Schumacher Racing dragster, to take on reigning four-time champion, Steve Torrence and his powerhouse 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 in 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. She can be expected to be a strong contender, once again, in Top Fuel. Three-time champion Antron Brown now owns his own Top Fuel team, with sponsor support from MATCO Tools and Toyota. The 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 part of Tony Stewart Racing, along with Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and is always a strong contender and every event. Stewart is licensed to drive a Top Fuel dragster but there are no plans for him to drive in 2022. Stewart has won championships in Indy Car and NASCAR. Mike Salinas and his “Scrappers” team (finished third in 2021) now has Rob Flynn as his tuner, as Alan Johnson moved on to Kalitta Motorsports. The Scrappers team once again should be strong in Top Fuel. His daughters (Jasmine and Jianna) will also be racing in Top Alcohol dragster and Pro Stock Motorcycle, where they both have scored event wins.

Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools team should be stronger with Alan Johnson involved with the tuning and look to capture that elusive fir1st Top Fuel championship. Add full season regulars Shawn Langdon (one championship), Clay Millican and Josh Hart and the Top Fuel category should be a lot stronger in 2022.

In Funny Car, Ron Capps (reigning 2021 champion) now has his own team; NAPA Parts/Dodge with John Medlen and Dean Antonelli tuning the car, looks to be strong going for his third championship. Three-time champion, Matt Hagan is now part of Tony Stewart Racing and will be a strong contender for a fourth title. Robert Hight will be racing for his fourth championship. John Force is the winningest professional drive in NHRA history with 154-event wins and 16-season championships. At 72, he has not slowed down and is going for a 17th championship. With full season regulars like J.R. 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 heavy hitters will, once again, be Erica Enders and Greg Anderson. Enders has four Pro Stock championships and is the only female driver to win an event in the Pro Stock category. 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 contenders.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, reigning champ, 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 will be very tough to beat. 2021 rule changes made Suzuki motorcycles much stronger, so Steve Johnson, Karen Stoffer, Angelle Sampey and Jerry Savoie will be no pushovers. Sampey and Johnson finished second and third in 2021. Last season, there were three riders within about 60 points of each other for the championship at the final season event.

Final professional testing in Phoenix was led by Mike Salinas (Top Fuel) 3.677 at 296.31 mph and John Force (Funny Car) 3.836 at 335.40 mph.

John Force, in the Funny Car class, led all others in the category with a 3.836 at 335.40 mph during final testing sessions this past weekend. Photo By Mike Burghardt