10 Bold Predictions for 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Season

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A couple of new champs, the resurgence of multi-time champions John Force and Tony Schumacher, and some serious rumblings that the sanctioning body needs to change will mark the first edition of the Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season.

Steve Torrence Will Win His Fifth Top Fuel Championship

Drag racing isn’t even how the Steve Torrence makes his living.

The East Texas native is operations manager for his family’s oil-and-gas-industry construction business. But he’s dead serious about claiming that fifth title and first since 2021—and more.

He said he felt a wrecked dragster late in the Countdown and the Countdown itself robbed him of his first championship in 2017. So he went out and wiped out the competition in 2018, winning 11 of the schedule’s 24 races, including all six playoff events. He registered four consecutive championships.


Another second-place finish, like he had in 2023 behind Doug Kalitta, is not acceptable to Steve Torrence. Look out.

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Bob Tasca III Will Claim the Funny Car Crown

As a fourth-grader wise beyond his years, Tasca III (today nicknamed “BT3” at the dragstrip and simply “3” by his clan) insisted on wearing his suit and tie to accompany his grandfather and dad from Rhode Island to the funeral of family friend Henry Ford.

So this Ford Motor Company evangelist is committed to keeping his promise to bring the automaker a championship if it returned to Funny Car racing. At the end of 2022, his entire team bolted on him, and he assembled a fresh crew composed of people who had been cut loose from previous organizations.

Together they turned their brokenness to boldness and were in contention for the champion of the final day of the 2023 season. Hard work always pays off, and this will be Tasca’s year.

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Dallas Glenn is the Driver to Beat Pro Stock Competition

Dallas Glenn, the 2021 NHRA Rookie of the Year, is ready to ditch his “rising star” label. His star is shining already.

He has advanced to the finals at about every third race, with eight victories and nine runner-up finished in 54 events and was 1-1 in finals in a class-best six appearances of the inaugural Mission #32 Fast2Tasty Challenge bonus races.

Glenn predicted the competition at the 2024 preseason-exhibition PRO Superstar Shootout would be “crazy, tight, and brutal.” And those racers are exactly the same ones he faces every week in the Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, which will open March 7-10 at Gainesville, Fla. Matt Hartford should be right up there in the standings with six-time champion Erica Enders and five-timer and 103-time winner Greg Anderson.

Glenn should seal the deal in November.

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NHRA/Nartional Dragster

Gaige Herrera Continues Pro Stock Motorcycle Assault

Gaige Herrera is genuine, humble, likeable, smart, and hard-working—but the soft-spoken pipefitter in his 9-to-5 job is downright greedy on the weekends when it comes to earning “Wally” trophies aboard his Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Even with Eddie Krawiec, who raced Herrera in five of his 12 final rounds in the bike class’ 15 races last season, tuning for his replacement rider Richard Gadson, Herrera still will get the upper hand—and a repeat championship.

No one will try harder than privateer Matt Smith to stop him and score a class-record seventh championship. But the Vance & Hines juggernaut will keep rolling.

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PRO Superstar Shootout Will Be a Disruptor

By nature and by design, the PRO Superstar Shootout will change the sport. And that was the plan of PRO (the drag-racing-industry’s association of racers for racers): in Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence’s words, to stage a “groundbreaking and a refreshing new vibe for something that hasn't changed in over 50 years.

It’s a major step in the right direction for helping to promote our sport in a different light.

His father, Billy Torrence, who helped sponsor the event and raced in it along with his son, said, “I hope that it will open up some eyes as to what racing could be and bring back more of the atmosphere that we used to have back in the old days. We hope it brings some more exposure to our sport and sparks some interest.”

Once the NHRA absorbs the value, particularly the financial value, of the PRO Superstar Shootout’s format and presentation, it will adjust its own practices.

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Luke Nieuwhof

Countdown to the Championship Is on It's Way Out

The NHRA stubbornly has stuck to its guns with the six-race playoff format it instituted in 2007, despite the pointed barbs flung its way from time to time.

Most racers have been pragmatic, deciding not to “fight City Hall,” shrugging off their misgivings about it and concluding that “it’s NHRA playground and it can make the rules.”

Few would mourn the Countdown’s demise. And finally the sanctioning body would see that if the show is good and the ticket prices are reasonable, fans will come to see the display of horsepower and/or their favorite drivers, no matter who is where in the standings or whether a driver already has clinched a championship already.

The 2020 season had no Countdown, and the races in every class went down to the final runs of the year. Besides, the Countdown has not seen a robust increase in either fans or media coverage. Like Coca-Cola sponsorship, the Big Bud Shootout, and long, smoky Funny Car burnouts, everything has its run.

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Tony Stewart Will Attract Eyebrow-Raising Attention

Everything Tony Stewart does attracts attention, so his move from the sportsman-level Top Alcohol Dragster category to the pro-tier Top Fuel class is bound to draw notice.

Maybe it’ll be sponsors he brings in for his two-car nitro team that includes Funny Car champion Matt Hagan or sponsors who see the worth of his participation and invest in other teams.

When Hagan won the season opener last year and gave Tony Stewart Racing its first nitro victory, he said, “When I sign at the T-shirt trailer, my line versus when Tony signs, his line’s a lot longer. He’s great for the sport, and now he’s involved in driving, so he’s really bitten by the bug.... You don’t get a golden goose very often. You got to support it.”

Stewart’s involvement is the best thing that has happened to drag racing in decades, and it’s only going to yield more positives.

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John Force Will Win Several Races, Be In the Title Fight

The Funny Car icon, with 16 championships and 155 victories, hasn’t taken home the big hardware since 2013.

But never count out the GOAT (a term that applies but is one he finds distasteful). He should adopt as his theme song Toby Keith’s classic “May not be good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

Despite the “business churn” in his brain, Force knows how to focus on the race at hand, and he’ll surprise with his first victory since the spring 2022 Charlotte four-wide event. And he’ll pick up a couple more, fighting off young class newcomers Austin Prock and Dan Wilkerson and all of the usual veteran suspects.

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Tony Schumacher Will Be in Championship Discussion

Speaking of his crew chief troika of Mike Neff, Phil Shuler, Jon Schaffer, Top Fuel championships (8) and victories leader (86) Tony Schumacher said, “Anyone that's ever worked with them knows that they're really good at what they do. And once they get there (in a position of dominance), they'll hold it for a long, long time. We'll get it right.”

He said, “I know their goal. I got to work with them before, so they will be good—not ‘OK’—good. That's what we hired those guys for. I know that we'll be champs again.”

Schumacher and his crew are in a fantastic position to prove it. Team owner Joe Maynard has tightened his spending rein and is focusing solely on Schumacher and new teammate Ida Zetterström.

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NHRA Office Will Work to Attract Draw More Vendors to Dwindling Manufacturers Midway

The Manufacturers Midway at the races is an outstanding platform for sponsors to engage with fans, show off products, build lifelong memories, do some business-to-business networking, and be creative with activations.

It has been a bit of ghost town in recent years, not nearly as vibrant as it was at, say the early 2000s.

Is the problem with some sort of exorbitant vendor fee? Who knows? But NHRA’s unique fan-friendly format is begging for a busy Midway. It’s a win-win situation.

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