The 2023 NHRA World Champions

The 2023 NHRA World Champions

The NHRA Camping World and FuelTech Pro Mod Drag Racing Series are set to open the 2023 campaign this weekend in rather untraditional fashion, with the famed Gatornationals at Florida’s Gainesville Raceway — not the Winternationals — serving as stop number one on the 21-race national event calendar for the second time in the last three years.

With a new season comes fresh hope, as every team in every category starts on equal footing. It also means a new set of predictions for the year to come, and while there are no doubt favorites, every season of NHRA drag racing presents a certain degree of uncertainty, of trial and tribulation, hot streaks and upsets, and no in-depth analysis or educated guess is ever a sure one. The only sure thing that is 249 days from now — if not sooner — champions will be crowned under the Pomona, California sunset. But more importantly, the DRAGZINE team will know just how well it knows its stuff. That, unfortunately, doesn’t pay $500,000, but we’ll still sleep well at night if we can hit a few on the money. But anyway, here we go…let’s go racing…

Top Fuel

Photos courtesy NHRA/National Dragster

The competition in Top Fuel has become so tight and so fierce in recent years, that a fast racecar — simply outmuscling the field round after round — no longer guarantees victory. 

There are really two undeniable facts in top Fuel: if you’re a great leaver, you’re going to pick up a few round wins over the course of the season regardless of how strong your car is; if you have what is consistently the quickest racecar, you’re going to win even more rounds and races, even if you’re not a top performer on the tree. But if consistently rank in the top three or four at both ends of the racetrack, you’re going to be really, really hard to beat over the long run of a full season. And that’s why Steve Torrence has been so dominant, rifling through the field season after season on his way to 53 race wins and four series titles.

Despite winning just a single race during the regular season in 2022— practically unheard of for the long-dominant Capco boys — Torrence remained in the top four all throughout the regular season and finished it in third, thanks to a combination of his driving and a top 3-4 performing racecar. In the end, a win in St. Louis in the fall wasn’t enough to overcome two first round losses and three second-round exits during the Countdown, and Steve found himself mired in sixth,…

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