Khalid alBalooshi fired the first shot of the 2014 Top Fuel season with a win at Pomona.
With the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series underway, speculation has already begun as to which drivers will be legitimate threats for the Top Fuel title this season. Although the season is one race old, it is still a good indicator for who to look out for.
Although others will rise during the season, these five drivers look to be the biggest threats to win the title this season.
Millican is a six-time T/F champion in the IHRA.
One driver who is on the rise in the ranks is Clay Millican. A fixture in the top fuel ranks, Millican has been getting better over the years, including a career-best season in 2013 where he reached the final round four times, qualified for every event of the season and earned a spot in the Countdown to the Championship for the second time in his career (he also made the countdown in 2009).
A six-time IHRA T/F champion, Millican has the most event wins in IHRA history with 51. However, he has yet to translate his success over into the NHRA. He has come close numerous times since 1998, racing his way to eight final rounds through the course of his career.
Despite defeating Antron Brown in the first round at the Winternationals, Millican barely lost to Steve Torrence in the second round. Still, the Dexter Tuttle-owned Parts Plus team has the momentum of a stellar year in 2013, and it will carry that momentum into the 2014 season. This team will earn a Wally or two before year's end.
The NHRA sometimes has a thing for surprises, so take it into consideration that Millican could be one of the surprising stories in 2014.
Brown is the 2012 NHRA T/F dragster champion.
Formerly a Pro Stock Bike standout for Don Schumacher Racing, Antron Brown has enjoyed immense success in the Top Fuel division where he won a championship in 2012. Although he was eliminated in the first round by Clay Millican at the season-opening Winternationals, it is unlikely that will keep him down this year.
Brown has won at least one event since switching to Top Fuel in 2008, and in 2013 he happened to win four times in six final rounds, including two wins during the Countdown. Driving for Schumacher is a good way to taste success in the NHRA, and Brown can attest for that. With that being said, his Matco Tools dragster will be a threat through the course of the season.
alBalooshi's Winternationals win could give him much needed momentum for the course of the season.
Khalid alBalooshi could be this season's dark horse. AlBalooshi, the 2011 NHRA Pro Mod champion, has been a consistent driver since his rookie Top Fuel season of 2012. He managed to win a race both in 2012 and 2013, but with his Winternationals win this season he could gain momentum early and add a few Wallys to his trophy shelf before the season's end.
If alBalooshi can milk his momentum for all it is worth and place his Al-Anabi-owned dragster into the Countdown for the Championship, he could very well give Al-Anabi Racing their second consecutive Top Fuel championship in 2014.
Schumacher is a seven-time T/F champion.
Although he is a seven-time Top Fuel champion with 72 event wins, Schumacher seems to have been winding down in recent years despite winning three events in 2013. He's already achieved legend status in the NHRA, yet it seems strange that he hasn't won a championship since he won his seventh title in 2009.
It's been a while since Tony Schumacher won a title, and since he's a driver accustomed to championship gold it is safe to say he's hungry for that eighth championship. Look for Tony to pull out all the stops in 2014.
Langdon is the defending series champion in the Top Fuel division.
There are few drivers in the Top Fuel division who have as impressive a drag racing pedigree as Shawn Langdon. The 2013 Top Fuel champion, Langdon, has also won NHRA titles in the Summit Racing Junior Drag Racing league driving junior dragsters and the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series driving Super Comp dragsters.
A graduate of an impressive rookie class from 2009 that included Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Langdon won eight Mello Yello events in two seasons beginning with his first Top Fuel victory in 2012 at Charlotte. He managed to back that up with seven wins during his championship season in 2013.
Langdon is on a roll for 2014. With Brian Husen as a crew chief, 2014 Winternationals champion Khalid alBalooshi as a teammate and the backing of Al-Anabi Racing, Langdon could very well repeat as Top Fuel champion.
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