A Look Back on the 2022 NHRA Virginia Nationals

Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer

For the first time since 2019, the NHRA was at Virginia Motorsports Park after missing scheduled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the straight liners return was much-welcomed by drag racing fans.

As the series returned with its Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Fuel, and Funny Car, there was no disappointment. Fans saw familiar winners in the top end with Matt Hagan taking the Funny Car victory and Brittany Force taking home the Wally in Top Fuel. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith secured his first win of the season over new rival Steve Johnson. 

With race No. 7 in the books for the 2022 NHRA Camping World season, here are four points to ponder from this weekend’s racing action. 

  1. John Force Racing Doubles Up – For the first time since Topeka of 2021, John Force Racing doubles up by winning in Funny Car and Top Fuel with Robert Hight and Brittany Force. When John Force Racing doubled up in Topeka, it was Brittany in Top Fuel, but John in Funny Car sharing a special day. However, the winners were flipped flopped this time around with Hight replacing Force in the winner’s circle. Brittany has been on fire this year so far with three wins of the season and two No. 1 qualifiers. She eliminated her championship rival Steve Torrence in the final round to score her 14th career victory and has her eyes set on a second Top Fuel championship.

“This has been our greatest season yet,” said Force, who retains the top spot in the Top Fuel standings. “To come on this strong, with this many wins with our Flav-R-Pac team, I am so excited. We’ve never won here in Virginia, so it was very cool to get this win. This Wally (trophy) is for (crew chief) David Grubnic because he makes the impossible happen. Any win is special, but to qualify No. 1, set the track record and then get the win, it’s great. Robert and I seem to have a lot of luck together, and it was great to see him win. Our whole team has come a long way and we’re already ahead of ourselves from last year.”

As for her teammate Hight, Hight opened up in 2022 with two wins at Pomona and Phoenix. He got into a small slump losing out at Gainesville, Las Vegas, Houston, and Charlotte. However, the California driver bounced back this weekend with a strong performance in the final round eliminating the No. 1 qualifier, and Tony Stewart Racing driver Matt Hagan with a 3.907 to Hagan’s 3.948. Hight’s win sees him third in points, 112 points behind Hagan and as for Brittany, she continues to lead over Torrence by 81 points. Although, the season is still young yet and for both categories, things will only heat up much more in the summer months heading into the Countdown.

“I was a crew member for so many years, so nobody knows that better than I do. It takes eight guys pulling together and there is nothing like it at the end of the day when you can hoist one of these Wallys up,” said Hight, who remains second to Hagan in the standings through seven of the scheduled 22 races. “I just want to thank everybody … Auto Club, Chevrolet. This trophy is going to Mary Barra from Chevrolet, she is the CEO. Come out to a drag race and see us. I think we’ve had three battles with Hagan this year and it seems like it happens every week. I think we’ve got the best two cars in the class and when you race them, you better be up for it. They were better than us in qualifying, but what a difference a day makes. We had mechanical failure the first run and it set us behind the whole weekend. But when you’ve got this great team, you just believe in them and they just navigated things great today. We’re going to have a lot of these battles the rest of the year and hopefully, we can just keep winning them.”

  1. Angie Smith Sets Record – After dodging a few rain showers both days on Friday and Saturday, Angie Smith set the track record on fire following the first round of qualifying. She had a great side-by-side race with her team owner Matt Smith and became the only rider to go over 200 mph in Q1 with a 6.788 and 200.38 mph. Proving the time was no fluke, Smith followed up once more in Q2 on Saturday with another stellar run going faster with a 6.756 and 201.37 mph.

The run was good enough for her second No.1 qualifier of her career, as track conditions for Q3 were not favorable for another run. Unfortunately, in the E2 matchup with Vance and Hines rider Eddie Krawiec, Smith’s bike shut off 500 feet from the staging lane and fell to Krawiec in the quarterfinals. Still a tip of the cap to Angie who most likely would’ve faced her husband Matt in E3, as Krawiec ultimately lost to Matt in the semi-finals.

“It was really cool,” Angie Smith said about beating her own Friday time the next day. “I knew the bike had it (speed) in it, I just knew we had to go from A to B. I didn’t think we would actually go that fast, but Matt told me there was a 76 in there and he was wrong. I like to tell him he’s wrong. We went 75 and the bike was good. I was ecstatic about my run. When I saw Angelle (Sampey) go 78 and she bumped me to second, I knew it was possible to run faster than her and just had to go do my job. That’s what we did. I couldn’t be more proud of my whole entire team.”

  1. Matt Smith Bounces Back – It’s been a strange season so far for Matt after a first-round loss in the season opener at Gainesville and a loss in the Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte. However, things have gotten interesting in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class and an intriguing new rivalry between longtime rider Steve Johnson. For those unaware, Steve Johnson eliminated Matt in Houston a few weeks back and threw some shade at Matt.When Johnson won the Houston nationals, he said “I love this sport,” Johnson said. “I tell people, if I had 10 million dollars, I’d still be doing the same thing. Find what you love and chase it. Do not stop, and beat Matt Smith, no matter what bike he brings.” As Johnson said that, Matt was rolling behind him following his run and shook his head in disgust at Johnson’s comments.

    With a point to prove, Smith came into Virginia Nationals looking to secure his first victory of the year. Following the two qualifying runs Friday and Saturday, Smith was slated into the fourth spot with a first-round match against No. 13 qualifier Chris Bostick. Smith won over Bostick with a 6.871 and 197.57 mph. The King, North Carolina native moved on to a second-round match with Jimmy Underdahl and was again victorious. With point A to point B runs, Smith met his rival Johnson in the final round after Johnson won over Lance Bonham, Karen Stoffer, and Marc Ingwersen. Coming into the final round, Smith already had an upper advantage winning three times against Johnson. As the two bikes rocketed off the finish line, Smith was ahead with the holeshot and held off Johnson for the win with a 6.842 and 198.35 mph to Johnson’s 6.786 and 198.06 mph. The victory was Smith’s first of the year and 33rd of his illustrious Pro Stock Motorcycle career.

    “It’s big,” Smith said on the Virginia Nationals victory. “Angie (Smith) got No. 1 qualifier and our team did its homework after Charlotte. We stayed to test on our Suzuki bike and made eight laps the next day. We’re not where we need to bet yet, but we are way closer. Our team got the yellow hat (No. 1 qualifier) and the blue hat (race winner) here at Virginia. All in all a good weekend for ourselves.”

  2. Safety Safari – It was not an easy weekend for the NHRA Safety Safari, as they dodged rain showers all three days, especially Friday and Saturday. Both days were with extended delays for multiple classes in the NHRA Camping World Series. After Funny Cars and Top Fuel went down the track Friday, Pro Stock Motorcycle was next in line but after the last pair of dragsters in Top Fuel were done, the skies opened up and once again delayed the event. Despite that, the Safety Safari crew never gave up, putting in their best effort to dry and prep the track for all three rounds of qualifying in the Nitro categories. However, the two-wheelers weren’t so luck and track conditions were too detrimental for Pro Stock Motorcycle to make a run in Q3. Kudos to the team as the forecast was doom and gloom all weekend. 

NHRA Camping World Point Standings 

Top Fuel 

  1. Brittany Force, 605 points 
  2. Steve Torrence, -81 
  3. Mike Salinas, -84
  4. Justin Ashley, -137
  5. Austin Prock, -238
  6. Clay Millican, -240 
  7. Josh Hart, -260
  8. Doug Kalitta, -289
  9. Tony Schumacher, -310
  10. Shawn Langdon, -336

Funny Car 

  1. Matt Hagan, 673 points
  2. Robert Hight, -15
  3. Ron Capps, -112
  4. John Force, -226
  5. Cruz Pedregon, -278
  6. Bob Tasca III, -319
  7. J.R. Todd, -342
  8. Chad Green, -352
  9. Alexis Dejoria, -363
  10. Tim Wilkerson 

Pro Stock Motorcycle 

  1. Steve Johnson, 393 points
  2. Karen Stoffer, -50 
  3. Eddie Krawiec, -114
  4. Matt Smith, -121
  5. Angie Smith, -148
  6. Joey Gladstone, -164
  7. Angelle Sampey, -184
  8. Jimmy Underdahl, -199
  9. Marc Ingwersen, -207
  10. Jerry Savoie, -235

The NHRA Camping World Series will take the rest of May off before returning to action for the first weekend of June with the New England Nationals, June 3-5. 

Prior NHRA Coverage by:

Jerry Jordan


Seth Eggert

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