“We are currently working on a new engine combination that once Connie (Kalitta, crew chief and team owner) has fine-tuned to his liking we are confident will help us to defend our Topeka title,” the 50-year-old resident of Ennis, Mont. said. “Connie Kalitta, James Riola, and the entire crew are doing a fabulous job with the Candlewood Suites race car.”
In order to defend his win at Topeka, Grubnic knows he will have to hold off a tough contingent of challengers, including national speed record holder and last season’s Topeka runner-up Spencer Massey, seven-time world champ and current points leader Tony Schumacher, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon, teammate and Mac Tools driver Doug Kalitta, GEICO driver Morgan Lucas and rookie Brittany Force in her Castrol Edge dragster.
Defending NHRA Funny Car world champion Beckman in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger will once again be one of the drivers to beat in the loaded Funny Car division. Some of his toughest competition will come from teammate Ron Capps, a three-time winner at Topeka, and Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry veteran driver Cruz Pedregon, who has won four times at Topeka.
Last season’s rookie of the year, Courtney Force, who won the season-opener at Pomona in her Traxxas Ford Mustang, also will be one to watch.
In Pro Stock, defending world champion Allen Johnson is a two-time Topeka winner in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. His new teammate, Jeg Coughlin, is also a past winner at Topeka and will be looking for more success in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger. Series points leader Mike Edwards, who has claimed two victories this season, and Greg Anderson, are also past Topeka winners and will be trying to claim another victory there.
Others to watch in the 200 mph factory hot rod class include Erica Enders-Stevens, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line and Shane Gray, a past Topeka winner who has been to the last three final rounds.