The stars of the NHRA Mello Yello drag racing series made their annual trip to southern California for the season opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The weather played a factor in qualifying as there was good weather for some quick elapse times (et) and big speeds. Mother Nature decided to only give the racers three of their four qualifying sessions. As the racers and fans learned on Saturday it does rain in Southern California.
The Top Fuel field was led by the quickest official pass in the history of the sport. Shawn Langdon rocketed his Knuckle Sandwich/AJRE top fuel dragster to a 3.700 et at 328 mph. This was a great shot in the arm for the team as they learned only 31 days before the season was set to start, that their sponsor had terminated their funding. Richie Crampton and the Geico team picked up right where they left off at the end of last season. Crampton took the number two position with a 3.730 et at 328 mph. The Mac tools dragster driven by Doug Kalitta held onto the third spot with a 3.733 et at 327 mph. Spencer Massey laid a rocket ship speed on the field as he only a ran 3.745 et but, his speed of 332 mph was the fastest of qualifying. Last year’s season champion Tony ‘the Sarge’ Schumacher sits sixth with his performance of 3.757 et at320 mph. Fan favorite Brittany Force put a 3.779 at 323 mph to capture the number seven spot.
In Funny Car the crowd would not be disappointed as southern California native Courtney Force and her new look Traxxas Chevy Camaro put up a 3.995 et at 322 mph to capture the pole position. Tommy Johnson’s Make a Wish team would take the number two spot with their effort of 4.018 at 314 mph. The 16-time Funny Car champion (John Force) did not disappoint his new sponsors, PEAK Antifreeze and Chevrolet, as he motored his way to the third position with a 4.021 at 320 mph. Cruz Pedregon in the Snap On Tools Toyota took the fourth position with a 4.027 et at 308 mph. Cruz’s brother Tony Pedregon recorded a career best of 4.030 et at 304 mph to hold onto the five spot. Last season’s champion struggled during qualifying and was only able to retain the twelve spot with a 4.090 et 310 mph. The big surprise in Funny Car was the 2012 champion Jack Beckman failed to qualify as the team struggled big time all weekend and on the final run Saturday backfired the super charger on the starting line. Not a good way for his new crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen to start their season with a new team.
In Pro Stock it didn’t look like last year’s season champion Erica Enders-Stevens was going to pick up where she left off, as her team struggled during both sessions of Friday, leaving her not qualified. On Saturday’s run, she laid down the proverbial gauntlet and took the pole with a 6.516 et 213 mph. Jason Line, who finished second to Erica in the points last year, will start second to Erica here at the season opener with his performance of a 6.523 et at 212 mph. Joey Grose from Lodi made the 16-car field in the number 15 position with a time of 6.603 et at 208 mph.