The Mello Yello NHRA drag racing series recently made their way to Pomona California for the first of 24 events. The series crisscrosses the country during the nine-month season as the teams try to make the chase and win the NHRA championship in their respective classes. Auto Club Raceway at Pomona was the host of the Circle K Winternationals. Records fell during qualifying and they kept falling on race day.
In Top Fuel it looked to be all Doug Kalitta and the Mac tools team on Sunday as he motored his way through the first three rounds of eliminations defeating a fireballing Sidnei Frigo in the first round with 3.725 et (elapse time) at 329 mph. Frigo experienced an engine explosion at the finish line which cut down the right rear tire of his fuel dragster at a speed of over 280 mph. Kalitta then took on the rookie Richie Crampton and the Geico team in round number two. Crampton gave Kalitta all he could handle running a career best 3.764 at 324 mph but came up short. Kalitta put up another 3.729 at 330 mph to move to the semifinals. Kalitta would take on young Spencer Massey in the semis. Massey left the starting line first but his 3.790 at 322 mph run was not enough to stop Kalitta’s 3.758 at 327 mph. On the opposite side of the ladder Khalid alBalooshi ran consistent throughout eliminations defeating seven time top fuel champion Tony Shumacher and the US Army dragster in round one with a 3.760 at 324 mph to a 3.847 at 321 mph. AlBalooshi would take on teammate and defending event and series champion Shawn Langdon in round two. Langdon left the starting line first with a .055 reaction time to alBalooshi’s .077 but it was not enough as alBalooshi drove around Langdon with a 3.739 at 323 mph to Langdon’s 3.764 at 322 mph. In alBalooshi’s semifinal round he would race the CAPCO Contractors dragster of Steven Torrance. Torrance gave alBalooshi more of a race than he wanted as he left first with a .052 reaction time to .072. But alBalooshi ran a 3.783 at 318mph to a 3.804 at 323mph and was just able to squeak past Torrance by .001 margin of victory at the finish line. This set the stage for the top fuel final between Doug Kalitta and Khalid alBalooshi. Kalitta was off the starting line first by a bunch, cutting a 0.053 reaction time to alBalooshi’s 0.102. That was the only time Kalitta had the lead as his car lit the big good year tire up in smoke by the 330ft marker. That provided all that alBalooshi would need to take the victory with one of the slowest winning times of the day with a 3.974 at 324 mph.
In Funny Car the 16-time and defending funny car series champion was unstoppable on Sunday. John Force was dominating during eliminations. Force would get a bye run in the opening round as Paul Lee’s McLeod engineering dodge was shut off on the starting line. The Yorba Linda native, Force laid down a 3.989 at 319 mph in his Castrol GTX Mustang to move to the second round. In Round two Force would face the Make A Wish Foundation Dodge of Tommy Johnson Jr. Force left the starting line first with a 0.054 reaction time to TJ’s 0.102. Force put a 4.020 at 321 mph to TJ’s Losing 4.021 at 322 mph. Force would then have to take on another Ford Mustang driven by Bob Tasca. Tasca’s Motor Craft Quick Lane Mustang smoked the tires and all Tasca could do was watch Force light up the scoreboard with another great 4.025 at 322 mph to send Force to the Final round of eliminations. 2011 series champion Matt Hagan was on the opposite side of the ladder and worked his way through the field. Hagan matched up against Courtney Force and her Traxxes Mustang in round one. Courtney was not able to defend her event title from one year ago as Hagan and the Mopar Express Lube Dodge Charger drove away from her running a 4.036 at 322 mph to Courtney’s 4.083 at 320 mph. Hagan would face Courtney’s teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight and Auto Club Ford. Hagan left first with a 0.063 reaction time to Hight’s 0.070. Hagan needed all of that to hold off Hight as Hight ran a quicker but losing 4.033 at 316 mph to Hagan’s 4.035 at 322 mph. Hagan would then meet up with 2011 Top Fuel Champion Del Worsham and the DHL Toyota in the Semi’s. Worsham and Hagan left together at the starting line but it was all Hagan at the finish line as he ran a 4.030 at 318 mph to Worshams 4.055 at 321 mph. This would set up a rematch of last year’s final round of the last race of the year in Pomona. It would also be last year’s number one in points John Force vs. number two in points Matt Hagan. Force was not going to be denied on this day even though Hagan took a shot at the tree by cutting a 0.025 reaction time to Force’s 0.087. Hagan’s car lost traction, went up in smoke shortly thereafter and all the former champ could do was watch. Force lowered the national record elapse time when he put a 3.965 at 323 mph up on the scoreboard. Force captured his 139th career race win and his seventh Winternationals event win.
In Pro Stock, Jason Line would capture his third Winternationals event win. Line’s Summit racing Camaro motored past Matt Hartford in the first round of eliminations. Line would take on Dave Connelly and his Gray racing Camaro in round two. Line left the starting line first and drove away from Connolly. Connolly’s teammate and car owner Shane Gray would have his shot against Line in the semifinal round. Line powered his way past Gray running a 6.527 at 212 mph to Gray’s 6.541 at 211 mph. That would put Line in the final against V Gains and the Kendall motor oil dodge avenger. The two left together but it was all Line from the 60ft marker on as he ran a 6.526 at 212 mph to Gains’ 6.533 212 mph to take the win.
The next stop on the 24-race schedule is in two weeks at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Arizona for the running of 30th annual Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.