The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series made its way to Pomona, CA for the 58th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. The teams prepared all winter long for the NHRA season but John Force Racing would not be prepared for how their opening weekend would go.
During qualifying 16-time Funny Car champion John Force suffered an engine malfunction at 270 plus mph and the engine exploded and annihilated his 2018 Camaro body which, in turn, sent the car bouncing and sliding over toward the guard rail. Force did make a solid 3.937 @ 313 mph to qualify him in the 10th spot but that would be his only glean for the weekend. Force was eliminated in the opening round by JR Todd and the DHL Team.
Courtney Force and her Advance team struggled all weekend just to get the car to go from Point A to Point B under power. Much like her famous father one run in qualifying would get her in the show and she too would be taken down in the first round of competition. She posted a 3.877 @ 321 mph to take the fourth spot. Reigning Funny Car champion Robert Hight had the best weekend for Team Force, earning the number two position with a 3.858 @ 334 mph and receiving his 2017 championship ring and jacket prior to the opening round. Hight advanced all the way to the final round before falling short to Matt Hagan.
With all the struggles the team’s funny cars had, nothing would prepare the team for how the reigning Top Fuel champion Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team’s weekend would go. Brittany, much like Hight, qualified number two with a solid 3.675 @ 322 mph. On Sunday morning she received her championship ring and jacket. She would be in the fourth pair of cars to go down the track. She launched off the starting line in her brand-new dragster and got to just shy of 330 feet when the car lost traction. She quickly took her foot off the throttle trying to recover the run and win the round. She mashed the throttle a second time, then the car began to slide sideways and she took her foot off the throttle again but the big rear tires then grabbed the racing surface and sent her car up on two wheels. As she struggled to bring it back the car slammed into the left side retaining wall, which broke the front half of the car and slid it around almost a complete 360 degree spin before flipping onto its side and sliding back across into the opposite guard rail. The car, after hitting the rail a second time, flipped back up onto the wheels and the front half of the car was broken off the car as it slid to a stop. NHRA Safety Safari was quickly on the scene and was able to extricate Brittany Force from the car. She was alert and responsive when the safety team arrived at the scene. She was then taken to a local hospital for evaluation and was kept overnight as a precaution. The team reported she is fine but complained of a sore shoulder.
With all that, racing would continue and Doug Kalitta scored his 44th career win. Kalitta started race day off with a big bang, exploding an engine in the opening round but his Mac Tools team was able to fix the car and he marched his way through the field to pick up the trophy.
Matt Hagan qualified on the pole with a 3.822 @ 336 mph and marched his way through the field all day on Sunday, earning his 27th career victory.
Reigning Pro Stock champion Bo Buntner picked up right where he left off capturing his sixth career win by defeating three-time champion and teammate Jason Line in the final round.
The series now moves onto Phoenix, AZ for the second race of the 2018 season Feb 23 through 25.