Week Late Groundhog Day at NHRA Winternationals
Eighty days ago Steve Torrence, Robert Hight and Erica Enders were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona CA. Although all three would claim class championships in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock, none took home a Wally. Those went to race winners Doug Kalitta, Jack Beckman and Jegs Coughlin Jr., respectively. After a short off-season, all three drivers returned to Pomona this weekend for southern California's week-late version of Groundhog's Day and picked up where they had left off with fast, consistent runs from Friday qualifying through Sunday's final eliminations at the 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.
After two days of beautiful weather during qualifying runs, the fans, drivers and crew members had to deal with a 20-degree drop in temperatures and a gloomy overcast sky that caused a whole lot of tire shake and a significant drop in traction for some of the NHRA's elite drag racing teams. With a yearlong salute to 50 years of Pro Stock racing, Jason Line and Jeg Coughlin Jr. raced their way to Sunday's final round. Ironically, both men have announced that the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series would be their last fulltime season in Pro Stock. Sunday's win at the 60th annual Winternationals broke a 20-year drought at the event bringing him his 64th career win in Pro Stock competition.
Seventy year-old Funny Car legend John Force arrived at Pomona looking totally refreshed following the two-month break in the action. Force made his Funny Car debut at the Winternationals in 1977 and has reached the final round eleven times in his career. After taking a holeshot win over low qualifier Matt Hagan in the semifinals, Force comfortably staged the Peak Blue Def Camaro SS Funny Car in a bid to break his tie with Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden as the winningest driver in Winternationals history. Only one driver stood in his way... Fast Jack Beckman and his Don Schumacher Racing Infinite Hero Dodge Hellcat, which step low ET of the meet at 3.83 seconds. It was Beckman's 31st Funny Car career win.
For the third year in a row, Doug Kalitta took home the event win in Top Fuel dragster at 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. Sunday's Wally marks Kalitta's 48th Top Fuel national win, placing the second-generation nitro driver fifth on the NHRA's all-time list. Brittany Force, who is back racing with Monster Energy sponsorship, ran the third-fastest speed in Top Fuel history at 336.23 mph but lost to Kalitta in the semifinal with 3.68-second pass to Doug's 3.67-second run. In the Top Fuel final, Kalitta eliminated Austin Prock, who qualified the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster second overall but struggled all day with tire shake on the unseasonably cool track surface. The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues on Feb. 21-23 at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass.