Winternationals Featured the Quickest Run in NHRA History
What do you do for exercise on a Sunday afternoon in Pomona? Well, if you are one of southern California's diehard drag racing fans, you take the traditional SealMaster Track Walk down the historic quarter mile of pavement at Auto Club Raceway. After that, you just hang out at the Winternationals while the fastest drivers in the world try to beat each other off the tree and post three runs good enough to earn them a Wally at day's end. In the middle, well that's filled with the smell of burnt rubber, the roar of the crowd, and the fiery flash from blown engines.
With last year's champions and the top contenders in the sport present, Round One got off to a spectacular slow start. In Top Fuel Brittany Force spun the tires, veered across the centerline in front of Terry Haddock, slammed into the outside wall, skidded back across the track, tumbled off the inside wall and caught fire. Safety crews were on the scene immediately and Force was transported to the hospital. She was sore but released the next day with no major injuries. Doug Kalitta added to the fireworks when the supercharger on the MAC Tools dragster detonated as he coasted to the win.
Matt Hagan defeated teammate Ron Capps in the semifinal round. Jack Beckman broke at the start giving Robert Hight a free ticket to the finals, as if the President of John Force Racing needed it with a 3.899 ET. That set the stage for two of the fastest Funny Car drivers in NHRA history and they did not disappoint the fans. Hagan laid down a 3.823 to Hight's 3.866 for what would be the quickest Funny Car race in NHRA history. Hagan became the first driver since Don Prudhomme (1976-77) to win back-to-back titles in Funny Car at the Winternationals.
After having a seesaw day at a track that he loves (four Top Fuel finals in the last five events at Pomona), Doug Kalitta lined up next to the U.S. Army Dragster of Tony Schumacher. Kalitta probably should not have won the opening round but he did. It was just one of those magic days as he picked up career win number 44 and leaves Pomona as the point's leader. The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series now heads to Phoenix for the Feb. 23-25 Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona.