It’s Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY, here at the famed Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, host of the season-opening NHRA Mello Yello Winternationals since 1961. Driver introductions for Pro Stock, Funny Car, and Top Fuel happen at 10:00 am and the on-track action starts at 11:00 for the first round of eliminations. Who will leave Pomona with the early points lead? We’ll soon find out. Stay tuned as we bring you round by round coverage all day.
Here's the pairings for round one of eliminations in Top Fuel.
In Top Fuel, Tony “Sarge” Schumacher powered his U. S. Army dragster to the 72nd No. 1 qualifying position of his career with his pass of 3.753 at 324.05. “It was a great to be the number one,” Schumacher said. “That was a phenomenal run. That’s a consistent race car and doing some great stuff. The conditions aren’t going to change at Pomona. We are running really good and assume the other cars are going to run good too. Great cars make you rise to the occasion and do a great job. Fans pay big money to see a good race.” In the opening round Schumacher will face Brazilian rookie Sidnei Frigo, who rounded out the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history. Brandon Bernstein took the second spot in his Protect the Harvest/MAVTV dragster with a performance of 3.761 at 325.22, while defending Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown qualified fourth in his Matco Tools dragster.
A new era at John Force Racing also began with Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster qualifying number 15 in the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history. Her qualifying time of 8.845 seconds at 293.22 mph will set her up for a first round match-up with Brandon Bernstein. Brittany said, “One of my goals for this year was to qualify for every race. We came out to Pomona and did it with this Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster. I am definitely excited about racing tomorrow. We are going to have some fun. I am excited to be running Brandon. I have known him forever and I have been watching him forever. I am a rookie driver but I am going against one of these guys that has been out here forever.” When Brittany was asked if she thought her legendary dad, John Force, would place a side bet with Brandon’s legendary dad, Kenny Bernstein, she laughed and said, “I am not sure but I bet my dad might call Kenny.”
Funny Car round one pairings.
Courtney Force blazed a new path to start her sophomore season on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, posting the quickest time in qualifying and leading the Funny Car field for just the third time in her young career with a 4.036 seconds at 318.24 mph. Will she or her dad John, or teammate Robert Hight, get a win today?
Pro Stock round one.
Leading the Pro Stock field is Mike Edwards, who took the top spot in the class for the 42nd time with a performance of 6.528 at 212.39. He will open eliminations against Chris McGaha at an event he has won one time in three final round attempts.
Contrast this shot to the photo of the Sportsman pits earlier this weekend. Fingers in ears and tears streaming from eyes are commonplace when the Fuel cars fire up in the pits, with nitro in the cell. The cars will be in the staging lanes soon.
The first round of eliminations is in the books! Pro Stock saw some bigtime upsets, with Greg Stanfield and Shane Gray taking out both Summit Racing cars, those of Greg Anderson and Jason Line, respectively. Also advancing to the next round we number 16 qualifier Chris McGaha beating number one Mike Edwards, Vince Nobile (over Matt Hartford), V. Gaines (Deric Kramer), defending champ Allen Johnson (Roger Brogdon) Kurt Johnson (Erica Enders-Stevens), and Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Steve Kent).
In Funny Car, top qualifier Courtney Force advanced past Phil Burkhart, Matt Hagan took out Tim Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III sent Del Worsham to the trailer, and Johnny Gray beat Alexis DeJoria. The major upsets were Cruz Pedregon beating Robert Hight’s AAA car, Ron Capps sending Hight’s teammate and owner John Force home early, and Todd Lesenko’s Canadian maple leaf-emblazoned car beating defending champ Fast Jack Beckman.
Top Fuel saw rookie Sidnei Frigo’s day end early at the hands of Schumacher, Spencer Massey beaten by Steve Torrence, Antron Brown taking out Larry Dixon Jr., Dave Grubnic over Morgan Lucas, Brandon Bernstein sending rookie Brittany Force to the trailer, Shawn Langdon beating Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta beating Leah Pruett, and Khalid alBalooshi beating Bob Vandergriff.
In the first round of eliminations, Shane Gray's newly painted Camaro took out Jason Line's formidable Summit Racing Camaro in a big upset.
Chris McGaha stunned the field when he beat a slowing Mike Edwards in the first round of eliminations.
Erica lost early to Kurt Johnson. Johnson tree'd her by .019 and Erica's GK Motorsports ride slowed to a mid-8-second pass.
Ron Capps beat the master, John Force, off the line (barely) and ran a quicker 4.108 to a 4.119 to advance to the second round.
This was shot at about 660 feet down the track, showing Gary Densham (near lane) trailing Tony Pedregon. At this point, Densham was nearly sideways while Pedregon was pedaling, but Densham got it together enough to get to the 1000-foot finish line first.
Todd Losenko, who blew the body sky high at the 2012 World Finals here in Pomona, beat Jack Beckman in an absolute pedal-fest. His 5.013 at 176 got there before Beckman's 5.457 at 149.
Sidnei Frigo's (near lane) first Pomona was good in that he made the field, but bad in that he had to face the most successful Top Fuel racer of all time, Tony Schumacher. You can guess the result.
Larry Dixon Jr. (far lane) lost to the champ, Antron Brown, in the first round. We spoke with Santo "Junior" Repisarda, the Australian team's head tuner, if they're going to try and contest the whole season. He said, "We're going to see how the first three races and go and then decide from there." Send 'em some luck.
And that’s it for the first round! Keep coming back for more as the day progresses! They’re about to run the second round as we type this, so stay tuned….
BIG CRASH! Defending champion Antron Brown won his race against Dave Grubnic, but then a massive engine explosion shredded the tires and sent the car across the track (he was in the right lane) and HARD into the wall. The car broke up and slid all the way to the sand. It was horrible to watch, but the Safety Safari was there before the car even stopped moving, and the driver's capsule did its job, keeping the flames off the driver. Antron got out and was obviously very woozy, but walked away and was interviewed shortly afterwards. Another stroke of good luck is that Grubnic avoided hitting the car as it crashed directly in front of him. You'll see this one on the nightly news tonight.
And the second round is in the books. Below are the round sheets with the results that show the following racers advancing to the semifinals: In Top Fuel, Antron won the race before he took the wild ride, beating Grubnic, but his car is destroyed. He could enter his backup car, but the crew thought it best to just give him the rest of the day off, meaning Tony Schumacher (who beat Steve Torrence) will get a bye to the final. On the other side of the ladder, Shawn Langdon will face Khaild alBalooshi after beating Brandon Bernstein and Doug Kalitta (respectively). In Funny Car, Courtney Force is still marching, taking out Matt Hagan to go up against Bob Tasca III, who beat Cruz Pedregon, and Ron Capps beat Gary Densham when the latter’s ‘chute deployed about 100 feet out, and slowed him to a 5.80. Capps will now face Johnny Gray, who beat Lesenko with a fantastic 4.038 to Lesenko’s 4.202. Finally, Pro Stock will see Vince Nobile (beat Shane Gray) and and Greg Stanfield (Chris McGaha) race each other, while on the other side of the ladder will be V. Gaines facing Jeg Jr.
And….the semis are done and the finals are set as the sun sets on Pomona. The track still seems sticky and the air is getting cold, so this should be fun. Here’s what happened.
Jeg Coughlin got a holeshot on V. Gaines with a .013 to a .079 and maintained just enough of a lead to stay out front, running a 6.574 to Gaines' 6.538.
Greg Stanfield left on Vince Nobile, .020 to .031, but the black and white car of Nobile squeaked out a win, getting to the stripe in 6.575 seconds compared to Stanfield's 6.588. That sets a final round matchup of Coughlin and Nobile.
Bob Tasca knew Courtney Force had him covered, and either she had to have a bad run or he needed to pull one out of you-know-where to go the final. Trying to tree the Force lady, he left too early and his -.086 light handed Courtney a visit to the final.
Courtney will face Ron Capps for the money round. Capps and Johnny Gray had a nail-biter going with e.t.s of 4.036 and 4.056, respectively.
Tony Schumacher had a bye run in the semis thanks to Antron Brown’s crash. He lost the hook not far out of the gate, but who cares…he’s in the final.
The semifinal round showdown of the Al Anabi Top Fuel teams. This time, Shawn Langdon (near lane) took the win over Khalid alBalooshi with both a holeshot and a quicker e.t.
Shawn Langdon (far lane) bested his Al Anabi teammate Khalid alBalooshi for the final round win with a better holeshot (.011 to .042) and e.t. too, a 3.721 at 322 to alBalooshi's 3.747 at a faster 324. Langdon said he felt his car eat itself up in the lights, but he had enough to hold on for the win.
Ron Capps(near lane) got the smallest of advantage on Courtney Force at the tree (.071 to her .076) but Courtney just had too much for him, and ran low e.t. of the meet with a 4.025 at 317.
Jeg Coughlin couldn't get the car to re-fire after the burnout prompting the crew members to explode into action. They got it fired, but Jeggy redlit with a brutal -.014, handing Vincent Nobile the win.
Here's the final, official results sheet.
Vince Nobile, your 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Winternationals Pro Stock winner!
Courtney Force gets another Wally.
Shawn Langdon took the win tonight, years after he first visited Pomona, his home track.
And with this shot of NHRA president Tom Compton (far right) and the representatives of Coke/Mello Yello congratulating the winners, we wrap up our coverage of the 2013 NHRA Winternationals from here at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona!
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