The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series opens the 2016 season this weekend with the traditional Circle K Winternationals at the fabled Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. The hot stories, of course, will be the debut of the new-age, fuel injected Pro Stock cars and the NHRA’s all-new broadcast partnership with FOX. We’ll be bringing you all the behind-the-scenes action and the new-look racing machines, so keep it tuned right here. A big thanks to Fuel Air Spark Technology, the presenting sponsor of our race coverage here on Dragzine!
Sunday Eliminations Round 1 &2 photo highlights – the gallery above is not mobile friendly right now.
Semis and Finals Highlights
Friday Recap — Words by NHRA Communications
Tony Schumacher raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Friday at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders in their respective classes at the season-opening NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Eight-time world champion Schumacher was quickest in Top Fuel with a 3.722 second run at 323.66 mph in his U.S. Army dragster.
“The second run was a good run,” said Schumacher, a two-time winner of the tradition-rich Winternationals. “We got the number one spot and earned a few points and I am proud of the guys. It’s a good start. I am excited and my crew chief [Mike Green] is excited. Everything is looking great. I’ve been blessed to drive a race car for a living. I think we’ll go faster.”
Schumacher edged Clay Millican for the top spot late in the second round of qualifying. Millican was second with a 3.746 at 324.36 and Richie Crampton sits third in his Lucas Oil dragster with a 3.748 at 322.65. Brittany Force led after the first session with a 3.753 at 319.98 in her Monster Energy dragster.
Schumacher, who posted a 3.68-second run during last weekend’s NHRA Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, had one of the quickest and most consistent cars during the four-day pre-season test session. That gives he and his entire U.S. Army team a lot of good vibes going into the 2016 campaign.
“We tested last week in Phoenix and ran in the 60s,” Schumacher said. “We had different conditions there and it’s warmer here, so we have to make adjustments. Our guys worked hard in the two month offseason. We had to make a change. We had to change substantial stuff in our clutch. We’ve got really smart guys. We have a core group of crew chiefs that do a great job. Now we have to see if it will carry over in all three [DSR Top Fuel] teams.”
Hight powered his Auto Club Chevy Camaro to a performance of 3.942 at 322.19 to take the qualifying lead in Funny Car. Hight, a three-time Winternationals winner, was pleased with effort right off the trailer.
“If you don’t get down the track on the first run you are usually behind the eight ball the whole weekend,” Hight said. “The whole Funny Car ballgame has changed in the last year. If you looked at Funny Car last year, this 94 I ran would’ve been a national record. As drivers, tuners and teams you have to adapt to that. You see all these teams running 80s last year. We weren’t competitive with the Beckmans and Worshams. At the end of the season last year we didn’t even have a chance to win the championship and that’s uncharted waters for us.”
Hight and the entire John Force Racing team is riding a lot of momentum entering this weekend after a strong showing during last weekend’s testing.
“In testing last weekend in Phoenix we showed that we are back in the game,” Hight said. “I am excited with testing and coming in here you know now that it’s not a fluke. We went in there and started knocking off 60-foot times. We put it all together and started running 80s. To come out here and run 94 the first run I am really impressed by [crew chief] Mike Neff and these guys. Not a better place to do it than right here in front of my sponsor.”
Hight’s teammate Courtney Force was second in her Traxxas Camaro with a 3.945 at 322.88 and defending world champion Del Worsham was third in his DHL Toyota Camry with a 3.950 at 323.04. Jack Beckman, who won seven times and set the national record four times in a runner-up points finish last season, was fourth overall in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger, posting a Friday best of 3.959 at 308.07.
Butner was quickest in the new-look Pro Stock category, powering his Jim Butner Auto Chevy Camaro to a 6.606 at 209.43. This season NHRA mandated new rules for the Pro Stock category, which includes electronic fuel injection, 10,500 RPM rev limiters, no hood scoops and shortened wheelie-bars.
“We kinda joked in the staging lanes earlier that the guy that will win this race is someone who can start the car, and stage every round,” Butner said with a smile. “Everybody will slowly get better. The guys at the shop make the best power. I’ve drove a lot of EFI cars and just when you think you have a handle on it, it will shut off. You have to calm down and not get frustrated. These guys are the smartest guys out here and they will figure it out.”
Butner, who is teaming with the KB Racing program, was followed in the qualifying order by his teammate Jason Line, a four-time Winternationals winner, who drove his Summit Racing Camaro to a 6.618 at 209.43. His other teammate, Greg Anderson, posted a 6.647 at 209.43 in his Summit Camaro.
“It will get a lot better and be a lot closer in the next three races,” Butner said. “I will assume we will run a high 58 or a 57. None of us have made a perfect run so far.”
Other top qualifiers in the factory hot rod category included third-place Chris McGaha, who clocked a 6.641 at 208.62 in his Harley Sammons of Odessa Camaro and five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin sits fourth in his Magneti Marelli/Elite/JEGS.com Dodge Dart with a 6.645 at 208.55.
Defending world champ Erica Enders is currently ninth in her Mopar Performance/Elite Motorsports Dart with a 6.660 at 208.68.
Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m.
Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 56th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.
1. Tony Schumacher, 3.722 seconds, 323.66 mph 2. Clay Millican, 3.746, 324.36; 3. Richie Crampton, 3.748, 322.65; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.750, 326.24; 5. Brittany Force, 3.753, 319.98; 6. Antron Brown, 3.782, 315.05; 7. Dave Connolly, 3.791, 291.32; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.798, 319.98; 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.804, 314.46; 10. Morgan Lucas, 3.806, 318.39; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.817, 321.27; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.844, 313.00. Not Qualified: 13. Troy Buff, 3.921, 306.05; 14. J.R. Todd, 4.655, 163.29; 15. Steve Faria, 6.014, 104.54; 16. Scott Palmer, 8.001, 82.32.
1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.942, 322.19; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.945, 326.87; 3. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.950, 323.04; 4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.959, 308.07; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.971, 322.58; 6. John Force, Camaro, 4.017, 314.83; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.028, 313.22; 8. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.029, 316.97; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.041, 312.93; 10. Chad Head, Camry, 4.047, 310.34; 11. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.092, 307.79; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.124, 281.07. Not Qualified: 13. Bob Bode, 4.133, 283.37; 14. James Campbell, 4.348, 220.76; 15. Tommy Johnson Jr., 4.496, 187.96; 16. John Hale, 5.318, 155.79; 17. Terry Haddock, 9.317, 86.61.
1. Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.606, 209.75; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.618, 209.95; 3. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.641, 208.62; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.645, 208.55; 5. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.647, 209.43; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.651, 208.68; 7. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.653, 208.33; 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.660, 208.68; 9. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.669, 208.62; 10. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.684, 207.88; 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.684, 207.59; 12. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.686, 207.75. Not Qualified: 13. V. Gaines, 6.689, 207.11; 14. Matt Hartford, 6.702, 206.61; 15. Aaron Strong, 6.721, 206.29; 16. Vincent Nobile, 16.748, 51.88.