Thursday's O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals photo blog
Thursday, February 14, 2013

News and views from the O'Reilly Auto Parts
NHRA Winternationals
presented by Super Start Batteries
Last update: 3:40 p.m.
Click for latest post

  The 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is officially under way under clear blue skies, beginning with Sportsman time trials. Auto Club Raceway at Pomona looks resplendent in the yellow colors of the new series sponsor.

The Mello Yello Pro teams will get their first of four qualifying shots later today, beginning with Pro Stock at 2 p.m. They'll get another shot Friday and their final two attempts on Saturday.

Alan Reinhart (left) is calling the opening action and will be one of four main announcers this season [

Among those taking part at the annual season opener are veteran Super-class racer Mike Ferderer (below), a two-time Winternationals winner (1998 and 2002), and his K&N-sponsored Pontiac.

NHRA Members can get bonus coverage of the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Exclusive news, notes, quotes, and features are all part of the offerings presented at each event by the staff of National Dragster magazine, the official publication of the NHRA, and Portatree.

Click here to check it out

A nonstop parade of Sportsman cars is pouring onto the racetrack for their opening runs of the season.

[11:30 a.m.] NHRA flipped the script on the traditional pre-race press conference, choosing to hold it in the pits and have it open to all fans instead of at a remote location the day before. Fans were able to ask questions of the Mello Yello stars, who included 2012 champs Antron Brown, Jack Beckman, and Allen Johnson, as well as John, Courtney, and Brittany Force, Tony Schumacher, Ron Capps, and Del Worsham.
  (Left) Sisters Courtney, left, and Brittany Force got a huge welcome from the partial Southern California crowd. Courtney, last year's top rookie, is beginning her second season in the Funny Car class, and Brittany is making her Pro debut in Top Fuel. (Below) All of the drivers entered the press conference to a literal red-carpet introduction, high-fiving fans along the way as they made their way to the stage.

  The Hot Rod Junction display in the pit area will showcase all kinds of hot rodding fun this weekend, including hot street cars that were named winners at the NHRA Museum's monthly Twilight Cruise and nostalgia cars like those shown here.

Middle and high school students are taking part at the track in the Ten 80 STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Student Racing Challenge. Teams work on radio-controlled vehicles with challenges in marketing, aerodynamics, race engineering, robotics, mechanical engineering, alternative energies, and project planning. To learn more about the program, log on to

[2:30 p.m.] V. Gaines (above) has the first official points lead of the 2013 Mello Yello season after putting down the best number of the first Pro Stock qualifying session, a 6.538, in his Kendall Dodge. Jason Line (below) had the next-best time, a 6.541 in his Summit Camaro. Mike Edwards was No. 3 with a 6.545.

 [3:40 p.m.] SoCal Funny Car favorite Gary Densham (above) was the surprise No. 1 qualifier after the first session with a 4.05. The surprises got a little more extreme after the finish line as Densham's parachutes did not deploy and he ended up in the sand trap, damaging his new body.

Last year's top rookie, Courtney Force (right) qualified No. 2 with her Traxxas Mustang at 4.07.

[3:45 p.m.] Brittany Force had an unceremonious official welcome to Top Fuel in her new Castrol Edge Top Fueler as the car rolled the beams while staging, forcing her to shut off on the starting line.

[4 p.m.] Brandon Bernstein, last season's final Top Fuel winner in Pomona, and his new-look dragster grabbed the provisional pole with a 3.76, just ahead of Tony Schumacher's 3.77.