With less than a month before the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season launches with the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, race teams across the country already are either deep into preparations for or already engaged in preseason testing for what is promising to be another hotly contested series of championships.
Vehicle counts remain strong across all four of the classes in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, with fields expected to remain at the same strength as last season despite a still-tough economy.
Funny Car will have just as many full-time competitors in 2014, with the major change being Tommy Johnson Jr. replacing the retiring Johnny Gray in the family flopper, although Gray has not ruled out an occasional return to competition.
Chad Head, one of last year’s contenders for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as top rookie, will run at least 19 of the 24 events (up from 17 last year), and with father/tuner Jim reenergized in his role outside the car, they may run the entire circuit.
Likewise, an near-equal number of Top Fuel teams have pledged to run the entire 24-event circuit this year, down just one from last season. Although the Morgan Lucas Racing team did drop its second entry, driven by Brandon Bernstein, new MLR driver Richie Crampton’s on-track efforts will be joined by a second car wheeled by former lead driver Morgan Lucas for at least eight to 10 events this season. Second-year drivers Leah Pritchett and the Dote Racing team and Billy Torrence’s Capco Contractors group are both expected to increase their schedules from 2013.
As is always the case in Top Fuel and Funny Car, the usual strong field of regional, part-time competitors will help ensure full fields across the schedule.
Despite an almost unprecedented amount of shuffling of drivers and crew chiefs, Pro Stock’s full-time contingent will be on par with past years. Although former season champ Mike Edwards has sold his racing operation to Chris McGaha, McGaha plans to run the entire 24-race series after a 13-event campaign last year.
Race fans will need an event program to keep track of their favorite drivers following Vincent Nobile’s departure from the world championship J&J Racing team to the powerful KB Racing stable, Erica Enders-Stevens’ move from Cagnazzi Racing to the Elite Performance team, and former Enders-Stevens crew chief Dave Connolly and Shane Gray forming a strong two-car team at Gray Motorsports.
To purchase tickets for the Circle K NHRA Winternationals, call NHRA, 800-884-6472, or log on to NHRATix.com.