The 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is in full force, and the sport’s major stars will descend upon Atlanta for the 34th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 16-18, at Atlanta Dragway.
The best in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle will try their hand at a victory in the Peach State. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals is the only place in the Deep South to see the high-speed, high-horsepower thrill of a Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. Atlanta Dragway is fast and furious, and it takes the best of the best to tame its hollowed grounds.
In Top Fuel, Brown took home his third career victory in Atlanta, defeating Brandon Bernstein in the final. The 2012 world champ is off to a great start in 2014 with wins in Phoenix, Charlotte, and Houston. With his proven success at the track, Brown is ready to pilot his Matco Tools dragster to a fourth win in Atlanta, which would tie him for the most wins in Top Fuel with Larry Dixon.
Early-season points leader Doug Kalitta has reached the final in four of the six races in 2014, with his third career win in Gainesville being the highlight. Kalitta has two wins in Atlanta, coming back to back in 2005 and 2006. With his big start to the year, this could be the time that Kalitta breaks his eight-year Atlanta drought.
Tony Schumacher returned to the winner’s circle in Las Vegas in March for his 73rd career win. The seven-time Top Fuel world champ has a résumé most drivers dream of, but he has one blip in relation to Atlanta Dragway. Four times a runner-up, Schumacher has never tasted victory in Atlanta and would love to add a Georgia win to his résumé.
Others to watch in the Top Fuel field include defending world champ Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, 2012 Atlanta winner Steve Torrence, defending Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner Brittany Force, and J.R. Todd.
Sixteen-time Funny Car world champ John Force has seven wins in Atlanta, the most for any driver in a Pro category. But it’s been nine years since the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang has been in the winner’s circle at the track.
Defending race winner Johnny Gray stepped out of his Funny Car with Don Schumacher Racing last season. His replacement, Tommy Johnson Jr., sits seventh in points and has had a successful start to the season in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger.
Two-time Funny Car world champ Tony Pedregon has three wins in Atlanta, and 2012 world champ Jack Beckman has two. The driver of the Valvoline Dodge Charger struggled to open the 2014 season, but his runner-up in Houston and a third win in Atlanta could turn the tide around.
Robert Hight moved past Kenny Bernstein on the all-time Funny Car wins list following his victory in Charlotte, the 31st win of his career, then added No. 32 in Houston. The John Force Racing driver has raced his Auto Club Ford Mustang to two victories in Atlanta. Hight may be the hottest driver to start the season in Funny Car: the 2009 champ has reached the final round in the last five races, winning three of them.
Alexis DeJoria is currently third in points and could make history in Atlanta. Having already won twice this season, DeJoria could be the driver to reach the 100th win by a female driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. DeJoria’s win in Las Vegas was the 97th win, and the series currently sits at 99.
Courtney Force would love to emulate her sister’s success in Atlanta after Ashley Force Hood won here in 2008, becoming the first female to win a Funny Car event. With that history in mind, Atlanta may be just the place for the 100th win by a female driver.
Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Cruz Pedregon, and Bob Tasca III are a few of the other Funny Car competitors who are expected to compete for the victory.
The Pro Stock category will see a new winner this season as Mike Edwards sits out the 2014 season. Odessa, Texas’ Chris McGaha purchased Edwards’ race equipment and his Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevy Camaro has been fast early, securing two No. 1 qualifiers so far this season.
Jimmy Alund piloted his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro to his first career victory in Charlotte, becoming the first European winner in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, but has relinquished the seat in that car to Greg Anderson, who will be in his second event following his return after pre-season surgery. His KB Racing teammate Jason Line took the season opener in Pomona, and the team will want to represent their sponsor well in Atlanta.
Jeg Coughlin Jr., a five-time champion, has two wins in Atlanta but will be looking for his first since 2010. The defending champ hasn’t been up to speed yet to start the season and is looking for his first win. Teammate Allen Johnson has two wins so far in 2014 and will be looking for his second career Atlanta Dragway victory and first since 2002.
Erica Enders-Stevens completed the double-double in Las Vegas, winning the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the official Las Vegas Pro Stock event, then added a hometown win in Houston. Enders-Stevens has won eight races, currently third most all time by a female driver. Her victory in Houston was the 99th win by a female driver, and her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro could be the machine that hits 100. Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock Motorcycle have had female winners in Atlanta, and Enders-Stevens is poised to possibly become the first female Atlanta winner in Pro Stock.
Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Vincent Nobile are among the Pro Stock drivers who will be vying for a win in Atlanta. Connolly has one career victory at the track coming in 2006.
Pro Stock Motorcycle will return to Atlanta Dragway in 2014 for the first time since 2012. Eddie Krawiec, a three-time world champ, won this event in 2012 and has a second victory in 2009.
Steve Johnson (Gainesville) and Andrew Hines (Charlotte) have taken victories so far this season, and both would love to get a second win in the season in Atlanta. Hines has tasted success in Georgia before, prevailing in 2008 and 2010. Defending world champ Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Hector Arana Sr., and Michael Ray will all be looking to add their name to the list of Atlanta winners.
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will make its third stop of the 2014 season at Atlanta Dragway. Mike Castellana took the opening race in Gainesville, and Mike Janis scored in Houston. Defending champion Rickie Smith reached the Pro Mod final in Florida and is looking for a second straight world championship in the doorslammer category.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, May 16, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 17, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 18. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, May 16, at 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 17, at noon and 2 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.nhratix.com or call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger are free.