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The season-opening event of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series concluded Sunday at the 58th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented byProtectTheHarvest.com at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) were victorious in their respective categories at the first of 24 events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Matt Hagan took home the Funny Car victory with a 3.823-second pass at 335.90 mph in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T to defeat defending world champion Robert Hight in the final round. Hagan defends his Winternationals crown after winning the season-opening event last season en route to a four-win campaign, as he now increases his career win total to 27.
“Keeping our team upbeat, confident and starting the year up on a positive note is good for our team to set goals, no matter how hard they may be to obtain,” Hagan said. “Everything was clicking this weekend and even more than the parts and pieces it’s about having the right guys to use what we have. So far we’ve done it well.”
After qualifying in the top position, Hagan took down Jim Campbell, Cruz Pedregon, and Ron Capps on the road to victory.
Hight qualified second and defeated Jeff Diehl, J.R. Todd and Jack Beckman as he recorded his 24th career runner-up finish.
Kalitta powered to the win with a run of 3.779 at 324.28 in his Mac Tools dragster to take down Tony Schumacher. After finishing as the runner-up at the 2017 Winternationals, Kalitta emerged victorious at the season-opening event for the second time in his career.
“I tip my hat to my guys because I couldn’t do it without him and it’s really special to get a win at a track with so much history,” Kalitta said. “We feel like we have the team in place to have a successful season but I’m really proud of Jim Oberhofer (crew chief) and what he has done for all of our teams.”
Kalitta qualified fifth and took down teammate Richie Crampton, Scott Palmer, and No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican en route to his 44th career win.
Tony Schumacher reached his first final round since Atlanta last season, after besting Terry McMillen, Terry Haddock, and Antron Brown.
In Pro Stock, Butner took home the victory after driving to a 6.549 at 209.62 run in his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevy Camaro to take down teammate Jason Line in the final round. He locked in his sixth career victory as he attempts to defend his Pro Stock world championship this season.
“Both my crew and my car have been running smooth recently, and we are just trying to keep riding that wave,” Butner said. “I feel great in this car and I have all the confidence in the world in my crew.”
Butner entered Sunday sixth in qualifying before taking down Tanner Gray, Greg Anderson, and Erica Enders as his 2018 title defense started in victorious fashion.
The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues with the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park Feb. 23-25.