BUY TICKETS NOW
BUY TICKETS NOW    |    TV SCHEDULE
X
X

NHRA Arizona Nationals Friday Notebook

Tony Schumacher reset the Top Fuel national speed record while Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) snagged the provisional poles at the NHRA Arizona Nationals.
23 Feb 2018
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Phoenix

Preview | Features | Results | Photos

QUALIFYING ROUND RECAPS

mcgaha3.jpgPRO STOCK Q1 (1:50 p.m.): Chris McGaha may be running a new motor, but it certainly didn’t hurt his performance. The driver of the silver and black Camaro ended the first qualifying session at the top of the heap with a 6.549-second pass, just ahead of Jason Line (6.553) and Erica Enders (6.554). One of his teammates (Greg Anderson, 6.558, fourth) fared better than the other two (Bo Butner, 6.572, sixth and Deric Kramer, 8.003, 14th). That’s still better than Tanner Gray, whose team has yet to crack the tune-up on the Gray Motorsports Camaro. Gray squared the tires immediately and shoved the clutch back in. He’s currently qualified No. 16.

courtney.jpgFUNNY CAR Q1 (2:24 p.m.): Courtney Force picked up right where she left off in testing, running a 3.849 to move to the top of the heap. That’s only a hundredth behind what she ran during preseason testing to pace the Funny Car field. Tommy Johnson Jr. was the next closest racer, nearly a full three-hundredths behind Force, and teammate Jack Beckman was another .021 second behind him. 16 of the 17 cars on the property went to the starting line, but only 15 made passes as Shawn Langdon had trouble at the line and decided not to make his pass. So, John Force is at the bottom of the 15-car order with a 9.26-second time slip while his daughter at the top. That’s just how it works sometimes.

shoe.jpgTOP FUEL Q1 (3 p.m.): Tony Schumacher broke both ends of the track record and ran the fastest official speed in class history with a blast of 3.649 at 334.65 mph to seize the No. 1 spot. Schumacher’s speed exceeds the 334.15-mph blast made by Shawn Langdon more than five years ago in Reading and is a new national record, breaking Brittany Force's mark of 333.66, set last year in Topeka. The old track records were 3.658 (Leah Pritchett) and 330.39 ( Force). Schumacher’s run, which had a blistering 660-foot speed of 299.20 mph, was almost a half-tenth quicker than the No. 2 time of 3.692 recorded by Steve Torrence with Blake Alexander third at 3.705. Force made her first run since her accident and smoked the tires a few hundred feet into the run.

alex.JPGPRO STOCK Q2 (4:52 p.m.): The first day of Pro Stock qualifying ends with Alex Laughlin and the Hot Wheels Car Care Products Camaro in the No. 1 spot. If Laughlin can hold on to the pole position, it will be his first green hat since the 2016 Denver event. That would just continue Laughlin’s fine start to the 2018 campaign. It was also a pretty solid day for Chris McGaha, who ended up as the No. 2 qualifier and captured five bonus points along the way. That’s all while using his third motor of the season. It was not as great a day for Jeg Coughlin Jr., Tanner Gray, or Vincent Nobile, who will not be thrilled to be in the bottom half of the field. That’s okay – that’s what Saturday qualifying is for.

beckman2.jpgFUNNY CAR Q2 (5:25 p.m): Jack Beckman stole the No. 1 spot away from first-session leader Courtney Force, matching her 3.845 but at a faster speed, 332.43 to her 328.70, to grab the top position. Sophomore sensation Jonnie Lindberg jumped into the No. 3 spot with the second-best pass of the session, a career-best 3.866 in Jim Head’s Toyota. Cruz Pedregon was just a few ticks away from his personal best, running a 3.888 for the third bonus point and moved him into the No. 5 spot behind Tommy Johnson Jr.’s earlier 3.879.

shoe2.jpgTOP FUEL Q2 (6 p.m.): Tony Schumacher stayed atop the field with his first-session 3.649, the fifth quickest pass in Top Fuel history, then added the fastest speed in class history in Q2 with a jaw-dropping blast of 336.57 mph on a 3.661 pass. Schumacher’s .66 was not the best of the round as Steve Torrence ran 3.655 (seventh quickest all-time) alongside him to move into the No. 2 spot. Earlier in the session, national e.t. record holder Clay Millican briefly reset the national speed record with a run of 335.23, the first pass in excess of 335 mph, before it was supplanted by more than a full mph by Schumacher’s ripper. Millican’s 3.664 e.t. sits in the No. 3 spot. By day's end, four of the 10 fastest passes in class history had been recorded.

A_Laughlin.jpgPro Stock low qualifier Alex Laughlin: “It’s awesome to be able to go to bed as the No. 1 qualifier. Obviously, a lot can happen tomorrow, but when we tested out here before the season we were running stellar numbers. I don’t know if it’s the car, the track, or if we’re just finally connecting the dots, but we shook in Q1 and we were a little timid the rest of the race, but this time my crew chief Mark Ingersoll let it all hang out and we went to the top.

“I haven’t had a chance to look at the data yet, but I have been hitting the chip at a low gear, and so we raised the shift light a little bit and I for sure made a solid and clean run that time. It was only .972 to 60 feet, whereas we were running in the .960s a few weeks ago. So, is there more left in the car? Maybe some, and I’ll admit that.”

J_Beckman.JPGFunny Car low qualifier Jack Beckman: "For you folks that live in Indy, it’s not that cold, but for a California boy, it’s freezing. It’s one of those days that you look forward to putting on a fire suit and a helmet. When it’s this cold the track gets so tricky. People think that colder is always better, and it is to a point, and then it kinda tips over to where it gets so cold to where it gets so cold where the window for making a run gets tiny. I like the fact that we were able to make back to back really good runs, especially after Pomona."

On his confidence heading into Saturday: "Usually if you have conditions like this you say, ‘well we won’t race in these.’ Usually those Friday night hero runs are kind of throwaway data for crew chiefs because you won’t see those conditions again. But I think we’ll see these conditions again on Saturday and I think we’ll race in them on Sunday, so what makes me feel confident is that we have great data that will be used again in the next two days."

T_Schumacher.JPGTop Fuel low qualifier Tony Schumacher: “This was just the perfect storm. We had the right conditions; the track was good and smooth and was prepped correctly and we’ve got a car with good power. Everything is working right. We were low e.t. of every run in Pomona, so we knew we were bringing a tune-up that was really good, and then we’re able to fine-tune it here.

“This track is fast; even when we tested Leah [Pritchett] made some great runs here. This track has always been that way. We ran 330 in 1999 four years before anyone else did it. For me, this track has always been a record-setting track, and we’ve won a lot here [five times].”

Friday Recap: Schumacher sets national speed record; Beckman, Laughlin grab Friday poles 

FEATURES

brittany1.jpgBrittany Force put her “ugly” Winternationals crash in the rear-view mirror when she made her opening attempt during Q1 here. The reigning NHRA Mello Yello champ’s Monster Energy car lost traction partway through the run and she coasted through to a 4.454 at 172 mph.

“My thoughts were all over the place [before the run],” she admitted. “It definitely feels good to be back. That crash was ugly.”

Final determination to run this weekend came after Force, who “got beat up pretty bad” in the first-round wreck, was cleared by her doctor and NHRA medical officials, and after she tried out the cockpit Thursday.

“I got in [the car] yesterday, got suited up and belted in and felt good,” she said. “I have to say thank you to the fans, my sponsors, all of my NHRA family for all the support

"This is what we do. I’ve been out here for six years and never had a mishap, but they come in drag racing. I was always wondering when it was going to happen. We’ve gone back and looked at it and we know what happened, so we’ll just move on from there. It’s good to be back; these racetracks are home.”

notebook-bug.jpg
C_Millican.JPGClay Millican is racing with a heavy heart with the passing earlier this week of his 78-year-old father, Jimmie, but was under “instructions” from his dad to not miss the race.

“He’d been sick for a good little while [congenital heart failure] and that was always his thing; he said he didn’t care if I was in the staging lanes when I found out, that I had to finish what I was doing,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’ve had ‘practice’ at going through this [Millican lost his 22-year-old son, Dalton, to a highway accident in August 2015]; Dalton prepared me for whatever’s thrown at me, so I’m OK. It’s not fun for us, but it’s better for him. It’s been rough, but it’s as good as it can be for us. If you see me smiling this weekend, it’s because I’m thinking about him.”

notebook-bug.jpg

leah.JPG
Don Schumacher Racing has a great handle on Wild Horse Motorsports Park. It doesn’t take a great memory to know that – Leah Pritchett won and set the then national elapsed time record in Top Fuel here last season. Pritchett also won the 2016 Top Fuel Phoenix event, though it was while driving with Bob Vandergriff Racing.

All told, DSR owns 14 of the last 20 Nitro Wallys won at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. That’s an impressive tally and bodes well for the team as it heads to the desert for the second time in a month. The current U.S. Army team, made up of Pritchett, Antron Brown, and Tony Schumacher, have bagged the last six Top Fuel Wallys.

Schumacher owns the most Top Fuel Wallys in track history, while Brown is tied with Kenny Bernstein, Cory McClenathan, and Larry Dixon with three apiece. Pritchett is chasing her third-straight Phoenix Wally, which would put her on par with some great company and make up for a not-so-stellar start to her season.

“Everybody goes to the race to win and that’s our number-one goal, but we have a couple of hurdles since the test that are our top priority to solve,” said Pritchett. “Last year, it was all about what we did at Pomona and, right now, we are definitely on the offense and defense at the same time. We are much more focused on our own racecar and the mechanics behind it to get to that place where winning for the third consecutive time is possible.”

For obvious reasons, Phoenix has become a favorite destination for Pritchett in particular. The racer, helped considerably by masterful tuning from crew chief Todd Okuhara, lit up scoreboards in both testing and during the national event in 2017.

“It has actually climbed up the ladder to my number one spot,” said Pritchett. “Pomona used to be my number-one track because it’s my hometown track. Given the success I have had at Phoenix. The records that we’ve set both officially and unofficially there, and it’s where I won my first race and have the most wins.”

Pritchett unofficially set a new speed record during Phoenix testing with a pass at 334.73 mph. That’s faster than Shawn Langdon’s 334.15 mph, which is the quickest pass ever recorded (Reading 2012), but not the national record because he didn’t record the necessary backup. Brittany Force’s 333.66 pass in Topeka in 2017 is the current national record, set in a time (uh, now) when backups are no longer required.

All eyes will be on Pritchett (and the scoreboard) every time the Mopar dragster approaches the starting line.

notebook-bug.jpg

ring.jpgKebin Kinsley, last year’s Cinderella Top Fuel runner-up at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, is making just his second start since that wonderful Labor Day weekend in Roger Hennen’s RoadRage dragster, but the team comes to Phoenix loaded with enthusiasm and new parts.

Hennen, who was so thrilled with the Indy weekend that he bought custom rings for everyone on the team, usually doesn’t start the season until Houston in April, but this year they’re off to an early start. After Indy they ran only the Dallas national event but spent the winter gearing up with new Alan Johnson Stage 7 cylinder heads and improvements in the blower to aid veteran crew chief Donnie Bender. 

“I’m very blessed to have a team owner like Roger,” said Kinsley, a former national event winner in Top Alcohol Funny Car still looking for his first Top Fuel score. “And Donnie has been a huge help to our team; he’s a genius. Me, I’m just living the dream getting to drive it. That weekend is Indy was amazing for this team. What a boost.”

kinsley.jpgSheared blower pulley bolts potentially cost them that Indy final, so the team has, naturally addressed that issue. The team changed their blower snout to one with more holes, allowing them to rotate the holes they use to mount the pulley and rotating the bolts themselves more frequently.

“The faster you go, the faster it chews up parts,” he admitted. “There’s stuff you wouldn’t break at one power level, but at this level it picks on everything. It’s crazy.”

After this event, the car will be sent back to the Kalitta Motorsports shop in Michigan to be front-halved so that it’s legal when the new chassis rules became mandatory at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. They won’t run the Four-Wides, but again will compete in Houston and other events this year.

notebook-bug.jpg
blake.jpg
Blake Alexander officially begins a new era in his career in his first official race with Bob Vandergriff Racing. Alexander, who competed in Funny Car for a number of years before switching to Top Fuel last year, where he rented the Worsham Racing dragster, is looking forward to a minimum 10-race campaign with Vandergriff’s solid organization, crew chief Ron Douglas, and longtime backer Pronto Auto Service Center.

Testing here went well as few weeks ago went extremely well with runs of 3.75 and 3.77. The .75 came on an early shutoff run that could have been a low 3.70.

“It was pretty comparable early to what Leah [Pritchett] ran, but they run so much better on the back half,” he noted. Life is good, and I’m going to try my best to help wherever I can, especially with my driving. My average reaction time, in the five races I ran last year, was .054. I’m not saying I’m great but I take pride in it, and that was in a car that doesn’t 60-foot like this one does. I’m just playing my cards the best I can; I have a 2 and 7 compared to some of the people out here, but I’m going to play it."

After this event, the team will run in both Houston and Atlanta before heading into a heavier midseason schedule.

notebook-bug.jpg
totten.jpgThe Phoenix event marks the official Top Fuel debut of Terry Totten in his Nebraska-based TNT Racing dragster. Rob Passey drove the car at a couple of events last year, with tuning guidance from veteran fuel tuner Don “Mr. Magoo” Sosenka, but now it’s Totten’s turn.

Totten, who began his licensing efforts at last year’s Spring Training event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, completed his licensing after the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex last October with a best of 3.91 behind the wheel of Terry Haddock’s dragster.

Haddock has also been instrumental in getting the team’s parts lined out, especially the clutch, which was causing them a lot of grief last season.

“We took the car to Terry’s shop and tore it all down,” he explained. “We wanted to make sure everything was decked and squared to find out what was making it not run. It ended up all being related to the clutch and causing us to hurt a lot of parts. Terry has all the fixtures to check all of the finger heights, and after going through it we found out that everything was tipped way up, way too aggressive, so we went back to a standard level to slow the clutch down. We also went to a different rod and piston combination because our compression was too high. Our goal now is to wear parts out instead of blowing them  up.

“We’ll probably just start with a half pass in Q2 and then maybe get after it in Q3 Saturday,” he said. “We’re going to take some baby steps to get to where we need to be.”

If all goes well this weekend, the team will compete at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas and then the Houston event and their “home” race in Topeka.

notebook-bug.jpg

dragstersmall.jpgRacing at Wild Horse Motorsports Park makes Funny Car veteran Del Worsham feel a little nostalgic. The former world champion had already racked up a pair of wins in his rookie season (1991) when he signed on with Phoenix-based CSK Auto in 1997, but that sponsorship gave Del and his father Chuck the backing they needed to put together an incredibly strong team.

“That was one phone call that changed everything,” Worsham said. “We had won two races during my rookie season, in 1991, but hadn’t been back to the Winner’s Circle since and we were basically just getting along as best we could. It was a small sponsorship, compared to what a lot of the big teams had, but we saw it as a deal that had a lot of room to grow and that’s exactly how it all developed.”

Worsham won 20 times between 1999 and 2008, including twice in Phoenix (2002, 2004). Those memories stuck with Worsham, who is back racing with his dad for the second year in a row after a handful of successful seasons racing elsewhere. He had most recently raced with Kalitta Motorsports, winning the Funny Car championship in 2015.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget any of it, and Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park feels a lot like home because of it. CSK also sponsored the race for many years and we won it twice for them, with the entire executive staff rooting for us. The first time, the cover of National Dragster had a headline that read “Not In Our House!’ and that one definitely got framed.”

We’re definitely ones for flattery, so we dug up a copy of the eighth issue of the 2002 edition of National Dragster (pictured here). That’s Worsham’s Funny Car, front and center, defeating John Force. In the top photo, you can just make out his dad celebrating his son’s victory. This weekend, they’ll get after it again – just like in the old days, chasing win No. 32 in a flopper. Seeing Chuck on the starting line is enough to make any long time NHRA Drag Racing fan feel nostalgic; seeing him on the starting line in Phoenix? Even more so.

notebook-bug.jpg
jack.JPG
The season got off to a solid, but frustrating start to the Infinite Hero team. Jack Beckman reached the semifinals, where he bowed out to defending Funny Car champion Robert Hight. More accurately, Beckman didn’t get more than 100 feet before his chance at reaching the final round ended. At the time, the problem wasn’t exactly clear – now, Beckman and company know.

“The instant we started, we started shredding the blower belt,” said Beckman. “We just found the issue because the rig stayed out here. So, we did a quick post mortem at Pomona and didn’t find a smoking gun and loaded up. On the crank snout, there’s a support on there, and then the crank pulley bolts on. The race failed on that support and let it move up there.

“Now, it loosens the belt and it wants to track forward. There’s a flange on the end of the idler pulley, so you’ve got what looks like a spool of thread with caps on each end. When the belt starts running this way (imagine Jack moving his hands a lot – he does this a lot) it looks like a freaking cheese grater. Every time they opened the body, I just saw parts of the blower flying everywhere, and I just thought to myself, ‘oh I’ve seen this movie before.’”

Beckman was the No. 3 qualifier in Pomona, making it four-straight races that “Fast Jack” qualified in the top three (dating back to Dallas). He’s made it to the semifinals in each of those races, but no further. His last final-round appearance was in Norwalk, where he beat Hight to capture his second Wally of the season.

“I don’t know if we had anything for (teammate Matt Hagan’s crew chief) Dickie (Venables) in the final, but I think we had the best semifinal round car, and that’s what stings,” said Beckman. “Like if you overachieve, that’s a good weekend, but if you go into the semifinals going 3.90, 3.93 without even pushing it? Knowing you’re going to go 3.85 without putting the screws to it? That’s frustrating. But, better it be Pomona 1 than Pomona 2.”

The Infinite Hero driver has plenty of history at Wild Horse Motorsports Park. His first race was at the Chandler track in 1992, and he has three wins (2008, 2010, 2011). A strong start to the season moved him into third place in the standings; a win at the Phoenix-area track could put move on top for the first time since Indy in 2015.

notebook-bug.jpg

jeg.JPG
Jeg Coughlin Jr. is the only driver in NHRA Drag Racing history to win national event Wallys in seven different categories. This weekend, at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Coughlin will look to increase that number to eight as he looks for victory in both Pro Stock (a category he has 58 wins in -- that's the car pictured above) and Top Sportsman, a category he has never raced in.

"My brother Mike raced Top Sportsman for many years, winning a couple of D3 titles in that class, and I can tell you from watching him race it's an extremely tough eliminator," Coughlin said. "I'm excited to give it a go and having the honor of racing Phil Unruh's brand new Corvette is super special. Phil's a regular in our JEGS Allstars races, which speaks volumes of his ability and
his equipment.”

Coughlin has wins in Pro Stock, Comp, Super Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Gas, and Top Dragster, leaving just a handful of Sportsman categories off his list at this point in his storied career.

"I know I will have the best car and motor possible, so the pressure will be on me to execute behind the wheel,” he said. “I do enjoy the races where I have more than one car because you really stay in the zone, as it were, all weekend. This should be fun."

Coughlin fell in the first round of the season-opener to teammate Erica Enders after qualifying 10th. That’s not quite the kind of power the Jegs team was hoping to make, and while he was within .003 second of his teammate in elapsed time, he gave up another .013 second at the starting line. “The Natural” sees an opportunity to bounce back in the second race of the season on a track the entire Elite Performance team ran well on during preseason testing.

"We were really fast in testing here and I think we should be able to unload with some good data we gained then," he said. "Time will tell here shortly but I would say we will definitely be tuning off our test runs, at least on Friday.”

notebook-bug.jpg
vincent.JPG
Vincent Nobile got his season off to a terrific start by securing his first pole position since 2016. He didn’t win the race, as he fell in the second round to new K.B. Racing customer Deric Kramer by .002 second, but there were plenty of positives to take from the season opener for the Mountain View Tire and Auto team.

“We qualified really well and lost a really close race to Deric Kramer that could have gone either way, and if we win that round who knows what happens, maybe we win the race,” said Nobile. “The performance of the car is really good, and I’m feeling good. We were just here testing before Pomona, testing on this track, so we have some notes to go by.”

Obviously that data mixes in with the data acquired from the Winternationals. What takes precedence when trying to put a tune-up in a car that’s still very green?

“It’s a little swayed, only because the starting line prep is a little different at a national event and you have a lot of cars going at a national event,” said Nobile. “The good thing is that fuel cars were here during testing, and I said it 100 times, that the preseason testing here in Phoenix was the best that I had ever been to. They had their stuff together, they had both lanes going, and being able to run behind fuel is a good test as well. I think our notes are going to correlate really well.”

It certainly helps that the first weekend jitters are out of the way not. While Nobile appeared to be mostly on point (at least if his .008 light in the second round is any indicator), he feels it takes a few races for everyone to get back into the swing of things.

“I think you’re going to say a bunch of the teams do better this weekend,” he said. “The first weekend is always a little bit of a mess in my opinion. … I would be shocked if the 16-car field is separated by more than .05.”

notebook-bug.jpg
_NDB4067.JPGChris McGaha had an adventurous weekend in Pomona. He arrived at Auto Club Raceway with his preferred motor in his silver and black Camaro, which he dubbed “experimental.” Then he discovered the oil pressure in it was low, forcing him to swap it out with a second motor which he thought would be at the very least serviceable.

It turned out to be very good in the first qualifying session, but McGaha thought he had fixed the issue in his experimental motor and put it back in the car before the third qualifying session. That, “bit us bad,” according to the Texan. McGaha ended up losing to Deric Kramer in the first round.

“We got home, and because the other motor didn’t have oil pressure, we didn’t think anything was wrong with it, and we ended up kicking the rods out of it on the dyno,” said McGaha. “Needless to say, we probably shouldn’t have been running it.”

So now, the team has a third motor in his Chevy, which he thinks will be the best option for his team – for now. Don’t worry, they’re still working on repairing the experimental motor ahead of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Confused? Don’t worry, just know that McGaha has a handle on it and is ready to get back on the track.

notebook-bug.jpg
grayinset.JPG
Tanner Gray didn’t get the season started the way he wanted during qualifying or on race day. The Pro Stock racer left on time on Sunday at Pomona, but he squared the tires as soon as he left the starting line and idled all the way down the track. His team struggled to make power all weekend, resulting in Gray qualifying No. 10.

That’s the first time he had qualified in the bottom half of the field since the 2017 Denver event. The racer, now in his sophomore season, thinks the team has its problem fixed after testing in Tucson before the NHRA Arizona Nationals.

“It’s tough to tell (how testing went) when you don’t have anything to base it off,” said Gray. “We think we got our problem fixed. We had a bad sensor and it was forcing our fuel pump to do some different things. I guess I’ll have a better answer for you after Q1.

“It wasn’t a lack of power, it’s just the fuel pump issue and that was causing the tune-up to go haywire. It’s just kind of chasing a ghost. I think if we do, we’ll be able to haul ass. The car itself is nice and is capable to make nice runs, which we were able to work on that a little bit which is nice.”

He knows with great weather conditions (and thin air), his Gray Motorsports Camaro should put up some solid numbers.

“If the weather can stay a little bit like this, you’ll see some pretty fast times,” he said.

PHOTOS

brittpit.jpg
Brittany Force watched anxiously as her Monster Energy team prepared her racecar for her first pass since her crash at the season opener.

torrencecar.jpg
The Torrence family has two Capco dragsters in action this weekend with Billy Torrence joining his son, Steve, at the event.

buff.jpg
After missing the season opener in Pomona, Bill Miller and driver Troy Buff are back in Top Fuel action.

langdon.jpg
Funny Car newcomer Shawn Langdon lost his first qualifying attempt with the Global Electronic Technology Toyota after a problem arose with the clutch pedal after the burnout.

hagan.jpg
Winternationals Funny Car winner Matt Hagan has changed from Mopar livery to Sandvik Coromant for the Phoenix event.

house.jpg
The Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley series is in competition again this weekend. Rickey House rode out this wild launch in Q1.

jets.jpg
Five jets helped close out the evening. From top, Tony Franco Jr. in the Lucas Oil Racing TV Missile; Timothy Smith in the American Freedom Fighter and Shelly Segal in FireStarter; and Scott Arriaga in Wicked Sinsation.

PREVIEW

The numbers thrown up on the board at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona during the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com where nothing to sneeze at, but it’s fair to say the weather forecasted for this weekend have teams licking their chops. Cool weather at Wild Horse Motorsports Park, especially given the recent history of the NHRA Arizona Nationals, could add up to national-record setting action on the track.

D_Kalitta.JPGRecords or not, Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team got their season off to an impressive start by turning on four win lights in Pomona. That was Kalitta’s first Winternationals victory since 2009, ending an eight-year drought at the season opener. A late-season surge put Kalitta in position to chase his first championship in 2017; he’s hoping to have a more even run in 2018. A couple of lucky rounds got him to the finish line but given the spate of bad luck he suffered through a season ago, it’s hard to say he didn’t have it coming.

M_Hagan.JPGMatt Hagan started the season the same way he kicked off the 2017 and 2015 campaigns: with a win at the Winternationals. He’s looking to continue the 2018 season the same way he continued those two seasons: with a win at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables have a great tune up at both early-season tracks; he has three final-round appearances in the desert and will seek his third Funny Car Wally at Wild Horse Motorsports Park this weekend.

B_Butner.JPGDefending Pro Stock champion Bo Butner extended his winning streak to two races by capturing his first Winternationals Wally to open the season. He earned his first-ever Pro Stock trophy at the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta a season ago, so Butner will chase his first NHRA Arizona Nationals win over the weekend. The K.B. Racing team has earned the last six Pro Stock Wallys, dating back to the second race of the 2017 Countdown to the Championship in Reading (won by Butner). That’s a streak every other car in the class is hoping to break up.