The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season begins with a thrilling start at its annual iconic opener, the tradition-rich 58th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, Feb. 8-11 at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
It is the first of 24 events during the 2018 NHRA season, and winning the Winternationals has been a major goal for every NHRA driver for the past five-plus decades. Following an exciting 2017 season, the anticipation is high for a 2018 campaign that will be sure to entertain when the 10,000-horsepower nitro machines roar back to life in Pomona. New cars and new teams will also debut at the Winternationals, making it a must-see event to open the new racing year.
The top stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will try to get off to an ideal start at one of drag racing’s most revered events. Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage beginning at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11.
In Top Fuel, Brittany Force returns to the track where she clinched her first world title. Force became just the second woman in NHRA history to win a world title in Top Fuel, winning in Pomona in November to cap a dream season. She’ll look for her first Winternationals win, but it won’t be easy in a talent-filled class that includes defending event winner Leah Pritchett, who won two straight races to open 2017. Steve Torrence, who won eight races in 2017, leads a list of contenders including Antron Brown, six-time Pomona winner Tony Schumacher, veteran Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican and Terry McMillen, each of whom won their first career races in 2017.
Robert Hight will begin his second career Funny Car world championship defense in Pomona after a thrilling 2017 in which the veteran won four times during the second half of the season. Hight has four victories at Pomona, including three at the Winternationals, but competition will once again be tough in Funny Car. Hagan’s win a year ago was his fifth at Pomona, as he opened 2017 with back-to-back triumphs. Others to watch include 2016 world champ Ron Capps, who won the Winternationals the same year, Courtney Force, J.R. Todd, Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman, John Force and class newcomer Shawn Langdon.
Line won the Winternationals for a fifth time in Pro Stock, and the three-time world champion will look for another stellar start in the loaded class. The win at Pomona a year ago was one of two in 2017 for Line, who finished third in the points standings to KB Racing teammates Greg Anderson and Bo Butner, who clinched his first world title with his victory at the season-finale at Pomona. Others to watch in Pro Stock include Jeg Coughlin, 2013 Winternationals winner Vincent Nobile, Erica Enders, Tanner Gray, who was NHRA’s top rookie in 2017, and Drew Skillman, who had four wins last year.
The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills and the 2018 Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. All students can save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.