The fields are set for the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. The top 10 drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle battled through NHRA's "regular" season for the right to compete for world championships in the Countdown. The 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, a six-race playoff battle begins in less than two weeks in Reading, Pa.
It took until the final event of the regular season, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, to set the field. Austin Prock in Top Fuel and Tim Wilkerson in Funny Car both clinched their spots as the result of qualifying at Indy, with Wilkerson's successful bid to make the field locking in the final spot in the class. The rest of the berth battles went into Monday's final eliminations.
In Top Fuel, Billy Torrence entered the event in 12th place and won his first-round race with Wayne Newby. That victory, combined with his son Steve's win against incoming 10th-place driver Terry McMillen moved Billy into the top 10. Directly behind that pair, Mike Salinas defeated 11th-ranked Scott Palmer, the last driver with a chance to fight his way into the top 10, securing the spot for Billy Torrence. Richie Crampton, who was was ninth and still vulnerable entering eliminations, also secured his spot as the result of the losses by McMillen and Palmer to seal the 10-car field.
In Pro Stock, veteran Kenny Delco was unable to hold on to his No. 10 spot, losing it to teammate Val Smeland. Delco lost his first-round race with Bo Butner while Smeland pulled off a huge upset in a wild race with Matt Hartford. Their closest rival, Fernando Cuadra, also lost in round one. It will be Smeland's first appearance in the Countdown to the Championship.
Karen Stoffer was the first of six Pro Stock Motorcycle riders to clinch at Indy, getting in as the result of her first-round win and losses by a number of her closest rivals. Angie Smith, Angelle Sampey, Jerry Savoie, Ryan Oehler, and Hector Arana Sr. all clinched in the second round after 11th-place Scotty Pollacheck and 12th-ranked Joey Gladstone failed to advance.
The following drivers have clinched their spots in the Countdown to the Championship (listed by order of clinch):
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Bob Tasca III
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Hector Arana Jr.
Hector Arana Sr.