One of the wildest days in Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series history ended with relatively expected champions. That didn’t take away from any of the drama, but it did confirm a lot of what we’ve learned over the last nine months: Namely, what teams had a leg up on everyone else.
That doesn’t always lead to a championship. The Countdown to the Championship format rewards getting your act together in time for the U.S. Nationals, which meant we had champions in 2017 and 2018 who had surged late. No one will say that about the four racers who collected big trophies on Sunday.
Steve Torrence and the Capco Contractors team managed a season nearly as impressive statistically in 2019 as they did in 2018. He finished with a 79.00 NHRA Power Ranking, just .63 lower than a year ago and won two more rounds despite winning two fewer races. His closest performance competitor in 2019 was his father, showing just how dominant the Torrence Racing team has become at this stage of its lifecycle.
Robert Hight entered the Countdown as the No. 1 seed on the back of an incredible start to the season. The team went through a mini-slump before the Western Swing but even that was based on its lofty standards. Hight led NHRA Power Rankings, much like the actual standings, nearly wire-to-wire. The Auto Club Chevy Camaro averaged a 3.933-second average elapsed time, a full hundredth quicker than the next car on the sheet –more than enough to overcome any of its inconsistencies getting down the track.
It took some time for Erica Enders and the Melling Performance team to get to the top of the NHRA Power Rankings, but she was always one of the front runners. Enders took advantage of her best-performing car since 2015 and drove it to her third championship in a field that remains incredibly tight. Her Camaro’s average elapsed time is identical to Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s and is a hundredth slower than the frontrunners at K.B. Racing; none of that mattered thanks to her incredible ability behind the wheel.
Andrew Hines aged 10 years on Sunday after turning on the red light in the first round against Jianna Salinas. His dream season-turned nightmare flipped right back to a dream when Salinas went on an incredible run to her first career victory. Nothing about what happened on Sunday is predictable, but his season of astonishing performance earned him his sixth championship. He was better than everyone else in Pro Stock Motorcycle by a ton in 2019 – even though many made a late push to catch him. He averaged a .037-second reaction time on a bike that went 6.864 on average while adding another Harley-Davidson to his tuning duties. This was a spectacular year for one of the greatest to ever put on a helmet.