A diverse field of seven rookie drivers representing the four NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series categories, Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, were announced by NHRA officials and the Automobile Club of Southern California as the eligible candidates for the 2019 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award.
The award, which is presented during the NHRA’s annual championship awards ceremony on Monday, Nov. 18 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, Calif., recognizes the top rookie competitor in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and offers a $20,000 prize and traditional trophy to the winner. The nation’s leading auto racing journalists select the winner through a voting system, which is currently in progress, based on the following criteria: number of events competed in, performance on and off the racetrack, participation in NHRA promotions and relationships with fans, sponsors and media.
The candidates for the prestigious award in 2019 are, in alphabetical order:
- Cristian Cuadra, Pro Stock
- Fernando Cuadra Jr., Pro Stock
- Cameron Ferre, Top Fuel
- Lex Joon, Top Fuel
- Austin Prock, Top Fuel
- Jianna Salinas, Pro Stock Motorcycle
- Jordan Vandergriff, Top Fuel
“For more than a century, the Automobile Club of Southern California has served our members’ communities, committed to improving traffic and driver safety and providing member services with integrity and professionalism,” said John Boyle, President and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. “Similarly, the Road to the Future Award which honors the newest racers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, has come to represent these same attributes in motorsports. The nominees this season have demonstrated competitiveness on the track and a commitment to the racing community off the track. They show exceptional potential for the future. On behalf of the Auto Club’s employees and members, I congratulate all of the candidates for this year’s award and look forward to see how they achieve great things in the future.”
The Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award and the NHRA Rookie of the Year Award were combined to create one award recognizing the future stars of the sport in 2002. Past winners of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award have developed into some of NHRA’s biggest stars, including Tony Pedregon (1996, Funny Car), Ron Capps (1997, Funny Car), Doug Kalitta (1998, Top Fuel), Antron Brown (1999, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Melanie Troxel (2000, Top Fuel), GT Tonglet (2001, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Gene Wilson (2002, Pro Stock); Brandon Bernstein (2003, Top Fuel); Jason Line (2004, Pro Stock); Robert Hight (2005, Funny Car); J.R. Todd (2006, Top Fuel); Ashley Force Hood (2007, Funny Car); Mike Neff (2008, Funny Car); Spencer Massey (2009, Top Fuel); L.E. Tonglet (2010, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Hector Arana Jr. (2011, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Courtney Force (2012, Funny Car); Brittany Force (2013, Top Fuel); Richie Crampton (2014, Top Fuel); Drew Skillman (2015, Pro Stock), Cory Reed (2016, Pro Stock Motorcycle) Tanner Gray (2017, Pro Stock), and Bill Litton (2018, Top Fuel).
NHRA Rookie of the Year winners prior to the merger of the two awards included the late Darrell Russell (2001, Top Fuel), Don Lampus (2000, Top Fuel), Scotty Cannon (1999, Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (1998, Pro Stock), Gary Scelzi (1997, Top Fuel) and co-winners in 1996, Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
In addition to the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, the company is the title sponsor for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. In addition, the company is the presenting sponsor for the California Hot Rod Reunion presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California, as well as the presenting sponsor for the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. It is also a major sponsor for John Force Racing.