POMONA, Calif. — The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will venture boldly into a brand new era when the tradition-rich Circle K NHRA Winternationals gets underway Feb. 11-14, at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Celebrating its 56th running, the iconic season-opener has always been on the top of every NHRA driver’s bucket list of dream races to win on the Mello Yello circuit. All of the new cars, new paint schemes, new uniforms and new drivers will be introduced at this event.
But that’s not all. It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons for the NHRA community in many years. Not only will there be new opportunities for championship dreams to be fulfilled for every driver, but a brand new era for the world’s fastest motorsport will be unleashed.
New TV partner FOX Sports will aim its cameras at the exciting side-by-side racing on the dragstrip for the very first time and showcase the sport with live coverage of Sunday eliminations at 17 events and provide more than 500 hours of NHRA programming on its family of networks. There’s new rules for the Pro Stock category that will help the factory hot rods recapture the 200 mph magic that makes the class a fan-favorite. There are many new rules in place to improve competition in other classes, and there’s even a bold new NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series logo.
NHRA will ask fans and drivers what they love about the sport in the new “MY NHRA” marketing campaign and NHRA’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Funny Car will also officially get underway.
Indeed, there will be a lot of newness floating around at Pomona, but one thing fans can count on is the same high-intensity, drama-filled competition that they have become accustomed to.
The best in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will once again attempt to get off to a lightning quick start at one of drag racing’s most revered events. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the race that will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live coverage of Sunday’s finals at 5 p.m. (ET).
In Top Fuel, defending world champ Antron Brown will battle against a tough field of contenders including U.S. Army dragster pilot Tony Schumacher, talented Aussie Richie Crampton, Brittany Force, Langdon, Steve Torrence and Quaker State dragster driver Leah Pritchett, among others.
Defending Funny Car world champ Del Worsham is a Southern California native and will open his title defense against a strong lineup of challengers, including national record holder and seven-time 2015 winner Jack Beckman, 16-time world champ John Force, Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Capps, Hagan, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight.
Line will try to win the Winternationals for a fifth time in the new-look NHRA Pro Stock category but will be challenged by two-time defending world champ Erica Enders and her new Dodge Dart teammate, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin. Others to watch in the 200-mph factory hot rod class include last year's top rookie, Drew Skillman, tough Texan Chris McGaha, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile, Bo Butner and veteran racers Larry Morgan and V. Gaines.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars will feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, removal of all hood scoops and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
As part of the Funny Car 50th anniversary celebration, there will be many nostalgia Funny Cars on display in the popular Hot Rod Junction, and several of them will make exhibition runs after thrilling the crowd with some long, smoky burnouts. One legendary Funny Car driver will be honored during pre-race ceremonies and many of the Funny Car legends will participate in a fan Q&A session that will be followed by a special autograph session that no fan will want to miss.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 13, also at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14.