Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – COMMERCE, GA – The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Georgia’s House of Speed, Atlanta Dragway, on May 3-5 for the 39th annual Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals, powering back to one of the long-established events on the circuit.
It is the seventh of 24 events in the 2019 season, and the annual stop just outside of Atlanta has been home to an array of memorable moments and incredible action for nearly four decades. The ground-shaking intensity of the 300-mph, 10,000-horsepower nitro-breathing machines in NHRA racing has been a staple at Atlanta Dragway, and that excitement will continue in 2019.
Teams in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle will again battle for race victories and critical world championship points as the 2019 season heats up. Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 5. Competition in the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Presented by J&A Service will also take place at Atlanta Dragway.
Pritchett grabbed her first career victory at Atlanta Dragway in Top Fuel a year ago, and she will look to add another and get her first win of 2019 in the process. But it won’t be easy for Pritchett, as she’ll face off against a talented host of star drivers, including defending world champion Steve Torrence, a two-time Atlanta winner, points leader Doug Kalitta, who has three Atlanta wins, Clay Millican, Terry McMillen, 2017 world champion Brittany Force, Gainesville winner Richie Crampton, Antron Brown, a six-time Atlanta winner, Mike Salinas and Scott Palmer.
Force may not be racing this year, but her former John Force Racing Funny Car teammate Robert Hight has been impressive in 2019 thus far. Hight, a two-time world champion, has wins in two of the first three events, also qualifying No. 1 at the first three races. But success is difficult to come by in Funny Car, and Hight, who has three career Atlanta wins, will have his work cut out for him going against Phoenix winner Matt Hagan, seven-time track winner John Force, defending world champion and most recent winner J.R. Todd, 2016 world champ Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, Shawn Langdon, Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Bob Tasca.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class makes its fourth of 16 appearances in 2019 at the event, with everyone chasing Andrew Hines, who won the season-opening race in Gainesville. Hines will look to build on that as he seeks his sixth world championship, but he’ll have to go up against the likes of teammate and defending event winner Eddie Krawiec, a four-time winner at the track. Others to watch include defending world champion Matt Smith, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, Las Vegas winner Hector Arana Jr., Angie Smith, and previous event winners Hector Arana Sr. and Karen Stoffer.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service has its fourth of 12 races in the 2019 season. Todd Tutterow won the first race of the season over Stevie “Fast” Jackson, while the class also includes popular drivers Erica Enders, Alex Laughlin, defending world champ Mike Janis and three-time champ Rickie Smith. The event also features exciting competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration.
As always, fans can 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 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.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Atlanta Dragway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 3 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 4, at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 5.