Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – MADISON, IL – With the stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series looking to make an early step to a world championship, World Wide Technology Raceway will come alive with the sights and unmistakable sounds of 11,000-horsepower, 300-mph action during the eighth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Sept. 27-29.
The highly-anticipated race just outside of St. Louis is the second of six races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and 20th of 24 races during the 2019 season. The fan-favorite stop on the NHRA circuit takes place early in the playoffs, giving world title contenders an ideal opportunity to make a championship impression. All the top stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will battle for critical championship points during the event, which starts with the new NHRA Prime Time qualifying during the second session on Friday. During Prime Time, drivers perform a burnout to their favorite songs played by an on-site DJ. The thrilling evening show, complete with a pyrotechnics display, is a perfect start to what will be another memorable weekend in St. Louis. Also on Friday, one lucky student will receive a $20,000 scholarship through the Folds of Honor program.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29. Winning St. Louis proved pivotal for three of the winners, as Torrence, Gray and Smith all won world titles.
Steve Torrence rolled in the Countdown to the Championship a year ago, winning in St. Louis and claiming victories at all six playoff races. It was the first world title for Torrence, who is determined to repeat. He’s the points leader on the strength of eight regular-season wins, but the road to a second title won’t be easy. Doug Kalitta won Indy and is ready to claim his first world title, while others to watch include 2017 world champ Brittany Force, three-time world champ Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, Richie Crampton, Clay Millican, Austin Prock, Mike Salinas and Billy Torrence.
Robert Hight won in dramatic fashion a year ago in Funny Car at St. Louis as his car exploded just past the finish line in the final round. Hight crashed and broke his collarbone, but he returned by the next race to compete for a championship. He fell just short to J.R. Todd, who claimed his first world title, but Hight enters the playoffs as the points leader. He’ll aim for his third title against a star-studded field that includes teammate John Force, who won in Indy, Todd, Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, Shawn Langdon, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan and Tim Wilkerson.
Alex Laughlin’s first career Pro Stock win came at St. Louis in 2016, and now the rising star will try to claim his first world title. He earned his first Countdown to the Championship berth this year and after winning at Indy, Laughlin has high hopes. But so do nine other championship contenders in the class, including points leader Bo Butner, the 2017 world champ, four-time world champion Greg Anderson, Jason Line, a three-time champ, two-time world champ Erica Enders, Deric Kramer, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., Matt Hartford, Val Smeland and Chris McGaha.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, everyone is chasing Andrew Hines heading into the Countdown to the Championship. The five-time world champ dominated the regular season to the tune of seven wins in 10 regular-season events. But there’s a number of two-wheeled standouts who will look to stop that streak in the playoffs, including defending world champ and race winner Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Indy winner Jerry Savoie, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, Angie Smith, Karen Stoffer, Hector Arana Jr., Hector Arana and Ryan Oehler.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, which will have its 10th of 12 races in 2019. The series will be presented by Mr. Race Oil in St. Louis, and the defending event winner is current points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson. The event includes the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will honor first responders with NHRA’s “Salute to First Responders” celebration.
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 Pro Stock Motorcycle School and Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. World Wide Technology Raceway will also 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. Another can’t-miss experience 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 victories.
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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:15 and 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 1:45 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.
NHRA ANNOUNCES 2020 PRO STOCK SCHEDULE
NHRA officials released the 2020 schedule for the Pro Stock category of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pro Stock teams will compete at 18 of the 24 events on the series. Throughout the year, NHRA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of this exciting and competitive class.
Pro Stock returns to several venues in 2020 including the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals in Houston, the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta and the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kan. Additionally, fans in Bristol, Tenn. and Epping, N.H. will see Pro Stock in action at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals and the NHRA New England Nationals.
Also of note, Pro Stock will compete in five events in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Points will be adjusted accordingly.
NHRA’s two nitro categories – Funny Car and Top Fuel – will participate at all 24 national events in the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Stay tuned all week to NHRA.com as we announce the national event specialty series schedules for the 2020 season including Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Mod, Factory Stock Showdown and Top Fuel Harley. The national event schedule for the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will be released later this fall.
2020 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES PRO STOCK SCHEDULE
NHRA Mello Yello Series Pro Stock Regular Season
Feb. 6-9 – Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, Pomona, Calif.
Feb. 21-23 – Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals, Phoenix
March 12-15 – AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.
April 3-5 – DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Las Vegas
April 17-19 – Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals, Houston
May 15-17 – NHRA Southern Nationals, Atlanta
June 12-14 – Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, Topeka, Kan.
June 19-21 – NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.
June 25-28 – Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, Ohio
July 24-26 – NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, Calif.
July 31-Aug.2 – Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals, Seattle
Aug. 21-23 – NHRA New England Nationals, Epping, N.H.
Sept. 2-7 – NHRA U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown To The Championship
Sept. 17-20 – Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa.
Sept. 25-27 – NHRA Carolina Nationals, Charlotte
Oct. 15-18 – AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Dallas
Oct. 29-Nov. 1 – Dodge NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas
Nov. 12-15 – Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.