Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – LAS VEGAS, NV – With championships on the line, the high-stakes action of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will reach thrilling levels at the penultimate race of the 2019 season and the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil, which takes place Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The championship intensity will be apparent as all the stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle go all-in at one of the last stops of the season. The heart-pounding, 11,000-horsepower action includes the new and thrilling NHRA Prime Time qualifying during the second session on Friday. Drivers perform a burnout to their favorite jams played by an on-site DJ and the festive scene in Las Vegas provides the perfect backdrop. From there, the action will continue to be must-see as drivers look to leave their championship mark in the city of bright lights.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 3.
Thanks to a dominant run through the Countdown to the Championship, Steve Torrence clinched his first Top Fuel world title in Las Vegas a year ago, winning the event in the process. He ended up sweeping all six playoff races, but it’s been a different story in 2019. He was the runner-up to his father, Billy, in St. Louis to close to within two points of leader Doug Kalitta. The veteran Kalitta is chasing his first career world title, while the likes of 2017 world champ Brittany Force, who is 48 points back of Kalitta, Mike Salinas, Leah Pritchett and Antron Brown all pose major threats.
Todd’s dream Funny Car season included wins at Vegas and Pomona to close out a year that ended with his first championship. Todd swept the Vegas races a year ago and will look to do the same this season after winning the spring race for a second straight season. To win another fall race in crunch time, Todd, currently fifth in points, will have to take out leader Robert Hight, 16-time world champ John Force, Jack Beckman, who is 24 points behind Hight, Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon, who beat Todd in the St. Louis final round, Ron Capps and Bob Tasca.
Jason Line currently holds an 11-point lead over Erica Enders in Pro Stock, but Enders closed the gap thanks to her win in St. Louis. The two-time world champ is feeling strong and will look to cash in on that momentum with her fifth career victory at Vegas. Line, though, is after another world title and a third Vegas win would definitely help. Neither will have an easy time, as defending event winner Butner also has title hopes, sitting 22 points back. Matt Hartford, Alex Laughlin, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and eight-time Vegas winner Greg Anderson are still thinking title as well.
Hector Arana Jr. has struggled to open the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship in Pro Stock Motorcycle and will look to finish his season on a good note. Points leader Andrew Hines hopes his year ends with a sixth world title, and he currently holds a 34-point advantage over St. Louis winner Karen Stoffer. Others still within championship reach include Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec, defending world champ Matt Smith and Jerry Savoie, who won the playoff opener.
The Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil also features thrilling competition in the season-finale of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. Stevie “Fast” Jackson is the current Pro Mod points leader, while Sidnei Frigo is the defending winner.
After nitro qualifying, watch spectacular jet cars, including Segal Motorsports’ Shelly Segal running “FireStarter,” Tim Smith running “American Freedom Fighter,” and Tony Franco driving the Lucas Oil “Terminal Velocity.” Known for exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil will hold a Celebrity Charity Challenge where local celebrities and dignitaries will battle on the track for their favorite charities.
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 School and Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will also host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the 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 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 12:45 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3.