Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – TOPEKA, KS – It is way too early in the season for Vincent Nobile to be thinking about world championships, but after a frustrating 2017 where he sat out the final five races, Nobile has enjoyed every bit of his Pro Stock team’s early-season success heading to this weekend’s Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Motorsports Park.
Nobile won the most recent NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Atlanta, becoming the first two-time winner in Pro Stock in 2018, also taking over the points lead in his Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro. It’s a far cry from the last three seasons when Nobile had just one overall win and for that Nobile is thankful and also hopeful he can keep a strong start going in Topeka.
“It’s so early in the year we’re really not looking at points,” Nobile said. “Don’t get me wrong, I want to win every race, but in Pro Stock that’s not going to happen. That’s too hard with the talent here. But we just want to concentrate on winning rounds and keep doing what we’re doing. I’m happy to have a car that’s really good. It’s one of the first times in my career I have a car that can be the fastest car each session. I’ve never had a car like that before. It’s a whole new standard for us.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a live finals broadcast on Sunday, May 20 at 2 p.m. (ET). It is the eighth of 24 races during a 2018 NHRA season that couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start for Nobile, especially since debuting a new car.
Nobile has two wins, one runner-up and a semifinal appearance over the past five races, with Elite Motorsports teammates Erica Enders and Matt Hartford also winning in that span. It’s a great feeling for Nobile, whose confidence has increased tremendously this year. It’s been that way for Nobile’s entire team, which is led by crew chief Brian “Lump” Self, and that has translated into consistent performances from the car and from Nobile on the starting line.
“Between the new car and the new engine stuff, it’s been a great combination,” said Nobile, who has 12 career Pro Stock wins. “The car does everything we tell it to, and we’re making the right adjustments and the right calls. You have to pay attention to the fine details. That’s what separates winning and losing in Pro Stock. We just have to keep paying attention to every single little detail. It’s still early in the year, so we can’t focus on where we’re at. We know other teams are going to get better, so we have to keep trying new things, keep trying to get better.”
Based on this last stretch of races, that seems likely for Nobile, who was the No. 1 qualifier in Topeka in 2014 but has never won a race at Heartland Motorsports Park. But the competition is stiff in Pro Stock, with six different winners in the first seven races, and Nobile will have to deal with the likes of Gainesville winner and Atlanta runner-up Tanner Gray, Phoenix winner Chris McGaha, defending world champ Bo Butner, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. in Topeka. Nobile, though, believes that challenge is only going to make his team better in 2018.
“The parity in this class, it really couldn’t be any better,” Nobile said. “It’s cool to be the first two-time winner of the year, but we have to keep that momentum going and keep pushing forward. We need to keep trying new things to try to stay on top. We’ve got a few things in the works to try, it’s just a matter of trying them out and seeing if they’re going to be better or not.”
Three-time Top Fuel world champ Antron Brown is after is first win in 2018, hoping to take down the likes of points leader Steve Torrence, who has three wins this season, defending world champion Brittany Force, Tony Schumacher and Atlanta winner Leah Pritchett.
Ron Capps is after his fifth Funny Car win at Heartland Motorsports Park and first of 2018 against the likes of points leader Courtney Force, who has two wins in 2018, Charlotte winner Cruz Pedregon, Gainesville winner Jack Beckman, J.R. Todd and defending world champ Robert Hight.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the fourth of 12 stops in 2018 at Heartland Motorsports Park. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the 2018 Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties include John Wiebe and Ray Motes.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Menards NHRA Heartland 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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 18 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 19, at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 20.