Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – GLENDORA, CA – NHRA officials announced the 24-race 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, which will again feature intense racing action at tracks across the country.
Millions of fans will experience sensory overload at its best with side-by-side racing action where victories may be determined by mere thousandths of a second. Competition schedules for individual categories will be released this summer.
Throughout the season, NHRA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pro Stock Car. Fans will experience special treats and features along the tour to commemorate this important category and honor its history.
A special highlight on the 2020 tour will be the 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, which will kick off the 2020 season at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. February 6-9. One of the most iconic events in the series, the Winternationals draws fans from all around the world to experience the power of NHRA Championship Drag Racing at its best during the season opener.
The 40th annual NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta will take place May 15-17. Fans won’t want to miss joining the stars of NHRA as we celebrate 40 years of heart-pounding racing action. Other milestone events include the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals June 19-21 in Bristol, Tenn., the 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at fan-favorite Texas Motorplex October 15-18 and the 20th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals October 29-November 1 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
All locations on the series schedule are confirmed for the 2020 season and several stops are changing dates. The Virginia NHRA Nationals in Richmond, Va. move to the end of the month, taking place May 29-31. The Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Chicago will commence July 9-12 to lead in to the iconic Western Swing. Fans of the NHRA New England Nationals will get a chance to see the series as competition heats up at the end of summer, August 21-23. Two events in the Mello Yello Countdown To The Championship are changing places with the NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte, N.C. September 25-27, followed by the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals October 2-4.
As always, the 2020 season will conclude with the Auto Club NHRA Finals, November 12-15 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.
All 24 events in this exciting series will be aired exclusively on FOX Sports with select events on FOX broadcast network. With over 575 hours of programming, fans can tune into action from Friday and Saturday qualifying rounds as well as Sunday finals.
2020 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES SCHEDULE
NHRA Mello Yello Series 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
April 24-26 – NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Charlotte, N.C.
May 15-17 – NHRA Southern Nationals, Atlanta
May 29-31 – Virginia NHRA Nationals, Richmond, Va.
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 9-12 – Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Chicago
July 17-19 – Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Denver
July 24-26 – NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, Calif.
July 31-Aug.2 – Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals, Seattle
Aug. 13-16 – Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn.
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. 2-4 – AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, St. Louis
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.
FAST-CHARGING RISING STAR ALEX LAUGHLIN EXCITED FOR PRO STOCK’S RETURN AT VIRGINIA NHRA NATIONALS
After a three-race break, count Alex Laughlin as one of many who are thrilled to have Pro Stock return to NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action. Laughlin is off to the best start in the class in his promising career, sitting second in points heading to this weekend’s second annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.
With the new 18-race schedule for the class during the 2019 season, Pro Stock was on hiatus over the past month. But there is considerable excitement brewing with the class returning in Virginia and Laughlin is ready to come back with the same momentum he had to start the year in his Havoline Chevrolet Camaro. He’s done almost everything but win this year and Laughlin now has his sights set on his third career win in the class.
“People are definitely excited to see the class back out there and we’re excited to be back out there,” Laughlin said. “I’ve never been this high in points, but it’s so tight in this class. Bo (Butner) is way out there (as the points leader), but the position we’re in now, we’re trying to race for a championship, the pressure is on to say the least. There’s no room for mistakes and we have to be on our game. The Countdown (to the Championship) will be here quicker than you think.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in 2019, including final eliminations coverage starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. It is the fifth of 18 races during the 2019 NHRA Pro Stock season and Laughlin is eager to pick up where he left off a month ago when he started the year with one final and one semifinal appearance.
But while he sits second in points in the talent-heavy class, Laughlin doesn’t have much of a cushion. Butner has dominated the start of the year to the tune of three victories, but the rest of the top 10 is tightly-contested, as Laughlin sits just a point ahead of Matt Hartford and 24 in front of Jason Line. There’s also his Elite Motorsports teammates Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders to deal with, which means a quick start in Virginia will be necessary for Laughlin, who is also racing the full 12-race E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service.
“Whether you’re running multiple cars or not, it does take a run or so to get it back together,” Laughlin said. “I’ve been out of the seat of the Pro Stock car, so you have to get acclimated. It’s going to come down to who’s ready. With this team, they have it together and I’m confident we’ll be ready. Ultimately, the group of guys, the car and myself, we’re all clicking and being consistent and making good runs. It goes back to confidence and believing and knowing we have a good team.”
Things have come together well for Laughlin, but he’s not taking the quick start for granted. If anything, it’s got him even more focused heading into one of the busiest stretches of the season. He’ll be racing both Pro Stock and Pro Mod in Virginia, a scenario that isn’t easy but one that Laughlin embraces. It makes for a thoroughly hectic weekend in two difficult classes, but Laughlin enjoys it, especially when it happens at a facility like Virginia, which impressed him last year.
“It’s great to come back at a track like Virginia,” Laughlin said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect last year, but I think it was the best racetrack we saw. It was a great facility and a great track. We’ve got two very competitive races cars, so it’s two chances for us to win and I’m excited about that.”
The Top Fuel category will be filled with tough competition including reigning champion and points leader Steve Torrence, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown and Clay Millican.
Funny Car is loaded with talent, including points leader Robert Hight, defending world champion J.R. Todd, John Force, Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, who won the most recent race in Atlanta.
Looking for their first victory in Richmond in Pro Stock Motorcycle are a number of talented competitors, including defending world champ Matt Smith and points leader Andrew Hines.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2019 at Virginia Motorsports Park. Defending world champion Mike Janis is the also defending Pro Mod winner at the race. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
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. Virginia Motorsports Park 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 NHRA Virginia Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 19.