Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – POMONA, CA – The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series starts its 2020 season in memorable fashion, as the annual iconic opener, the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, will celebrate its 60th rendition Feb. 6-9 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
The tradition-rich event is the first of 24 during the 2020 season.
The historic race takes place at the birthplace of NHRA drag racing and the Winternationals has provided one incredible moment after another for six decades. Fans can expect another must-see event in 2020, one that will also include the kickoff to the 50th anniversary celebration of Pro Stock. With new cars and new teams set to make their 2020 debuts as the 11,000-horsepower nitro machines roar back to life, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona provides the ideal backdrop for drivers to leave their mark in the Winternationals history books.
The biggest stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will also try to start their 2020 season strong with a Wally at one of drag racing’s most revered events. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including finals coverage beginning at 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9.
In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta has put on a show at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona over the years and the veteran was particularly impressive in 2019, sweeping both races at the facility. Kalitta, who finished just three points out of first place last year, will try to make it three straight Pomona wins and three consecutive Winternationals victories as well. He knocked off Steve Torrence in the final round of the season-opener a year ago, but Torrence had the ultimate triumph by clinching his second straight world title. His road to a third straight championship begins in Pomona in 2020 against the likes of Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, three-time champ Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon, who will move back to the class, Brittany Force, Terry McMillen, Austin Prock and Mike Salinas.
Defending Funny Car world champ Robert Hight has enjoyed tremendous success at his home track, as the Southern California native won for the fifth time at Pomona at the season-opener a year ago. His year ended with a third world title – his second in three years – and Hight will look to open 2020 with a second straight Winternationals victory. Trying to stop him will be a host of star drivers, including 16-time world champ John Force, two-time world champ Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, who won the season finale in Pomona in November, Ron Capps, 2018 world champ J.R. Todd, Tommy Johnson Jr., Alexis DeJoria, who is set to return to the class, Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson and Bob Tasca III.
The 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com marks the kickoff of the 50th anniversary celebration of Pro Stock, and class legends will be on hand for the marquee event. Butner has back-to-back wins at the opener and will try to make it three straight, and the 2017 world champion has a knack for starting strong, winning four of the first five races last year. Erica Enders is the reigning world champ going into the special Pro Stock season, and she will be gunning for her fourth title in 2020, as well as her first win at the Winternationals. Other top names to watch in the class loaded with talent includes Jeg Coughlin Jr., who won the finale in Pomona, four-time world champ Greg Anderson, Jason Line, Deric Kramer and Matt Hartford. Fans at the Winternationals will get to launch the yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of Pro Stock, highlighting Pro Stock milestones and seeing special nostalgia Pro Stock cars hit the track.
To celebrate the 60th annual Winternationals event, NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel and Funny Car machines will be on site and making exhibition runs throughout the weekend. Additionally, the Little Red Fire Truck Wheelstander will be performing with special passes during the event.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills.
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. Auto Club Raceway at Pomona 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 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 12:15 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9.