POMONA, Calif. — The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ annual iconic opener, the tradition-rich 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, will kick off another thrilling NHRA season, Feb. 7-10 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
The first of 24 races during the 2019 season has long been a historic event for the sport and winning the Winternationals has provided career-making moments for NHRA competitors for nearly six decades. On the heels of an action-packed 2018 campaign, there is plenty of excitement heading into 2019 and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona provides the perfect backdrop for the 10,000-horsepower nitro machines to roar back to life. New cars, new teams and new team members add another level of excitement to the race, making it a must-see event to start 2019.
The top stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock will aim for a quick start and to grab a Wally at one of drag racing’s most revered events. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (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. on Sunday, Feb. 10.
In Top Fuel, world champion Steve Torrence returns to a track where he capped off his incredible finish to 2018. Torrence won all six Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoff races a year ago, becoming the first competitor in NHRA history to do so. That included a season-ending triumph in Pomona, giving Torrence 11 wins on the year. He’ll try to keep that momentum going to kick off 2019, but it won’t be easy against a loaded Top Fuel lineup that includes defending event winner Kalitta, eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Clay Millican, Terry McMillen, Mike Salinas and Scott Palmer.
J.R. Todd clinched his first career Funny Car world championship last November at Pomona, winning the season-finale race to cap off a dream season that included six victories. Entering his third season in Funny Car, Todd will look for his first Winternationals win to start his 2019 season strong, but he’ll have to do it against a talented field that includes back-to-back race winner Matt Hagan. Todd will also face off with the likes of 2017 world champ Robert Hight, 16-time world champion John Force, Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., 2016 world champ Ron Capps and veteran Tim Wilkerson.
Bo Butner, the 2017 Pro Stock world champion, started last season on a strong note with his first Winternationals victory and the talented driver will look for a repeat win in 2019. To do so, he’ll have to get by a Pro Stock lineup that includes a bevy of former world champions, including five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., who finished second in points in 2018, four-time world champ Greg Anderson, Jason Line, a three-time champ who has five Winternationals victories, two-time world champ Erica Enders and title hopefuls Alex Laughlin Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com will be announced soon.
Along with the exciting on-track action, the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com 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 noon and 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 9, at noon and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. All students can save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more info about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.