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Auto Racing Season Coming Into View
Funny Car action this season in the Mello Yello drag racing campaign will see returning champion Robert Hight try to retain that title in the Funny Car division. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The 2020 Auto Racing season is quickly coming upon us. The NTT Indy Racing Car series, NASCAR and NHRA represent three of the major auto racing sanctioning bodies in the United States.

In Indy Car, Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) comes in as the reigning series champion, which opens up in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 13 through 15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. During the offseason the entire Indy Car series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway operations were purchased by Roger Penske with goals to continue the growth of the sport. The Indianapolis 500 still stands as the premier event. Since the 2019 season, the NTT Indy Car series no longer competes at the Sonoma Raceway facilities, having been moved to Laguna Seca Raceway for the season ending event on Sept. 20.

The NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) Cup series opens at the famed Daytona Speedway with the Busch Clash followed by Bluegreen Vacation Duels 1 and 2, culminating in the famed Daytona 500 on Feb. 16. The 36-event series will conclude at Phoenix Motor Speedway on Nov. 8 with the NASCAR Cup Season Championship, with the last 10 events being the Chase to the Championship. The NASCAR Cup series will compete at Sonoma Raceway on June 14 with the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Kyle Busch comes in as the defending 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) will, once again, feature a 24-event schedule. The regular season opens with the NHRA 60 Years Lucas Oil Winter Nationals in Pomona, California on Feb. 6 through 9. The regular season concludes with the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana on Labor Day weekend. The six-event “Countdown to the Championship” will then start with the Mopar Express Lube NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennsylvania. The series concludes in Pomona, California, with the Auto Club NHRA Finals. The NHRA Nationals and the Auto Club Finals are both 150 percent point earning events, as racers earn 1.5 times the normal event points issued. During the offseason, the NHRA has modified the requirements necessary for racers to become eligible for competing in the “Countdown to the Championship”. As in the past, the top 10 in points at the conclusion of the Indy Nationals are in the “Countdown” and have an opportunity to win the championship. Now, any driver who competes at all the regular season races (Top Fuel and Funny Car – 18, Pro Stock – 13, Pro Stock Motorcycle – 11) will qualify to be in the “Countdown to the Championship” (playoffs). The goal is to help increase field sizes at the various NHRA events on the schedule. Only time will tell what the actual results will be.

The 2020 NHRA season will feature many new faces and the return of a fan favorite, as well as all the regular heavy hitters. In Funny Car, Alexis DeJoria will return with a new Toyota Funny Car sponsored by ROKIT Phones and RBK Beer, following a two-year hiatus to spend more time with her family. John Force Racing will field two Top Fuel Cars (Brittany Force – finished third in 2019 and Austin Prock – finished eighth and selected as “Rookie of the Year” in 2019) and two Funny Cars (Robert Hight – 2019 Champion and John Force – fourth in 2019). Don Schumacher Racing will have two Top Fuel cars (Leah Pritchett fourth, Antron Brown ninth) and four Funny Cars (Jack Beckman second, Matt Hagan third, Ron Capps sixth and Tommy Johnson eighth). Kalitta Motorsports will feature two Top Fuel cars (Doug Kalitta second, Shawn Langdon ninth - Funny Car last season) and one Funny Car (JR Todd seventh). Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle have also seen many changes and new faces.

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all return to defend their titles. Look for a very competitive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season.