The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicked off its 2016 season in sunny southern California for the 56th annual Circle K Winternationals. It was also the first of 17 live televised national events on Fox Sports.
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence would start the weekend earning the pole and would end it with the trophy. During the off season Torrence also acquired the assistance of veteran crew chief Alan Johnson who is also assisting Brittany Force. The two teams are operating as a tuning alliance. In the opening round Torrence took on the 16th qualifier Steve Faria and the System One Filtration team. Torrence made easy work of Faria, posting a 3.762 at 326 mph run. This would match him up against the ninth qualifier Morgan Lucas and the Lucas Oil Racing TV team. Both drivers left the starting line together but as the two neared the finish line Lucas’s engine let go in a fireball thus slowing him to a 4.244 at 196 mph to Torrence’s 3.782 at 324 mph. In the semifinal round Torrence would take on Lucas teammate Richie Crampton. Both drivers left virtually together off the starting line with Torrence having the slight advantage. Torrence then pulled even further away as the two made their way down the race track running a 3.749 at 323 mph to a 3.760 at 322 mph. This would then pair him up against the Mac Tools dragster of Doug Kalitta. Kalitta had the one of the most consistent cars during race day, posting times of 3.724 at 328 mph, 3.785 at 323 mph, and 3.731 at 318 mph. In the Final round Kalitta got off the starting line first with a .060 reaction time to a .074. Torrence would power his way around Kalitta running a 3.735 at 326 mph to a 3.753 at 324 mph. This is Torrence’s sixth career win and first Winternationals win.
In the Funny Car class, Ron Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts team came out on top of the 16 car field. In round one Capps took on part time racer Jeff Diehl. As the two made their way down the 1000 foot race track Diehl’s Toyota funny car lost traction around halftrack slowing him to a 6.767 at 101 mph, while Capps motored down a 4.009 at 320 mph. In round two Capps would take down Chad Head. Capps put up a 3.972 at 322 mph to a tire smoking 4.592 at 264 mph. In the Semifinal round he would take the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet of Robert Hight. Capps took a slight advantage off the starting line and ran away from Hight running a 3.938 at 321 mph to a 3.949 at 313 mph. That matched him up with reigning champion Del Worsham and the DHL Toyota team. In the Final round Capps got the starting line advantage with a .052 to a .071. Capps put up a 3.981 at 324 mph to a quicker but losing 3.962 at 324 mph. This is Capps’s 46th career win and his third at the Winternationals.
The Pro Stock class started a new era in the long history of the class. This is the first race with the new fuel injection engine package. The Summit Racing team bested the field capturing the top two qualifying spots and squaring off in the final round. Greg Anderson qualified number one and got the better of teammate Jason Line. Anderson won on a whole shot cutting an .014 to a .032 reaction time. He ran a 6.617 at 207 mph to a quicker but losing 6.609 at 209 mph. This is Anderson’s 79th career win and sixth at the Winternationals.
The next stop on the NHRA Mello Yello drag racing series is at Wild Horse Pass Raceway in Phoenix, AZ for the Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals Feb 26 through 28.