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NHRA Racing Season Opener Fast Approaching
JR Todd.jpg
JR Todd will be back in action in the DHL/Toyota in the Funny Car category for the 2019 NHRA season. He comes in as the reigning NHRA Funny Car Champion. Photo By Mike Burghardt
Reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence will compete in his CAPCO Construction Top Fuel dragster for the 2019 season. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The 2019 auto racing season is right around the corner, and the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series has quite a few changes.

The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team has some changes for 2019. The U.S. Army affiliation, with Tony Schumacher, came to a close at the end of last season. To date, no new sponsor has been formally announced. Leah Pritchett is in a similar situation. Antron Brown, with MATCO Tools will be back, as will Jack Beckman (Infinite Heroes Dodge Funny Car), Tommy Johnson (Make-A-Wish Dodge Funny Car), Matt Hagan (MOPAR Dodge Funny Car) and Ron Capps (NAPA Dodge Funny Car).

One of the premier NHRA Top Fuel crew chiefs has moved from John Force Racing (JFR) Brittany Force’s Top Fuel team to Mike Salinas’ “Scrappers” Top Fuel team, along with all the crew members. This makes his team a serious contender for the 2019 season championship.

Robert Tasca and Tim Wilkerson will now have the latest brand new Mustang bodies, developed by Ford Engineering. Cruz Pedregon, who has run Toyota bodies the last several years, will now be using the latest Dodge Charger body on his Funny Car.

John Force Racing (JFR) announced the biggest news, as Courtney Force will no longer be involved as a driver of the Advanced Auto Parts Chevy Camaro Funny Car. She has ended her six-year Funny Car driving career to have more family time with her husband (Indy Car driver) Graham Rahal. She will still be involved with JFR through media activities. The Advanced Auto Parts sponsorship moves to the Top Fuel dragster of (sister) Brittany Force. The Courtney Force team (crew chiefs and crew members) move to the Peak Chevrolet Funny Car driven by (team patriarch) John Force. David Grubnic, who was crew chief on Clay Millican’s Top Fuel dragster (NHRA elapse time and speed record holder), is now the crew chief on Brittany Force’s Advanced Auto Parts Top Fuel dragster. Robert Hight still drives the AAA of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car, tuned by Jimmy Prock. Austin Prock, son of Jimmy Prock may drive a third Funny Car at selected events and testing and full-time if funding is obtained.

The Clay Millican Parts Plus Top Fuel dragster is now being tuned by Mike Kleober. If they can find the consistency, the team is one of the strong contenders for a championship.

Jim Dunn Racing is now ready to increase their on track performance and with a new sponsor scheme (Cattleman’s Cut Beef Jerky), fans can expect to see the popular driver, Jim Campbell, sporting a cowboy hat at the races.

Kalitta Racing will feature four cars, two Top Fuel dragsters and two Funny Cars. Richie Crampton (DHL) and Doug Kalitta (Mac Tools) will be in Top Fuel, while Shawn Langdon (Global Electronics/Toyota) and JR Todd (DHL/Toyota) will be in Funny Cars. Todd comes in as the reigning NHRA Funny Car Champion.

Steve Torrence, the reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion, will compete in his CAPCO Construction Top Fuel dragster, as will his dad (Billy) in a second car. Torrence is a favorite to repeat as season champion.

Oakdale racer, Richard Townsend, will sit out the season as the team regroups. The “Nitroholic” Team was, not only a fan favorite, but a developing strong runner last season. As he and his team regroups, he may build and race a Nostalgia Funny Car in the interim.

The Pro Stock class will now compete at 16 of the 24 events to reduce costs. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, three-time champion, Angelle Sampey will be racing on a Vance & Hines Harley Davidson “Street Rod” motorcycle.

The NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season kicks off at the Lucas Oil Winter Nationals in Pomona over the weekend of Feb. 8 through 10.