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Weather Delayed Winternationals Finally Sees Checkered Flag
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Raising their championship trophies at the Winternationals are, from left, Bo Butner, Pro Stock; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel. Photo By Mike Burghardt
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Taking home the top spot in the Pro Stock category at the Winternationals was Bo Butner, defeating Jason Line in the final round. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicked off the 2019 season at the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Mother Nature forced eliminations to be pushed to Monday, Feb. 11 with the rest of the event following. Monday’s weather was perfect for racing at the historical LA county fair plex.

In Top Fuel Doug Kalitta pulled off the upset of the day. Kalitta qualified in the number seven position with a solid 3.716 @ 326 mph. In the opening round Kalitta took down the Magic Dry Top Fueler of Scott Palmer with a 3.707 @ 323 mph. In round number two Kalitta used all of his driving skill to defeat Billy Torrence. Kalitta got off the starting line first with a .048 reaction time to a .096. Kalitta could only muster a 3.716 @ 325 mph but that would be just enough to hold off the hard charging Capco Contractors dragster of Torrence who posted a 3.670 @331 mph which was low for the round. Kalitta met up with Terry McMillan and the Amalie Oil team in the semifinal round and once again he would need his excellent driving skills to capture the victory. Kalitta again got off the starting line first with a .043rt to a .056. Kalitta ran a 3.708 to McMillan’s 3.706 and held on for the win. In the final round Kalitta would take on the reigning Top Fuel champion Torrence. Torrence, who was perfect in round record for the final six races of the season last year, started off this season with the pole qualifying position and his round win streak would be stopped at 27. Kalitta left the starting line first again and both cars lost traction as they passed the 300 foot mark, Kalitta legged it out by staying on the throttle the length of the track. Meanwhile Torrence attempted to pedal his car and when he did the engine let go and popped the blower just before the finish line with a quick flash of fire. This was Kalitta’s 45th career victory.

In Funny Car two time series champion Robert Hight and his Auto Club of Southern California team was on their game. Hight qualified on the pole with a stellar 3.871 @ 329 mph. In the opening round Hight took down a tire smoking Terry Haddock. Hight would then take on the Motorcraft Ford of Bob Tasca. Hight laid down low elapse time of the round with a 3.856 @ 331 mph to a 3.932 @ 322 mph. In the semifinal round Hight would take on the boss, 16-time champion John Force in his Peak Chevrolet. Hight again would lay down low elapsed time of the round with a 3.883 @ 328 mph to Force’s 3.930 @ 321. In the final round Hight would take on the number two qualifier Fast Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero team. Hight had a slight starting line advantage .054 to a .062 and he would need it to hold off Beckman. Hight ran a 3.881 to Beckman’s 3.880. This was Hight’s 46th career victory.

In Pro Stock the 2017 Champion Bo Butner conquered the field to capture his eighth career victory. He marched his way through the field taking down Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha, and two-time champion Erica Enders to make his way to the final against his teammate Jason Line. Butner made a solid 6.522 @ 211 mph pass while Line lost an engine in a huge plume of smoke shortly after half track.

The NHRA Mello Yello Series moves to their next event in Phoenix, Arizona from Feb. 22 through 24.