NHRA Story
Winternationals photo blog
Friday, February 07, 2014

News and views from the
Circle K NHRA Winternationals
Last update: 6:45 p.m.
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  Excitement for the Circle K NHRA Winternationals, the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series opener, has been building for some time and got an extra jump start Wednesday at the annual press conference, held at the Ruth's Chris Steak House in nearby Pasadena, Calif.

NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart served as the emcee of the event, which featured Brittany and Courtney Force, defending Mello Yello Top Fuel world champ Shawn Langdon, former NHRA Funny Car king Matt Hagan (left), and reigning NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. (below).

The drivers answered questions in a panel format, then broke off for one-on-one interviews with local media outlets from print and broadcast.

After nearly a full day of Sportsman time trials and qualifying Thursday, the Mello Yello Pros will get their first official runs of the 2014 season today, with sessions at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Among the new iron on hand is the new-look Patron XO Café Toyota Funny Car of Alexis DeJoria.

  Local high school students taking part in NHRA's Youth & Education Services program presented by the U.S. Army visited the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum this morning, where they got up close and personal with NHRA's history and looked at some of the technology in motorsports.

After their museum visit, the students came to the racetrack, where they'll spend the day learning about the sport and how it applies to their studies and careers.

Veteran crew chief Rob Flynn, left, is the new tuner for Jack Beckman's Valvoline Dodge Funny Car. John Collins, assistant crew chief for DSR teammate Ron Capps' NAPA Auto Parts Dodge, is helping him get acclimated.

Former announcer Dave McClelland, an NHRA fan favorite for decades, is on hand this weekend with son Kevin, taking in all of the action of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener.

Sportsman eliminations are under way in some classes. Despite cloudy skies, there's no rain.

 [11 a.m.] The annual Nitro Pit Party and Press Conference helped kick off the first day of Mello Yello qualifying.
Tommy Johnson Jr., Leah Pritchett, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Shawn Langdon, and Antron Brown took part, answering questions from emcee Alan Reinhart as well as from media and fans in the audience.

NHRA members and site subscribers can get in-depth coverage of the Circle K NHRA Winternationals on NationalDragster.net.

The National Dragster staff is providing instant analysis, pit notes, feature items, and more to give detailed coverage of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener.

Check it out here.

NHRA members can get instant access by registering, or new visitors can get behind-the-scenes coverage plus daily features, news items, and more for a small monthly fee.

 [1:30 p.m.] Vincent Nobile (above) wasted no time getting used to his new KB Racing Chevy Camaro, grabbing the No. 1 Pro Stock qualifying spot in the first session with a 6.528. The KB team, as well as its peers on other teams like Shane Gray (right), were thinking about KB team leader Greg Anderson, who underwent a successful and planned surgery Thursday.

Reigning season champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. had the second-best time with a 6.541, and Rodger Brogdon was third with a duplicate number, but at a slower speed, 211.79 to Coughlin's 212.39.

John Force Racing and PEAK antifreeze and BlueDEF diesel exhaust fluid announced a new major associate sponsorship with branding on all three JFR Funny Cars and the JFR Top Fuel dragster as well as team uniforms and haulers. Eric DeBord, president and CEO of Protential, far right, was welcomed by team drivers, from left, Robert Hight and Brittany, Courtney, and John Force.

 [2:10 p.m.] Reigning NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car world champ John Force (above) made a statement pass on the first run of his title defense with a track-record, sub-national-record 3.983 with his Castrol GTX Ford. Force broke his own record of 3.995, set at last year’s season finale.

Del Worsham (right) showed that his stellar preseason testing numbers were for real with a second-best 4.044 in the DHL Toyota. Matt Hagan was third-quickest with a 4.077.

  [2:45 p.m.] Defending event and series champ Shawn Langdon (above) showed that he's serious about repeating both as he powered the Al-Anabi silver dragster to a 3.746 to lead Top Fuel after one session. Langdon set the track record of 3.721 in winning last year's event. He just missed matching the track speed record by .01-mph with a 328.70 shot.

Doug Kalitta (left), who holds the track speed record, set at last year's Finals, is the No. 2 qualifier with the new-look Mac Tools dragster with a 3.756 at 328.38. Steve Torrence is third-quickest with a 3.781

[4:45 p.m.] Former world champ Allen Johnson (above) jumped to the top of the Pro Stock pack with a 6.517 from his Mopar Express Lube Avenger. Dave Connolly (below) had the session's next-best pass, a 6.543, in the stealth-black Gray Motorsports Camaro. Vincent Nobile ended up No. 2 with his earlier 6.528.

Reigning Funny Car world champ John Force backed up his first-session 3.983 with a 3.965 that has provisionally earned him his first national record in more than seven years. Ron Capps (below) ran a sizzling 4.014 that qualified him No. 3, but he lost the body on the NAPA Charger in a top-end explosion.

Antron Brown (above) stole the No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying position from Shawn Langdon on the final pass of the final session, racing to a 3.731 that supplanted Langdon’s 3.746. Doug Kalitta (below) ran 3.753 to grab the No. 3 spot behind Langdon.