High stakes as NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to Las Vegas
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rolls back into "The Entertainment Capital of the World" for the 15th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 28-30, the fourth of 24 races in the 2014 season.

The world’s best in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock will again battle for the coveted victory at one of the world’s most state-of-the-art dragstrips. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will again be televised on ESPN2.

The SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals has a history of providing high-stakes action in a city known for its thrills and glitzy reputation. The action on the Vegas strip is matched only by the fire and fury of two 8,000-horsepower machines launching side by side at more than 300 mph down The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the crown-jewel facilities of the NHRA Mello Yello Series circuit.

Tony Schumacher

Schumacher, the most decorated driver in Top Fuel history with seven world championships and 72 wins, loves to prove that skill is what it takes to win in Las Vegas. He has piloted his U.S. Army dragster to seven wins at The Strip and returns as the defending race winner. The 2014 campaign hasn’t gotten off to the best start for Schumacher with a first-round loss in Pomona and a second-round loss in Phoenix, but a visit to Las Vegas may be just what he needs to turn his luck around.

The man Schumacher beat in last year’s final, Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, is riding some momentum as the tour heads to Las Vegas. The 2012 Top Fuel world champ raced his Matco Tools dragster to the win at revamped Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix. With the victory, Brown flexed his muscles and showed he’s ready to battle for a second Top Fuel title. Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon took home the 2013 world championship, but his teammate, Khalid alBalooshi, has had the better start to 2014, winning the illustrious Winternationals in Pomona to open the season.

The season’s most consistent Top Fuel driver so far may be Doug Kalitta, who leads the points after three events. A three-time series runner-up in Top Fuel, Kalitta rocketed his Mac Tools dragster to the No. 1 qualifying spot at the season’s first two events, was runner-up in Pomona, and won in Gainesville. Brittany Force is surely rounding herself into a championship-contending Top Fuel driver after reaching her first final in Phoenix, the first final-round appearance in a category other than Funny Car for John Force Racing. Schumacher and Brown’s DSR teammate Spencer Massey have tasted success in Las Vegas, most recently at this event in 2012. Joining them in the field will be Steve Torrence, Leah Pritchett, 2014 rookie Richie Crampton, and veteran David Grubnic.

John Force

In Funny Car, 16-time world champ John Force continues to set records, and a victory in Las Vegas would tie him with Ron Capps for most wins at the track in Funny Car, five. Force, the points leader, has seen another challenger emerge in Alexis DeJoria, who eliminated him in the semifinal round in Phoenix en route to her first victory. DeJoria became only the fourth female winner in Funny Car and the 14th female winner in the Mello Yello Series. She’s not afraid of the spotlight and is out to prove that the Patron XO Cafe Toyota Camry will be a threat for the 2014 championship.

Defending race winner Pedregon hopes that a return to Las Vegas, where he has three wins and is always a tough out, will lift his Snap-on Toyota team’s early-season ranking. Force’s JFR teammate and Gainesville winner Robert Hight also has four wins at LVMS and is looking for his first victory since the fall race in Charlotte last season. He also was runner-up to DeJoria in Phoenix and has proven that his Auto Club Ford Mustang is fast early. Courtney Force would love to take a win near the bright lights of Sin City. A sixth Las Vegas victory would be a nice addition for Capps, who has had a thrilling but not great start to the season following a spectacular engine explosion in Pomona. Capps’ DSR teammates Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan, both former champions, have yet to taste success at the track. They will be joined by Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., Bob Tasca III, and Tony Pedregon in one of the tightest Funny Car fields in history.   

Jeg Coughlin Jr.

The reigning Pro Stock world champ, Jeg Coughlin Jr., has struggled to open the 2014 season, and a win could jump-start his season. Mopar teammate Allen Johnson is the defending winner and has tasted success early in the season with victories in Phoenix and Gainesville. Winternationals winner and one-time Las Vegas winner Jason Line and his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro are seeking another early-season win. Line’s teammate, Jimmy Alund, is filling in for Greg Anderson and is also expected to challenge for the win. Erica Enders-Stevens, V. Gaines, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile, and Dave Connolly always provide tough competition in the ultracompetitive factory hot rod category.

The SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals is always a big weekend for Pro Stock drivers as the prestigious K&N Horsepower Challenge kicks off the Pro Stock event in style. Eight Pro Stock drivers will duel it out for bragging rights and a hefty paycheck on Saturday of race weekend. Johnson is the defending K&N Horsepower Challenge winner.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and enjoy cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.

Additionally, the NHRA Fan Fest is set for March 27 on the Las Vegas Strip at New York-New York Hotel & Casino from 5 to 7 p.m. The NHRA Fan Fest allows fans to meet drivers, get autographs, check out show cars, photo opportunities, and more before the drivers go full throttle at LVMS.

Pro qualifying begins Friday, March 28, with sessions at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, March 29, at 1:10 and 4:50 p.m. Pro Stock runs for the K&N Horsepower Challenge will be at 1, 3:45, and 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, March 30.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to LVMS.com or call Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 800-644-4444. General-admission tickets for children 12 and younger are free with any paid adult ticket.