The Ken Black Racing Pro Stock operation has enjoyed an extraordinary run of success with drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line combining for 105 wins and six Mello Yello championships. The potent one-two punch of Summit Racing Equipment-sponsored Chevy Camaros are coming off a down year in which Line scored the team's only two victories and Anderson was shutout of the winner's circle for the first time since 2000. The message reverberating off the walls of their busy shop in Mooresville, N.C., is clear: what worked for them in the past isn't what is going to help them in 2014. The highly-successful team is ripping up the blueprint and readying for a rebound season.
Drivers take great pride in their performance on the starting line. Every category has different standards for a good driver, whether it’s someone who hits his or her shift points in a Pro Stock car so accurately that you can line up a ruler on them on the computer graph or a Top Fuel driver who can save his or her team a lot of money during a season by knowing exactly when to say when with a motor that has a dropped cylinder or is pushing a head gasket. One criterion that is universal is reaction time.
2012 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel champion Antron Brown had a turbulent 2013 season that ended on a high note with a run of two wins amid three consecutive finals, in St. Louis, Reading, and Las Vegas, that had him in mathematical position to defend his title in Pomona. The driver of the Matco Tools dragster took time to talk about his season and shared his optimistic view of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season that he wishes would start tomorrow.
The 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series ended with a spectacular 24th and final event at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona one week ago. I’m going to attempt to recap much of what went on during an exciting season using lines from a television show that aired its season finale this year, Breaking Bad.
The 2013 Auto Club NHRA Finals was a special event that probably shouldn’t have been. Unlike other years, there wasn’t a great deal of championship drama in the Mello Yello or Lucas Oil categories due to most of the titles being already decided or nearly so. However, Southern California fans flooded the grandstands during four days of great weather, thrilling racing, and emotional moments that made it an incredible event in the most organic way possible. The Al-Anabi Racing team was centric in what made the event special.
One of the lingering questions for the upcoming 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series was answered last week when Tommy Johnson Jr. was selected by sponsor Terry Chandler and owner Don Schumacher to replace Johnny Gray behind the wheel of the Pitch Energy Dodge Charger following Gray’s retirement from full-time competition. Other questions remain regarding who will race where after the 2013 champions have been anointed, and the slate has been wiped clean for another season.
The six-race Countdown to the Championship format has set the stage for epic battles that have come down to the wire at the final event of the season over the past couple of years. However, three teams decided not to wait until they neared the California coast to ride their tidal waves of momentum in efforts that shored up championships for two of them.
The last two races of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series promise a great deal of excitement with championships being decided at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. It will also be the last chance to see one of the greatest racers in NHRA history drive a Top Alcohol Funny Car before Frank Manzo retires from the cockpit.
Outside of declaring the four NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series champions, one of the biggest honors given at the end of the season is the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award that recognizes the top rookie with a trophy and $20,000 prize. Six drivers are eligible to claim that prize this year, so here is a breakdown of their seasons and an evaluation of their chances.
Every one of the Mello Yello winners at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway walked away with a Wally in hand and a points cushion in their back pocket. Incoming points leaders Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) extended their leads while John Force (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) each took the lead during the course of the event and kept adding more points to the pile.