The stories that unraveled at the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series finale were befitting of the milestone 50th anniversary of the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. A thrilling winner-take-all Pro Stock final, a close Funny Car championship battle, and the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history culminating with the best run of the season were among the reasons that the Southern California fans got more than their money’s worth at the longstanding event.
Nov. 10, 2013, marked the conclusion of last year’s NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, with the final day of eliminations taking place at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals. With the 50th anniversary of the event slated to take place this weekend, let’s take a look at how things have changed and how they have stayed the same in the past 365 days.
The motorsports world was reacclimated to the mosh pit that traditionally follows a win by a Kalitta Motorsports driver this season. Doug Kalitta and Alexis DeJoria have had great success during the regular season, and J.R. Todd put one on the board in Denver that sparked a mosh pit deemed worthy of being a SportsCenter Top 10 highlight. In Las Vegas at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Funny Car winner Del Worsham showed that the Ypsilanti, Mich., outfit that churns out the hits for a raucous crowd on the starting line is a four-piece band.
Silly season is that time of year that occurs during fall when Southpoint Circle and Northfield Drive in Brownsburg, Ind., morph into Wisteria Lane. Allegiances change and key personnel start parking their daily drivers in front of different buildings. In the past week, we were rocked with one bombshell and one not-so-well-guarded secret.
Only one driver in a 16-car field gets to take home the Wally at a given event in Top Alcohol Dragster or Top Alcohol Funny Car on the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Scoring two such wins on the same weekend is an amazing achievement that is only possible in the chance that a postponement forces an event to be completed during the qualifying days of a future race. Clinching a championship on top of that would be an extremely rare trifecta if Chris Demke and Steve Harker didn’t both do it on the same weekend at the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading.
Cool conditions for the NHRA Nationals at the fabled Maple Grove Raceway in Reading met with the urgency of racers fighting for a Mello Yello title with only two races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship led to racers engaging in an all-out war with a select few emerging victorious while others left the facility licking their wounds. Both descriptions apply in the case of Matt Hagan, who left with the Wally, the Funny Car points lead, and a charred up race car that caught fire in the final round.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis brought the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship to the halfway point. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) all fought valiantly to keep themselves in the thick of the title hunt, though the biggest story may have been outside of the championship picture, where an alligator farmer had his day in the sun.
The continuation of the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals during qualifying of the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in Dallas made for a jam-packed event where the stakes were raised on the all-concrete track that the sun cooked to temperatures above 130 degrees. Several drivers took advantage of the opportunity to get ahead in what amounted to the first two Countdown to the Championship events, nobody more so than seven-time NHRA Mello Yello champion Tony Schumacher.