On a day when the racing was fast, wild and unpredictable, cars racing on Goodyear tires won six of the 10 categories in the NHRA O’Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Goodyear bested all other tiremakers combined, winning in both the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for professional teams and in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series for sportsman racers. Both bias-ply and radial Goodyear tires went to the winner’s circle. A Goodyear-equipped racer appeared in nine of the 10 final rounds.
Shawn Langdon won in Top Fuel, Courtney Force took Funny Car honors and Vincent Nobile was the Pro Stock winner in professional racing. Defending national Top Alcohol Dragster champion Jim Whiteley got his first win of the season and both Ross Wilson (Competition Eliminator) and Phil Dion (Super Comp) captured their first-ever national event wins.
Force became the third John Force Racing driver to win at Pomona, following her father, John Force, and teammate Robert Hight.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Force said. “I’m leading the points…I was starting to think the only race I could win was Seattle (where she won her first Funny Car race in 2012).”
It was surreal at times. The unpredictability of NHRA racing was evident in the first round. Defending Funny Car world champ Jack Beckman was eliminated. Four-time Pro Stock world champ Greg Anderson was also booted in the first round.
But Langdon, who had to beat seven-time national champion Tony Schumacher in the Top Fuel final, shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s a great way to start, winning the first race of the year.”
Nobile attends Delphi University on Long Island and has Monday off due to the observation of President’s Day. The name of his first class Tuesday morning? Money and Banking.
The student has learned to bank points already. He said, “That’s what everyone wants, to leave here with the points lead. Now we’ve got it and we want to maintain it.”
Defending Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown emerged unscathed from a scary-looking crash in the third round. Brown won the round, beating David Grubnic, but his dragster was not repairable and he did not appear for his third round race.
“I have a couple little brush burns on my knees, but other than that I’m fine,” Brown told the crowd over the public address system.
The Mello Yello series races next weekend at Firebird Raceway in Arizona.