Driving his all new 2015 Dodge Charger, reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan opened the 2015 NHRA season with a gutsy victory……..
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also were winners during the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona the first of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events.
After overcoming a spectacular engine explosion during qualifying on Friday, Hagan and his team rallied to qualify 12th on Saturday. He then powered his Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T to four round wins on Sunday, including a winning final-round performance of 4.011 seconds at 320.89 mph to hold off his teammate Ron Capps at the finish line. Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T finished in 4.078 at 314.90.
With crew chief Dickie Venables making the necessary adjustments, Hagan said his confidence in his 10,000-horsepower race car never wavered after the incident.
“You try to put it out of your mind and not think about it,” Hagan said. “These [race cars] are animals out there and you never know what you are going to get when you crawl in there to drive one. It’s always an experience. You have to respect it, but you can’t fear it.”
It was Hagan’s second-straight Pomona win, fourth victory overall at this track and his first Winternationals win. He raced past Tony Pedregon, John Hale and Del Worsham in early rounds before beating Capps in the final.
“Pomona is very special to me and it’s an historical track,” said Virginia cattle rancher Hagan of his 15th career victory. “The fans are awesome here. It’s been great. The history of this track and everything that’s happened here through the years, it puts it in perspective for me and makes [winning here] even more special.”
Langdon scored the Top Fuel victory in dramatic fashion by edging rival Antron Brown’s Matco Tools dragster at the finish line. The 2013 champ, who entered this race without a full time sponsor but had support from Food Network star Guy Fieri during the weekend, powered his Knuckle Sandwich/AJPE dragster to a time of 3.799 at 309.91 to finish in front of Brown, whose machine stopped the clocks in 3.804 at 310.70.
It was Langdon’s second Winternationals win and the 10th victory of his career. The win gave the team much needed momentum after their sponsor Al-Anabi Racing from the country of Qatar pulled funding from the team just weeks before the season opener.
“There are things that happen in life and then there are moments when things just fall into place,” said Langdon, the event’s No. 1 qualifier, who posted the quickest time in category history with a 3.700-second run on Saturday. He defeated Steve Chrisman, Leah Pritchett and Spencer Massey in early elimination rounds before racing past Brown in the final.
“We had a lot going on positively with Guy Fieri here this weekend,” Langdon continued. “We had to come out here and do well and make a statement. Now we’ll take what we did here and move on to Phoenix and continue what we are doing. We are still looking for sponsorship and trying to do the best we can.”
Line claimed his fourth Winternationals Pro Stock victory by outrunning rookie Drew Skillman in the final round. Line powered his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a winning performance of 6.545 at 211.83, while Skillman’s Ray Skillman Camaro trailed with a 6.556 at 211.13. It was Line’s 36th career victory and the 91st Pro Stock win for a Chevy Camaro, a record in the category.
“It’s great to get off to a good start,” Line said. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to come here and do this well. I didn’t think the off-season had gone well enough for us, but apparently it has. And it feels great to win.”
Line outran Joey Grose, Shane Gray and Rodger Brogdon to advance to the final and meet longtime NHRA sportsman racing standout Skillman, who advanced to his first final in his first pro start.
“What a really exciting day,” Line said. “We have some new faces in the class, and congrats to Drew Skillman just for making the final at his first race, that’s phenomenal.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Feb. 20-22 with the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
Event Essentials: 2015 NHRA Circle K Winternationals
|Low ET:||Shawn Langdon||3.700|
|Top Speed:||Spencer Massey||322.18|
|Low ET:||Courtney Force||3.995|
|Top Speed:||Courtney Force||322.65|
|Low ET:||Erica Enders-Stevens||6.516|
|Top Speed:||Erica Enders-Stevens||213.10|
Lucas Oil Lowdown
NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Top Alcohol Dragster National Champion Chris Demke began his title defense with a season opening win while Jonnie Lindberg grabbed his first national event win at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Demke, Tujunga, Calif., faced off with Shawn Cowie who got the early lead only to see Demke chase him down for his 16th NHRA national event win, posting his quickest pass of the weekend at 5.264 seconds, 273.88 mph. Demke had the lead by the 330’ mark and won by a tenth of a second as Cowie, Delta, B.C., crossed the finish line at 5.367, 268.33.
Demke ran in the 5.20’s all day on Sunday defeating No. 1 qualifier Don St. Arnaud and Joey Severance on his way to the final.
Lindberg became the 100th different driver to win an NHRA national event in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class. The Swedish driver had to run down Brian Hough, a former NHRA Northwest Division Champion, who was looking for his eighth win on the national circuit.
Lindberg ran 5.40’s and 5.50’s throughout eliminations defeating three local drivers in his earlier round match ups. The first time winner defeated Mike Drake, Glendora, Calif., in round 1; John Lombardo Jr., Brea, Calif., in round 2; and Claremont, Calif., resident Jay Payne in the semifinals.
In Top Fuel Harley it was Len Darnell, Vancouver, Wash., leading from start to finish with a strong final round pass against Joey Stenotti, Naples, Fla. Darnell, the number three qualifier, ran 6.822 seconds at 174.87 to defeat Stenotti who suffered mechanical problems early in the run. This is the first of four stops in 2015 for the NHRA Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series at NHRA National events. The series also joins the NHRA Lucas Oil Series at ten events across the country.
Alan Ellis, Mapleton, Utah, wheeled his ‘23 roadster past former national champion Dean Cater, Glendale, Ariz., for the win in Competition Eliminator. Ellis out ran Cater to earn his 7th national event win with a lap of 6.543, 205.72 mph. Carter, who has seven wins ran a strong 7.054, 190.06 in his nostalgia dragster.
Jody Lang, Puyallup, Wash., took the win over Jeff Jerome, Los Angeles, in Stock Eliminator as Steve Williams picked up his 9th win and his first at historic Auto Club Raceway. Lang earned his 24th win with a strong 12.202 second run on a 12.18 dial while Williams, Beaumont, Calif., drove his ’63 Corvette past Hollis Colleasure, San Dimas, Calif., and his ‘27 roadster for the win in Super Gas.
Rounding out the winners were Cody Lang, North Bend, Wash., and Dave Crawford, Deitt, Iowa, in Super Stock and Super Comp respectively. Lang bagged his second national win in a double breakout run with former Stock National Champion Justin Lamb, Henderson, Nev. The two left the line together with Lang winning in his ‘05 Cavalier. This was Crawford’s second win as well as he outran 23-time Super Comp winner Jimmy Lewis, Forney, Texas, with an 8.910, 179.97 mph run.
Posted with files from NHRA Communications, Eric Lotz & Bruce Biegler
All Photos by: Bruce Biegler
To visit DragRaceCanada’s extensive event photo gallery click: HERE