The Circle K Winternationals, which played out under perfect Chamber of Commerce conditions, produced the first of a new era Pro Stock win for Chevy pilot Greg Anderson as well as Pro wins by Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Steve Torrence (Top Fuel).
Four-time world champ Anderson earned the very first win in the new EFI Pro Stock era, holding off his teammate Jason Line in a photo-finish all Chevrolet final round. Anderson also won by using a holeshot start and finished in 6.617 at 207.85 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to take the win over Line, whose 6.609 at 209.82 in his Summit Camaro wasn’t enough to make up for Anderson’s starting line advantage.
“I feel honored to be the first winner of the fuel injection era and get the first trophy,” said Anderson, who was the event’s No. 1 qualifier and advanced to the final with round wins over Matt Hartford, five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. and last season’s top rookie Drew Skillman. With the win, he denied his teammate a third consecutive Winternationals trophy.
“I got a great light in the final and got it done,” Anderson said. “It was my day. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this Summit Racing team. It is getting better every run. That’s going to pay off down the road. Everybody out there is in a steep learning curve right now. The other competitors in our class are going home and work hard and they will do better at Phoenix. We are going to have to buckle down and find something better again. Hopefully we will be better again come Phoenix.”
Capps emerged from a strong performing field as the winner and had to defeat defending world champion Del Worsham in the final round to take his 46th career victory. He outran Jeff Diehl, Chad Head and Robert Hight in early rounds.
In the final, Capps used a quicker reaction time and covered the distance in 3.981 seconds at 324.28 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger to hold off the hard-charging DHL Toyota Camry of Worsham, which posted a quicker, but losing performance of 3.962 at 324.36.
It was the third Winternationals win for the popular San Diego driver who calls the historic Southern California track a second home.
“This is the most fabled track we go to and it’s the birthplace of drag racing; it is unbelievable to win here,” Capps said. “I can’t wait to get this season going. You wonder if you are ever going to see one of these [trophies] again. I am racing Del Worsham in the final, who is one of the best. We threw down. What a race. Just to know we can get in the circle and get another Wally feels good.”
In Top Fuel, red-hot Torrence powered to his first Winternationals victory and his sixth career win by outrunning Doug Kalitta in the final round. Torrence’s Capco Contractors dragster posted a 3.735 at 326.48 to edge Kalitta’s Mac Tools machine, which trailed with a 3.753 at 324.36.
Torrence, whose car has been running like a very consistent bracket dragster since pre-season testing last week in Phoenix, used a string of low 3.7-second runs to beat Steve Faria, Morgan Lucas, and Richie Crampton in the first three rounds. He saved his quickest run on Sunday for the final to beat Kalitta.
“[Tuning consultant] Alan [Johnson] and [crew chief] Richard [Hogan] have worked really well together,” said Torrence, who becomes the Top Fuel points leader for the first time in his career. “Alan is that thorn who keeps poking Richard to tune it just a little bit farther. My crew guys have done a great job. I am just the guy that sits in there and gets to drive it. It feels good. I wish the season was over already. We are going to do what we can to keep the momentum going and go on to Phoenix and try to write a story just like this one.”
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Reigning Top Alcohol Funny Car National Champion Jonnie Lindberg raced to the win while Shawn Cowie returned to the national event winner’s circle for the first time since 2013 as they each scored at this weekend’s season opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Four Southern California racers also took home the coveted NHRA Wally trophy and Len Darnell, Vancouver, Wash., won the Top Fuel Harley class.
Lindberg, out of Sweden, opened the 2016 season as he did during his 2015 championship run taking the win here at historic Auto Club Raceway edging out John Lombardo Jr., in a classic 1-2 final round as both drivers qualified at the top of the field. Lindberg grabbed his third national event win driving his Chevy Monte Carlo to a 5.423 second lap at 271.90 mph to nip Lombardo’s 5.456, 272.31. Lombardo was looking for his eighth straight round win here in Pomona having won the 2015 season ending Auto Club NHRA Finals last November.
Cowie, Surrey, B.C., saved his best pass of eliminations for his final round match up with fellow Canadian and No. 1 qualifier Don St. Arnaud of Edmonton, Alb. St. Arnaud got the slight advantage off the line but Cowie quickly took the lead and raced to a 5.314 second lap at 272.23 mph.
Robert Naber, Doug Lambeck, Steve Williams and Jimmy DeFrank all won out of Southern California with Naber advancing to the final round in both Super Comp and Super Gas, looking for the exclusive double up.
Naber, Ontario, Calif., meet up with Williams, Beaumont, Calif., in Super Comp with Williams quickly ending Naber’s double up hopes, taking the win on a double breakout. Williams took the early lead with a .003 second reaction time and held on for his 10th win at the national event level.
Naber jumped out of his dragster and quickly returned to the starting line to face off with Mike Wiblishouser in Super Gas with his ’63 Corvette. Naber had no intention of going 0-2 on the day, posting a 9.901 second run on the 9.900 index for the win and his fourth NHRA national event trophy.
Perennial NHRA winner Dan Fletcher was in search of his second career double up as he knocked out Don Little in Stock Eliminator for his 95th national event win before taking on Lambeck in Comp Eliminator. The New York racer has 16 wins in Comp but will have to wait for 17 as Lambeck, Irvine, Calif., scored his 11th running 8.406, 158.61 to hold off Fletcher’s 8.027, 167.55. Lambeck’s dad Bob won the NHRA Winternationals in Stock Eliminator back in 1983.
DeFrank, Thousand Oaks, Calif., rounded out the Lucas Oil winner’s list taking home the trophy in Super Stock. The win is the second generation driver’s 19th and fifth Circle K NHRA Winternationals victory. DeFrank beat Fred Moreno, La Verne, Calif., in his Chevy Cobalt running 9.315, 119.52. Moreno left early with a red light foul start.
Darnell swept the table in the NHRA Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series take both the number one qualifying spot and the event win on his ’14 Harley. Darnell would face off with Canada’s Kevin Boyer in the final round with Darnell clocking in at 218.16 mph as he covered the quarter mile in 6.435 seconds. Boyer had problems on his run, shutting his “Team Ace Racing” bike off early and crossing the centerline at half-track.
Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Eric Lotz and Bruce Biegler
Photos by: Bruce Biegler & Phil Hutchison