Just when you thought maybe NHRA’s drag racing fortunes could not get any weirder this season……surprise!…

Due to weather related issues and then some very spectacular incidents — NHRA Drag Racing’s most recent national event (the Mopar Express Lane Midwest Nationals) was a very abbreviated affair.

As fate would have it — only two winners were determined at last weekend’s event hosted at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis at Madison IL.

Veteran Doug Kalitta won for the fourth time in St. Louis and pulled within two points of the Top Fuel lead and DSR team driver Tommy Johnson (Funny Car) also won at the eighth race of the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

But due to a unique combination of cold temperatures and wind direction, NHRA officials postponed the conclusion of racing for all of its other eliminators.

Kalitta earned his second win this season and 49th in his standout career after going 3.690-seconds at 322.58 mph in his Mac Tools dragster, beating defending world champ Steve Torrence in the final round. It closed the gap between Kalitta and Torrence, who has won two straight world titles, to just two points, setting the stage for a memorable championship battle.

Kalitta reached the final round after getting past Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon, T.J. Zizzo and No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher, and is in position to try and win his first career Top Fuel world championship.

Doug Kalitta moved to within two points of the NHRA lead when he won at St. Louis Sunday.

Torrence advanced to his fourth straight final round in St. Louis and 59th in his career by knocking off Kyle Wurtzel, Antron Brown and his father, Billy.

Top Fuel racing did include a spectacular incident — a frightening round two occurrence for Leah Pruett and her Mopar Top Fuel dragster. Halfway through her match against her DSR teammate Tony Schumacher, Pruett went for a wild ride as her dragster broke in two and went airborne before landing back on track and coming to a stop. The Mopar driver exited her canopy equipped car unaided and walked away unhurt but disappointed.   (You can link to video of that incident: HERE)

Leah Pruett endured this insane incident during round two of Top Fuel — thankfully she suffered zero injuries when the chassis snapped at mid track.

In Funny Car, Johnson picked up a crucial victory to stay in championship contention, going 3.884 at 326.88 driving the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in the final round to squeak past Matt Hagan’s 3.886 at 333.00. It gives Johnson his second win in 2020 and 21st in his career, and also handed Don Schumacher Racing its 11th straight victory in the class. He advanced to the final round with victories against Terry Haddock, Paul Lee and teammate Jack Beckman, who entered the weekend with the points lead.

The fuel FC final was once again all DSR/Mopar — with Tommy Johnson Jr., (near lane) outgunning teammate Matt Hagan,

Hagan jumped past him by advancing to the final round, but Johnson now trails by just 34 points. Beckman is only 16 points behind Hagan, setting the stage for a thrilling three-car Funny Car race down the stretch. Like Kalitta, Johnson is also seeking that elusive first world championship, and Sunday’s performance means he remains a viable threat in the class.

Pro Stock, action was stopped midway through the second round and Pro Stock Motorcycle completed its second round of eliminations before action was halted on Sunday.

This 9th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals will not soon be forgotten. After being largely uneventful Saturday when rain delays eventually set the Top Fuel and Funny Car fields based on a single nighttime qualifying round — the cold conditions resulted in Pro Stock and PSM fields being set on current points for the first time since 2000.

On Sunday racing conditions proved to be too cold and windy still — causing major safety concerns. Pro Stock driver Kenny Delco got loose in the first round and barrel rolled his car next to Greg Anderson and thus the scrutiny of the situation intensified. It soon became very apparent during the second round that conditions that were not improving and NHRA announced a decision to stop all other racing — Pro Stock, Pro Mod, Pro Stock Motorcycle, and Factory Stock Showdown classes — as well as remaining Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series sportsman competition.

As of right now the date and locations for concluding that competition has not yet been announced. Officially there are three events remaining on the current planned 2020 schedule — two in Texas (Dallas & Houston). The final race of the year — the NHRA Dodge Finals (@ Las Vegas over the Halloween weekend) — is still planned but also threatened — COVID-19 restrictions within Nevada permitting.

But on a very positive note — The St. Louis area event was highlighted by a major announcement that Camping World has now partnered with NHRA to become the sponsor of the premier professional series, which will be known as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series (formally Mello Mello Drag Racing Series).

Posted with files by NHRA Communications and Bruce Biegler
Photos courtesy of NHRA and Dodge/SRT