KENT, WA – August 1, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – The goal for every racer in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is to be performing at his or her best when the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins.
After a slow start and a number of close calls this season, Top Fuel standout J.R. Todd appears to be headed in that direction. The latest sign came on Sunday when Todd picked up his first victory of the season in Sonoma during the second stop of the famed Western Swing.
He will carry that momentum in his 10,000-horsepower SealMaster dragster into Pacific Raceways for this weekend’s 29th annual Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, where Todd serves as the defending Top Fuel winner. A second straight win in Seattle would be the ideal finish to the Western Swing, giving Todd even more hope of competing at his best when a world championship is on the line.
“We are excited to be making good consistent runs in this SealMaster Toyota dragster,” said Todd, who is sixth in Top Fuel points after the win. “We struggled earlier in the season, but we are headed in the right direction. Our qualifying positions have improved the last few races and we are running better consistently to get there. We are moving in the right direction at the right time.”
Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) were also last year’s winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event held at the multi-purpose motorsports facility near Seattle. It is the 16th of 24 races during the 2016 season and will be broadcast on the FOX national broadcast network for the first time.
Only two races follow the Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin, and things appear to be going as planned for Todd and his talented Kalitta Motorsports team.
Todd has now advanced to the final round at three of the past four races, knocking off Richie Crampton in Sonoma for his first victory since last year’s event in Seattle. Todd continues to be consistent and quick, two aspects that will be needed to claim what would be his first world championship. Returning to the scene of his lone victory a scene ago will give the eight-time event winner that much more confidence to finish off the rigorous Western Swing on a strong note.
“It is always nice to return to a race you won last season,” Todd said. “If conditions are similar, we have a great set of notes for the weekend that hopefully will allow us to run strong again this season. We are making good consistent clean passes that have been in the top five of the class most times we go down the track.”
That consistency has started to pay off for Todd, who has four total final round appearances in 2016. It also gave Todd and his team confidence, but getting that first victory of the season will only add to it. Todd, though, still has big goals before the Countdown to the Championship, including a second straight win at Seattle.
More victories and more impressive performances during eliminations can move Todd up the points standings, as he currently sits 74 points back of fifth-place Tony Schumacher, an eight-time world champion.
“The goal is to get this SealMaster team into the top five before the Countdown begins after Indy,” Todd said. “In 2014, I came from tenth to second, but you have a much better shot if you start near the front of the standings.”
To get to fifth or even higher before the Countdown won’t be easy and Todd will face off against a talented field in Seattle that includes Schumacher, who has four wins at the facility, and points leader and reigning world champion Antron Brown, who has three wins in 2016.
Others to watch in the class is Todd’s Kalitta Motorsports teammate Doug Kalitta, who also has three wins this season, Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican, Crampton, Leah Pritchett and Terry McMillen. But Todd likes what he is seeing out of his car and team, and he expects that to continue in Seattle.
“Our team morale is very good and continues to get more positive as we keep going consecutive races with round wins,” Todd said. “The Western Swing is one of the hardest parts of the season and if we can keep doing what we are doing I am confident going into Indy and the Countdown for the Championship.”
In Funny Car, Johnson Jr. will be trying to defend his race win from a year ago over teammate Jack Beckman. Johnson’s victory prevented Beckman from sweeping the NHRA Western Swing in 2015. Johnson has one victory in 2016, but points leader Ron Capps has been red-hot in 2016, winning four events. Others to watch include John Force, who will try to sweep the Western Swing after winning the first two events, defending world champion Del Worsham, two-time 2016 winner Matt Hagan in sixth, Courtney Force, Tim Wilkerson and Robert Hight.
Pro Stock, McGaha will be racing to defend his event win but he and the rest of the field will have an uphill battle. Series points leader Jason Line and teammate Greg Anderson have combined for 14 wins this season, with both winning seven. Both also have three Seattle victories. Catching up won’t be impossible in the redesigned Pro Stock class, which features fuel-injected engines, flat hoods, 10,500 RPM rev-limiters and shortened wheelie-bars. Those looking to knock down Line and Anderson include Bo Butner who sits third in points, Allen Johnson, Drew Skillman, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile, five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. and two-time, reigning world champion Erica Enders.
The Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature rounds at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.nhra.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
PROTECT THE HARVEST NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS presented by Lucas Oil FACT SHEET
WHAT: 29th annual Protect The Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, the 16th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash. The track is located 10 miles east of Interstate 5 on Highway 18. From I-5, use Exit 142A (Auburn exit) and travel east 10 miles on Highway 18, following the signs to the track. From other points, use Highway 18 and exit S.E. 304th St. or S.E. 312th St.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 280 feet above sea level; Track direction is east to west.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 5-7
FRIDAY, Aug. 5 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Aug. 6 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, Aug. 7 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 5, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 7, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at Noon (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 7, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: J.R. Todd, Top Fuel; Tommy Johnson Jr., Funny Car; Chris McGaha, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 8, FC; Bob Glidden, 6, PS; Joe Amato, 5, TF; Warren Johnson, 4, PS; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF.
Top Fuel – 3.727 sec. by Richie Crampton, Aug. ’15; 328.30 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15.
Funny Car – 3.912 sec. and 322.88 mph by Jack Beckman, Aug. ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.488 sec. and 213.40 mph by Chris McGaha, Aug. ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets may also be purchased online at http://www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Antron Brown, 1,204; 2. Doug Kalitta, 1,167; 3. Steve Torrence, 1,072; 4. Brittany Force, 1,008; 5. Tony Schumacher, 971; 6. J.R. Todd, 897; 7. Shawn Langdon, 836; 8. Richie Crampton, 754; 9. Clay Millican, 715; 10. Leah Pritchett, 586.
1. Ron Capps, 1,214; 2. Courtney Force, 1,084; 3. Jack Beckman, 1,031; 4. Del Worsham, 960; 5. John Force, 937; 6. (tie) Matt Hagan, 936; Robert Hight, 936; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 888; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 827; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 765.
1. Greg Anderson, 1,587; 2. Jason Line, 1,583; 3. Bo Butner, 1,065; 4. Allen Johnson, 939; 5. Vincent Nobile, 811; 6. Drew Skillman, 805; 7. Shane Gray, 737; 8. Chris McGaha, 718; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 644; 10. Alex Laughlin, 627.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 824; 2. Andrew Hines, 735; 3. Angelle Sampey, 595; 4. Jerry Savoie, 556; 5. LE Tonglet, 484; 6. Hector Arana, 427; 7. Chip Ellis, 422; 8. Matt Smith, 344; 9. Hector Arana Jr, 305; 10. Steve Johnson, 300.
Source: National Hot Rod Association