The 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season kicked off Friday and defending Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence piloted to the category’s qualifying lead at the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are also provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the first of 24 events on the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Torrence leads the Top Fuel category with a run of 3.716-seconds at 330.07 mph in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster posted during the first qualifying session of 2019. After remaining undefeated during the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, he is looking for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season in hopes of continuing the streak.
“Really good run to come out of the trailer,” Torrence stated. “We had a really good test session out in Phoenix and to come out here and pick up where we left off last year was the plan. Being able to come out and do it is a whole different thing and so far we are doing well. We are just trying to keep with the momentum.”
With a new 18-race Pro Stock schedule for the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, starting quickly will be imperative. That’s been the focus of all the top teams heading into this weekend’s annual iconic opener, the tradition-rich 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
That mindset could bode well for a KB Racing team that includes world champs Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Bo Butner. The trio has won eight straight Winternationals and nine of the last 10, and Line has five wins in that span, making him no stranger to early-season success. It’s a trend the veteran hopes to continue this weekend in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro.
“There’s no pressure, but if you want to win them all, you have to win the first one,” Line said. “Every race is important, and you’d like to start off well, so it matters for sure. I’m looking forward to being better. We see the opportunities to do things differently in the shop as a positive for us. We’re going to get better as the year goes, for sure, but this first race still matters.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Butner (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including finals coverage beginning at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10. It is the first of 18 events during the new-look 2019 NHRA Pro Stock season and there won’t be a repeat champion after Tanner Gray departed after last year.