CHEVROLET AT POMONA
Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtecttheHarvest.com
Friday, Feb.9-Sunday, Feb. 11
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California
FS1: Qualifications live – 6 p.m. ET Friday; taped — 1 p.m. ET Saturday
FS1: Eliminations and finals live – 5 p.m. ET Sunday
Chevrolet Seeks Quick Start in Defense of Pro Championships
Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock title-holders embark on new season of challenges
DETROIT (Feb. 7, 2018) – Three months ago, Chevrolet drivers Brittany Force, Robert Hight, and Bo Butner proudly stood on the champions’ stage at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, awash in a shower of multi-colored confetti and champagne spray.
The celebration of accomplishment “was incredible,” said Force, who became the first female in 35 years and second overall to claim the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Top Fuel championship. Now, in what seems as a mere moment ago, the drivers embark on a new venture as reigning champions.
The 58th Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com – this weekend’s season-opening event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season — will be contested at Auto Club Raceway. Though the confetti has been removed and champagne bottles have been recycled, memories of the Chevrolet sweep of the Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock titles will inspire the champions’ start – while more celebrations will be forged.
“I am excited to get back to Pomona. We ended our season with a win and we brought home the championship with this Monster Energy team,” said Force, who will affix a No. 1 decal on her new Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster before the opening round of qualifications. “I know when we get back there we will have that positive energy in our pits. I think that will push us all season long. We won the championship, which is why everyone is out here, and now we want to do it again.”
Hight secured his second Funny Car championship, driving the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, and delivered Chevrolet’s first Funny Car title in a decade. He won four races and recorded a class-high eight No. 1 qualifier honors. Hight also reset the Funny Car national records for elapsed time (3.793 seconds) and speed (339.87 mph).
“It would be a pretty bold prediction to say we are going to win again, but I definitely want to be in the hunt,” Hight said. “You really want to be in the ball game at the end of the season. My goal is really to be good from start to finish. We want to win a lot of races and we want to be able to say we would be the champion whether there was a playoff or not. We have a good combination that we can start the year with and carry it on. I like our combination and we have a good handle on things. I can’t wait to get this season started.”
Butner, driving the Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS, collected five wins, including the finale to clinch the title by seven points over KB Racing teammate and four-time class champion Greg Anderson. Chevrolet drivers owned the top seven places in the championship standings.
“I don’t feel like I have a target on my back,” Butner said. “The target is always on Greg and (three-time champion and teammate) Jason (Line), so I think I can just slide in and do well. I’m not feeling any pressure. With our guys, they’re the best at what they do. I’m very confident in our car, and it’s just good to get back in it. It’s been a couple months, and I can tell you that it really hits you good when it’s been awhile. I’m excited.”
Chevy Racing will seek to claim its second consecutive and record-extending 23rd NHRA Manufacturers Cup. Chevrolet first earned the award in 1966, and no other manufacturer has won it more times.
In the 24 races of the 2017 season, Chevrolet drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock amassed 33 victories. Additionally, Justin Lamb won his second Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Stock Eliminator championship, driving a 2017 Chevrolet COPO Camaro, and he also secured his second Super Stock title in a Chevrolet Cobalt. Also, David Barton won the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown title in a COPO Camaro.
Entering the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season that concludes Nov. 9-11 back at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the Bowtie Brand has collected 124 Funny Car victories (the first in 1970) and 278 Pro Stock wins (the first in 1967) for a record 402 total.
Lamb of Hendersonville, Nevada, also opens defense of his Sportsman titles this weekend.
“There was a learning curve with the COPO Camaro for me after driving my ’70 Camaro (early in the ’17 Stock Eliminator season),” said Lamb, who also won the 2013 Stock title and the 2015 Super Stock championship. “I just wanted to figure it out, learn the fuel injection, the set-up of the car because it’s so different from a ’70 Camaro. It has so much more power. The learning curve was much quicker than we expected, which says a lot about the COPO. We had a lot of success early and started compiling points that led us to the championship.”
Also entered in the 65-car Stock class this weekend in COPO Camaros are Tom Ferruggia of Menifee, California; Tim Seymour of San Dimas, California; and Al Corda of Elk Mound, Wisconsin.
Einer Lindy Lindholm of Newport Beach, California, and Roy Cracraft of Mesa, Arizona, driving their 2017 Chevrolet COPO Camaros, are among the 68 entries in Super Stock competition.
FS1 will telecast qualifications live at 6 p.m. ET Friday and eliminations and finals live at 5 p.m. ET Sunday.
Fans will have the opportunity to tour the Chevrolet Racing Tour display at the track. The expansive display will feature production vehicles such as the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Premier, the 2018 Camaro Coupe SS, the Silverado 2500 HD High Country, and the Corvette Grand Sport.
CHEVY RACING ENGINEERING PREVIEW
ROGER ALLEN, CHEVY RACING NHRA PROGRAM MANAGER: “We’re hoping to repeat the 2017 season results. I would consider 2018 to be a success if we could win the Manufacturer’s Championship and two of the driver championships. As always, it takes hard work and a little luck. The competition is very tough; they are going to try very hard to keep Chevy from again sweeping the driver championships in 2018.”
CHEVROLET FROM THE COCKPIT
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET TOP FUEL DRAGSTER (2017 class champion; earned four wins, including November race at track; reset track ET record in November event; will run new dragster at event): “Testing was not just about getting the car down the track and making those runs but I’ve been out of the seat, the whole team has been away from the race track, so it really was also pulling together and finding our routine again and getting us ready to jump right into Pomona.”
ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (2017 class champion; holds class national elapsed time and speed records): “Last year was a whole new deal. I was fighting the reigning champion Ron Capps; the guy was amazing winning eight races throughout the season. We had our hands full. There was so much more pressure. We all got through it. We did what we had to when the chips were down. We came through when the pressure was the highest. That gives me a lot of confidence coming into this season. Winning two championships in a row will be tough but that would be the coolest thing because no one has gone back-to-back (in Funny Car) since John Force.”
COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS BIG MACHINE RECORDS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (finished 2017 a career-best third in points; five-time runner-up and seven-time No. 1 qualifier last year; No. 1 qualifier and runner-up at spring ’17 event at track; will run new chassis at event): “I am excited for my entire Advance Auto Parts team to come back into the 2018 season at the Winternationals at my home track. I love being back there. I am really excited to kick off the new season, especially coming off my best finish. We have a few changes, like adding Brian Corradi as a crew chief alongside Dan Hood, so I am looking forward to a successful start to the season. We had a great test session in Phoenix. I am really looking to start the season with a lot of success at the Winternationals.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT & MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (seven-time winner of spring race at track; has NHRA-record 148 career Funny Car wins): “We have a lot of talent top to bottom with our crew chiefs. With that talent, hard work and a little luck we were able to come away from the 2017 season with the Top Fuel and Funny Car championships. We’re welcoming Brian Corradi to the team and back into the Funny Car world with Danny Hood. Now we are all going to work together, just like we always have, to put all four of these hot rods in as many winner’s circles as possible. All these guys have been working hard all off-season and now it’s time to go racing.”
BO BUTNER, JIM BUTNER AUTO, BUTNER AUTO SALES CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (2017 class champion; five-time winner and six-time runner-up last year; five-time No. 1 qualifier): “If I can match rounds in 2018 like 2017, we’ll be in great, great shape. I’ve learned that it’s important to do good all year, but like Jason (Line, KB Racing teammate) says, you don’t win the championship the first 5-10 races. You have to get in the Countdown, get a good spot, and take it from there. We have a new KB teammate (Deric Kramer) this year, and I’m sure he’ll be good. He is a very good driver. Now there are four of us to deal with, and I think that’s awesome.”
GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (2017 championship runner-up; four-time winner and seven-time runner-up last year, including February event at track; six-time winner at track): “We didn’t get out the doors at all during the off-season, we were focused on working on our engines and making pulls on the dyno, just trying to find more power. We’ve never had a winter that we didn’t go down to Florida and test, but we did get to Phoenix a lot earlier than we normally would, and we feel like it was productive. Time will tell, though. It was a different plan for us, but we feel like it was still a good plan that gave us some extra shop time that we needed.”
JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (2016 class champion finished third in ’17 standings; won February event at Pomona last year for fifth time in career; runner-up in both races at Pomona in ‘16): “It was a good off-season for us, and we had the opportunity to work on a few projects. I think we’re all ready to get back to racing and see how we line up against the field. This year will be different for us with four cars, but I think it’s going to be a good year. The goal is always the same, to win rounds and win races for Ken Black and Team Summit. We’ll take it race by race, but I’m excited. It should be fun.”
TANNER GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (finished fourth in points last year and was named NHRA rookie of year; five-time winner and four-time No. 1 qualifier): “Our goal last year was to win a championship, and as a team we just didn’t really perform the last four races or so and it cost us. If we could have a year like we did last year and be more consistent those last four races, make sure we go rounds and cut out the dumb mistakes, then I do see why we wouldn’t win the championship. Last year, we showed good power and (crew chief) Dave (Connolly) does a really good job with the car, so all I have to do is go on time and we’ll be OK. This year I will definitely be a lot more relaxed. I’ve been to all the racetracks and know what to expect. That will definitely play a big role. The other thing is I don’t think I’ll be as nervous and amped up going into this year. It will be a lot more relaxed and focused.”
DREW SKILLMAN, RAY SKILLMAN MOTORSPORTS, RAY SKILLMAN AUTO GROUP CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (finished fifth in points last year; four-time winner and two-time runner-up in ’17; holds Pro Stock track speed record): “The start of a new season is always exciting, and our team is excited to get going on the track. We had a slow start to the 2017 season but came on strong in the second half with four wins – including back-to-back in Chicago and Denver. We’re continuing our technical alliance with Gray Motorsports and I look forward to working with and racing against Tanner Gray again this season. All in all, we’re looking forward to a fast start.”
ERICA ENDERS, MELLING PERFORMANCE/ ELITE MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (finished sixth in points last year; won at New Hampshire and three-time runner-up; holds Pro Stock track elapsed time record): “(2017 was a) decent year for us after a disastrous 2016. We did get a win up in New Hampshire, which felt wonderful, and we fought our way back to respectability, especially down the stretch after kind of losing our way in the middle of the season. I’m excited about getting everything in order for another championship run in 2018. We’ll be back stronger than ever. We’ve won two championships, but I know our best days are ahead of us.”
JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM/ELITE PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (finished seventh in points last year; made his initial Pro Stock start in 1998 at the track; six-time winner at track): “We’re ready to start fresh and make a real run at the 2018 championship. We just finished up several days of testing in Phoenix and all of the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock cars were running strong, including our JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro. I believe we had the quickest car every day with Erica (Enders, teammate) Chevy and we were usually within a hundredth of a second of her so we’re very optimistic about the season. We feel like we’re starting on equal footing this year in relation to the other teams. Here’s to some great competition throughout the season and being in the mix for the title at the end. It all starts now.”
VINCENT NOBILE, ELITE MOTORSPORTS, MOUNTAIN VIEW TIRE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (competed in 19 races last year, with one runner-up finish; will be competing in 165th career Pro Stock race): “We had a very good test session with the new Jerry Haas Chevrolet Camaro. I definitely have some confidence going into Pomona. I am excited to be back- hopefully we start the season on a high note.”
DERIC KRAMER, KB RACING, AMERICAN ETHANOL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (first race with KB Racing; competed in 13 events last year): “If I was to describe this upcoming year in a word, I would say ‘competitive.’ I will be one of four Chevrolet Camaros with the same power, so we can compare our car set-up and my driving against them and verify that we are making good decisions. It will be nice not being the only car on the island like it’s been in the past.”