In the early days of drag racing it became apparent that the format is exploding nationally. WWII veterans, adrenaline junkies, and performance enthusiasts began meeting to see who had the fastest car. Usually on a backroad or sometimes an abandoned airfield flag men would wave the start as others at the end of the run would determine the winner. It wasn’t until Pappy Hart opened the first computer controlled timed track at Santa Ana Airport in 1950 when specific standards were developed. See more here.
After a failed attempt in Florida to partner up with NASCAR in 1960, the NHRA Winternationals moved to their birthplace in Southern California. Wally Parks worked with the Pomona Valley Timing Association to organize the Winternationals.
In the shadow of the snow-capped peaks of the Angeles National Forest the track temperature was a perfect 70° for the first run of the NHRA Winternationals. It marks the beginning of the Drag Racing season where drivers from all over the country compete for points standings and trophies in their class. The season ends again in Pomona with the Finals where the points leader is crowned Season Champ.
This past weekend we took a trip to the 2022 Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals Presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com. We arrived in time to catch some of the Pro Stock, Top Fuel and Top Fuel Funny Car qualifying races. The main grand stands were filled with families and fans. Soon enough, everyone started putting on their ear protection as the Top Fuelers were rolling to the burn-out pit. The crowd grew quiet as the track announcer gave the commentary over the loud speakers. A burst of soundwaves blast the ears, the shockwaves push against your chest, and the smell of nitro-methane fuel sharpens the nose. This is the excitement of Top Fuel Drag Racing that reaches ALL your senses. In a time of under 4 seconds and at 330 miles per hour by the 1000 foot mark, the 11,000 horsepower beasts shut down with parachutes popping. And it happens again, and again as Top Fuel competitors in a qualifying field of 17 work to stay in the top 16 to race in the finals on Sunday. Sunday was funday for 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year, Justin Ashley who took the top spot over 2019 Rookie of the Year Austin Prock at 314.53 mph and 3.694 seconds.
The Funny Car field was just as exciting. With a shorter wheelbase and relatively the same power plant, Funny cars have a carbon fiber body that barely resembles a car in your driveway. In that field the qualifiers are working against a field of 20 cars to vie for that coveted 16 ladder for the finals. Robert Hight ended up winning the final on Sunday over Ron Capps giving him his 5th Winternationals win and 54th win of his career at 330.39 mph and and ET of 3.882 seconds
Out in the pits we spoke at length with Jeff Lane of Hancock & Lane team sponsored by Right Trailers, International regarding his involvement with both fuel and electric drag racing. As we were talking some mile or so deep into the pits we struggled to hear each other through the thunder of Top Fuel cars racing down the track. Something of a juxtaposition to the quiet although exciting world of electric racing. Interestingly, the conversation turned to the fact that like other classes, electric driven drag racing isn’t going to replace any fuel versions in our lifetime, but as an addition to the excitement felt at the track. His team Hancock & Lane did well at the track too. Jeff’s son Cody won Stock in a beautiful ’73 Corvette while Jeff finished in 7th with his 2018 Camaro. Cody also finished 2nd in the Comp Eliminator Class in a 2005 Cavalier. Jeff Lane is also the creator/builder of the Chevrolet e-COPO and the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 1400.
We found ourselves in the middle of a gasser cacklefest at the Hot Rod Show next to the pits. The vintage racers were all lined up for a show then started going off to rile the crowd up. There were some incredible rides there like the Chevado wheel stander. A ’55 Nomad with a Toronado powerplant in the back and plexiglass floor boards. Apparently NHRA required the plexi so the driver can navigate themselves down the track with the nose reaching for the stars. We also found our friend Rick Kersh who had a re-creation of his father’s sidewinder “Piece of Pie” completely scratch-built wedge shaped digger with a chain driven, sideways mounted Ford flathead. The driver sat behind the rear wheels as the 700+ pound vehicle ran down the famed race tracks of Santa Ana Airport, Colton and Lion’s Drag Strip. Built in 1955, the car ran for a few years before a bad wreck involving a few endos and barrel rolls at Santa Ana Airport.
All the history and speed culminated as we were leaving the lot. Vince was stopped in his tracks as we came upon a lonely Koenigsegg Regera Honey waiting patiently for it’s driver to return. Apparently Vince knows his supercars, or in this case Hypercar. The Koenigsegg Regera Honey is one of the 80 Koenigsegg Regeras buillt. It features 1500 horsepower hybrid powertrain and Koenigsegg Direct Drive. 5.0 liter twin turbo V-8 with 3 electric motors. Top speed is recorded at 249 mph with a 0-60 mark at 2.8 seconds. The clear carbon fiber body with diamond dust in the lacquer is finished with Monterey Blue accents and pinstripe details. This car als features the world’s first Hypercar NFT (whatever that is) and it’s own song performed by Christian Von Koenigsegg’s son Sebastian by scanning the logo with Berify.
All in all a great day at the drags with inspiration from the past, the present and the future. What inspires you? Please share with a #InspiredByBurns tag.