Winternationals Memorable Moment No. 5 Garlits Goes Big (1963)

Winternationals Memorable Moment No. 5 Garlits Goes Big (1963)

The return of the use of nitromethane in Top Eliminator was only part of the big news at the third Winternationals. NHRA had lifted its seven-year nitromethane ban for the event (though NHRA returned to a gasoline-only format at the 1963 Nationals, it was nitromethane forever from 1964 on), but the event also is where “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, arguably the greatest drag racer of all time even at that early point in the sport’s history, won his first of 35 NHRA national event titles.

With a wing mounted over the engine, the first on a Top Fuel dragster, Garlits’ Swamp Rat V entry attracted considerable attention. Garlits had predicted, and proved correct, that the wing, whose design was taken from a Piper Cub airplane, would increase traction for his lightweight but high-powered dragster, but it initially was rejected in tech inspection.

Recalled Garlits, “They called [NHRA’s] Jack Hart over, and he said, ‘Garlits, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be dangerous. We’ll just let you run it, and everyone can have a nice laugh.’ ”

Garlits countered, again presciently, “Jack, when the smoke clears, every dragster in competition will have a wing on it someday. Trust me.”

Garlits worked his way through the field and defeated fellow Florida campaigner Art Malone in the final with an 8.26, 186.32 and set low e.t. at 8.11.

“The track was a little slick, and Malone and I started marching through the field. Malone is a little heavier, which helped with traction on the rear wheels. We were even at the eighth-mile, and the pressure from the wing started kicking in and helped me pull away. It was my biggest win at that time. With [NHRA founder] Wally [Parks] still at Hot Rod, whoever won a major NHRA national event automatically got on the cover, and that was tremendous publicity. Not everybody looked inside the magazine, but everyone saw the cover.”

Garlits later removed the innovative wing, but he reemployed it eight years later on his first rear-engine car, Swamp Rat XIV, which he debuted with a victory in 1971 at the Winternationals, a race he would win five times.


Dixon takes Pomona Top Fuel lead as other Thursday leaders remain No. 1

Dixon takes Pomona Top Fuel lead as other Thursday leaders remain No. 1

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Three-time Winternationals champ Larry Dixon grabbed the reins in Top Fuel at the 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona while reigning season champs Robert Hight and Mike Edwards held onto their Thursday leads in Funny Car and Pro Stock, respectively.

With two qualifying sessions and two days now in the books at the 2010 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season opener, the nostalgia-filled event reached its halfway point. Two qualifying sessions remain Saturday to set the fields for Sunday’s final eliminations. The golden anniversary event is also highlighted by a display of nostalgic race cars from the event’s long history and exhibition runs, Cacklefests, and autograph sessions with the sport’s heroes that will take place throughout the weekend.

Larry Dixon

Dixon, who didn’t even make the field due to last year’s rain-shortened qualifying, got well in a hurry after losing traction on his Thursday pass, powering the Jason McCulloch-tuned Al-Anabi/Alan Johnson dragster to a 3.795 at 317.79 to take the No. 1 spot halfway through qualifying. If he holds onto the top position, it will be the 41st of his career.

“Before the weekend started, Alan [Johnson, crew chief] said, ‘Every race this year, we just need to do a little bit better,’ and I said, ‘Well, we’ve got a pretty big cushion to work with. We just need 11 points at this event to be able to do better than we did last year,’ ” said Dixon. “That was a nice run there and it will stay in the show, so we’re going to race this year at the 50th Winternationals, so I’m thrilled about that. It was a nice, clean, straight run, not a lot to talk about. It was just nice.

“Yesterday we ran into the night — the sun was gone and the track temperatures were a lot cooler — so today is probably more realistic of what we will see through the weekend. You have a little different grip. For us, it stuck, so it was nice that Alan and Jason both made the necessary adjustments needed to get the car down the racetrack. So far, so good. Hopefully, we can keep running good for the rest of the weekend.”

Morgan Lucas also got healthy quickly with the GEICO Powersports car, running 3.823 after an eight-second pass Thursday to move into the No. 3 spot behind Dixon and Thursday leader Cory McClenathan, who smoked the tires and couldn’t improve on his earlier 3.809. Lucas’ pass was the second quickest of the round. The third quickest belonged to reigning season champ Tony Schumacher, who marched the Army dragster to a 3.835 for the No. 4 spot.

Behind the top four are Shawn Langdon, who slipped from Thursday’s second-place ranking after failing to better his 3.847, and Dave Grubnic, whose 3.854 was the round’s fourth best and a step up from his earlier 3.954.

Troy Buff, who sat a lofty fourth yesterday, fell all the way to 12th with his Thursday 3.950 to hold the final transfer spot heading into Saturday’s final qualifying.

Robert Hight

Funny Car qualifying was an interesting endeavor as after John Force’s stout 4.066 in the round’s second pair moved him to the No. 3 spot, everyone else struggled, with the majority being unable to make it all the way down the track under power, leaving Robert Hight’s 4.059 in his Auto Club of Southern California Mustang and Del Worsham’s 4.062 in the Al-Anabi/Alan Johnson Toyota in the top two positions.

“It’s just exciting always to be back, and we’ve worked real hard over the winter,” said Force. “We weren’t able to get a lot of testing done. Mike Neff coming over to our team with the loss of our fourth car, I’m excited that [ Austin] Coil, him, and Bernie [Fedderly] are working together. Coil’s loving it, having a young kid with a lot of energy to run around. Neff said, ‘That’s where I came from, tuning, and that’s where I really wanted to be,’ so no problems there. Robert ran low last night with John Medlen over there helping Jimmy Prock and Eric Lane, so we’ve got good rounded deal. We’re just excited about it. I’ve still got some life in me.

“I never realized how overloaded I was, running between cars. When you take away a car, it just takes a whole chunk of the load off of you. It’s just amazing that I can focus on my car. I’m still running around crazy, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Ron Capps’ 4.167 in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge was the round’s next best time, but it was a run that left him just ninth in the field.  Former world champ Tony Pedregon has the 12th position with his 4.189 in his Nitro Fish Chevy, which was the session’s third-best time.

Ashley Force Hood is fourth, just behind her dad, with her Thursday 4.09 and is followed on the grid by Don Schumacher Racing teammates Jack Beckman (4.101) and Matt Hagan (4.109). Nineteen Funny Cars have made runs so far at the event.

Mike Edwards

Edwards not only maintained his traditional position atop the Pro Stock field, but the reigning NHRA Full Throttle champ also had the session’s best pass, a 6.599, from his Penhall/Interstate/K&N Pontiac. If he remains in the top spot, which he now holds with his Thursday 6.580, it will be his 10th straight No. 1, dating back to the middle of last season.

“These things are aspirated so they breathe what conditions are outside, so any time the temperature goes up, we slow down just a tick,” said Edwards. “Tomorrow morning could possibly be a good pretty run, but the hotter it gets it definitely affects the engine. So you’ve just got to make the adjustments and try to race the track and try to get all you can get. The conditions, by all means, could get worse if the temperature keeps rising.”

Ohioans Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Ron Krisher remained Nos. 2 and 3 with their Thursday passes of 6.591 and 6.595 as few drivers were able to improve on their times from Thursday’s cooler session. Rodger Brogdon remained fourth and Allen Johnson’s Dodge fifth.

Two drivers who did improve were championship favorites and Summit Racing teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line. Anderson, who struggled to a 13.51 pass Friday, was the quickest of those outside yesterday’s top 16 after clocking a 6.623 in his Summit Pontiac which boosted him to 8th. Line, who ran just 7.23 Friday, also improved substantially with a 6.640. Anderson’s pass was the fourth quickest of the session.

Their unofficial teammate, Ronnie Humphrey, holds down the No. 12 spot, the last that will transfer into Saturday’s qualifying, after posting a 6.644 in his ProStockGrills.com Pontiac. Big names outside the top 12 include Warren and Kurt Johnson, Larry Morgan, Johnny Gray, and Rickie Jones. Twenty-three Pro Stockers have made passes to date this weekend.

Related stories: Champs Hight, Edwards lead their fields in Pomona; Cory Mac fronts Top Fuel


City of Pomona declares Feb. 11-14 as Winternationals Days

City of Pomona declares Feb. 11-14 as Winternationals Days

As part of the ongoing 50th anniversary celebration for the historic Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline, Pomona has proclaimed Feb, 11-14, 2010, as Winternationals Days, it was announced Saturday by city officials at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

The tradition-rich season-opening event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series takes place Feb. 11-14 at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race will be televised by ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.

As NHRA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Winternationals, the showcase of speed and high performance continues. More than 500 competitors in 12 racing categories are expected to perform in front of a standing-room-only crowd during the much-anticipated event at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, hot-rodding’s birthplace.

Elliott Rothman, Pomona mayor, presented the proclamation.

“Drag racing has been a great success across the country, but everyone knows that the heart and soul of all hot rodding is right here in its birthplace in Southern California, at Pomona,” Rothman said. “The city of Pomona is extremely proud to take part in the celebration of the 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals by offering this well-deserved proclamation, and we look forward to many more years of exciting and successful NHRA Full Throttle Series Drag Racing at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.”

In 1961, NHRA held the first NHRA Winternationals event at what was then known as Pomona Raceway at the Los Angeles Fairgrounds. At that time, it was the second NHRA national event in addition to the U.S. Nationals. Today, a victory here is one of the greatest achievements for any drag racer.


Champs Hight, Edwards lead their fields in Pomona; Cory Mac fronts Top Fuel

Champs Hight, Edwards lead their fields in Pomona; Cory Mac fronts Top Fuel

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Reigning season champs Robert Hight in Funny Car and Mike Edwards in Pro Stock lead their fields after the first day of qualifying at the 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Cory McClenathan grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot in Top Fuel on the day, which featured just one qualifying session. Another qualifying session is scheduled for Friday, and the final two are slated for Saturday. The golden-anniversary event is also highlighted by a display of nostalgic race cars from the event’s long history and exhibition runs, Cacklefests, and autograph sessions with the sport’s heroes that will take place throughout the weekend.

Cory McClenathan

McClenathan jumped to the top spot in Top Fuel late in the day’s only session with a 3.809 at 320.05 mph – the fourth-fastest speed in the 1,000-foot era – with his Todd Okuhara- and Phil Shuler-tuned Fram dragster and held on to the No. 1 spot when perennial championship challengers Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon experienced woes on their initial passes. Schumacher, whose run was punctuated by a flash of fire at the top end, finished seventh, and Dixon, who lost traction, wound up 10th.

"I can guarantee you one thing: It won’t stick," said McClenathan. "Somebody’s going to run definitely in the .70s with this cool weather, and it doesn’t have to be that late. The track and the conditions are really there. To run over 282 mph to half-track is pretty good. The Fram car’s flying. Everybody said we looked like the flying pumpkin.

"We plan on making some noise early. We’re going to make our presence known. In the past, I like listening to all the hype for everybody else, but I’m tired of lurking and kind of waiting to see. We’re just going to come out here and try to go toe to toe with these guys from day one. I think Todd and Phil are thinking the same thing. The guys did a great job. The car was prepared right, and everything looked fantastic."

Shawn Langdon, in the first race of his sophomore season in the class, is qualified No. 2 with the Lucas Oil dragster at 3.847, just ahead of the surprise No. 3 qualifier, Norway’s Thomas Nataas, who clocked a strong 3.88 in his Andersen Racing entry. Behind Nataas are three other top-half surprises: Troy Buff, who ran 3.950 in the Bill Miller Engineering entry; returning David Grubnic, who ran 3.954 in Connie Kalitta’s second dragster; and 82-year-old Chris Karamesines, who is sixth with a 3.997.

Antron Brown, who qualified No. 1 here in his Top Fuel debut two years ago, holds the 12th and final time that could transfer into Saturday’s qualifying, an aborted 8.36 pass.

Robert Hight

As at this event last year, reigning NHRA Funny Car world champ Hight grabbed the No. 1 qualifying berth with his Jimmy Prock-wrenched Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang, blasting to a 4.059 at a career-best 312.86 mph, the second-fastest Funny Car speed of the 1,000-foot era. Hight’s effort continues his great string of outings at this event. He was the Winternationals champ in 2006 and 2008 and was runner-up in 2007.

“I figured it would run 4.05. That’s what we did in testing, and we didn’t change it a whole lot,” said Hight. “Probably my No. 1 qualifier here last year was the highlight of the season up to Indy for me. We were terrible. It’s definitely nice to get off on the right foot, especially looking at the rest of the weekend, it’s going to be great weather. I do kind of feel bad for my buddy [Del] Worsham. It’s his 40th birthday, and I bumped him down, but that’s what we got to do here. That won’t stick. There’s going to be a lot more better runs later in the weekend, but it gives us a start that we can really get after ours and maybe get close to national-record stuff.

“Since Indy last year, Jimmy has a whole new confidence, and you can just see it in him. He’s not second-guessing himself, going back and forth to the box making changes. He leaves the pit with a good tune-up and sticks with it, so he has a lot of confidence right now. As a driver, that gives me confidence, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Worsham celebrated his 40th birthday by powering the Al-Anabi Toyota to a stout 4.062 at 312.35 for the No. 2 spot, and Hight’s teammate, Ashley Force Hood, finished third with a 4.093 with her Castrol GTX Mustang. Both Hight and Worsham exceeded Hight’s track record of 310.55, set at last year’s Finals. Only Matt Hagan’s 313.88, recorded last fall in Las Vegas, is faster than Hight’s run.

Hagan’s new DieHard Dodge is qualified fourth at 4.10, and 2009 event runner-up Jim Head is fifth at 4.167, a number matched by fellow veteran Gary Densham. Head got the higher seed based on his superior speed, 304.74 to 293.60.

Former world champ Tony Pedregon holds the 12th spot after charting a 4.37 in his Nitro Fish Chevy. John Force, beginning his 25th season with Castrol GTX, lost what may have been a high-4.0-second pass after a red-light, rear-wheel start posted an eye-popping 3.80 on the scoreboard; Force received no official elapsed time for the run. Nineteen Funny Cars attempted passes today.

Mike Edwards

Edwards also opened 2010 the way he ended 2009: atop the Pro Stock pack. The driver of the Penhall/Interstate/K&N Pontiac roared to a 6.580 to take the provisional pole position. His speed on the run, 210.47, was also the best of the session. Edwards, who first competed at the Winternationals in 1982, surprisingly has never qualified better than fourth at this event. If he maintains the top spot, it will be the 23rd of his career and his 10th straight dating back into 2009.

“The track is pretty tricky on the first day, so we’re pleased with that,” said Edwards. “We’ve been testing and everything, but it’s different when you come out here and start competing and try to qualify. We’re excited. We made an OK run, and we’ll just try to build on that and see what happens tomorrow.

“I’m not sure where it would have stacked up if the two Summit cars had gotten down the track, but we’re happy with our start. We’re ready to start the new season, and hopefully, we can build on this first run and get better as the weekend progresses. We’re excited. Man, it feels good to get to come out here and race again with all these guys and see where we can stack up this weekend.”

Jeg Coughlin Jr., whose mail-order company also is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, is certainly off to a golden start after clocking a 6.591 in his JEGS.com Cobalt for the No. 2 spot. Ron Krisher, using Edwards horsepower in his Valvoline Cobalt, was just a few ticks behind Coughlin with a third-best 6.595 at 209.75, the round’s second-fastest time.

Behind those frontrunners are Rodger Brogdon and his Attitude Apparel Pistonator at 6.603 and Allen Johnson with the field’s fastest non-GM car at 6.613 in his new Mopar Avenger, just ahead of engine customer Vinnie Deceglie’s 6.613. John Nobile has the quickest Ford after clocking a 6.66in his new Mustang, but it’s only the 12th-quickest time.

Summit teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line, who with Coughlin are expected again to give Edwards his toughest battle for the title, both had disappointing opening laps. Anderson, who holds both ends of the track record, slowed to a 13.51 at just 64 mph, and Line also had troubles and could muster just a 7.23.

NHRA salutes military with discounted tickets for Pomona, Gainesville, Atlanta, Indy

NHRA salutes military with discounted tickets for Pomona, Gainesville, Atlanta, Indy

For the second year, NHRA will provide discounted tickets for active-duty military at the four NHRA-owned and operated facilities. Beginning with the 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, active military personnel with proof of status will be able to purchase up to two $10 adult general-admission tickets for the Friday, Feb. 12, session of the event. The offer for the Winternationals is only available at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona ticket office.

Active-duty military with proof of status also will be able to purchase up to two $10 adult general-admission tickets for the Friday sessions of the NHRA Gatornationals, March 11-14 at Gainesville Raceway, the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 14-16 at Atlanta Dragway, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, Sept. 1-6 at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, and the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 11-14 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Just as with this weekend’s offer, the military discount for the other three races will only be redeemable at the track ticket offices on the Friday of the race weekend.

For more ticket information about the military discount at NHRA-owned venues, call 800-884-4762.

NHRA announces environmental management responsibility for all participants

NHRA announces environmental management responsibility for all participants

Recognizing the need to further protect the environment at racing venues, NHRA has announced a new environmental management policy for all NHRA events and/or facilities, effective at all NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events beginning with the NHRA Gatornationals, March 11-14.

The program involves three primary rules that must be followed regarding the use, possession, and disposal of regulated waste. First and foremost, each participant must participate online in a mandatory training session regarding environmental uses as they relate to racing. The training presentation will be available on the National Event Registration Web site after participants log in to their account. Second, no halogenated or chlorinated brake cleaners may be used at NHRA events or facilities. And, finally, the responsibility of compliance with federal, state, and local regulations belongs to the participant.

NHRA will post information provided by tracks on the national registration Web site when provided by the national event facilities.

NHRA intends to work with government entities, agencies, and tracks to monitor and enforce the new environmental management program. Penalties, for noncompliance, will be assessed by NHRA, with a minimum $1,000 fine imposed for any violation.

The entire environmental management responsibility program as well as the training session will be posted on the registration Web site. When competitors log in to their account, they will be required to complete the training and sign the agreement before they can complete the registration process.