Jason Line wins Pomona

Summit Racing Pro Stock driver Jason Line piloted the same Chevy Camaro he crashed late last season to victory Sunday at the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA.

It was Line’s first ever race without teammate and mentor Greg Anderson present. Anderson was holed up in a North Carolina hospital recovering from heart surgery.

“It’s a huge deal to start off the year like this,” Line said. “This is a big deal for the Summit Racing team and our Chevrolet Camaros. We worked hard over the winter, and I think we really made some progress. The sport is crazy competitive right now, but we’re certainly off to a good start.”

Line defeated Matt Hartford, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray, and V. Gaines to earn the 32nd Pro Stock Wally of his career.

Image courtesy of USA Today.

Image courtesy of USA Today.

In Funny Car, NHRA’s most-popular and most-decorated driver picked up right where he left off during his successful championship run last season.

John Force opened his pursuit of a 17th Funny Car world championship title in record-setting fashion when he raced to victory Sunday.

Force outran his most-recent arch-rival, Matt Hagan, in the final round of the tradition-rich event. Force powered his Ford Mustang to a national record time of 3.965 seconds at 323.58 mph to take the win over Hagan’s Dodge Charger, which lost traction early in the race and finished in 6.613 at 117.88.

It was Force’s sixth-consecutive final round appearance dating back to last season and an NHRA record 139th victory. Force, who earned a 20-point bonus for setting the national ET record, now holds a 50-point lead over Hagan.

Force, 64, who raced past Paul Lee, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Bob Tasca in earlier rounds, won from the #1 qualifying position and also set the Funny Car national speed record at 324.12 miles-per-hour.

“We had a good race car. It’s amazing,” said Force, of his 16th win at his home track and his seventh Winternationals trophy. “We’re trying to build our sport and come out here and run good for you all and the fans, and it’s hard sometimes. Jimmy Prock and that whole brain trust did a great job. We’re back in the game. Everything’s just going right. I don’t get it. I ain’t that good of a guy. I’m just excited. There’s a lot going on (with sponsors), and man, what a good time to flex your muscles.”

In Top Fuel, Khalid alBalooshi claimed his third career victory by holding off event top qualifier Doug Kalitta in the final round. The Dubai native who now lives in Los Angeles finished in 3.974 at 324.36 in his dragster, while Kalitta’s dragster lost traction at mid-track and slowed to a 5.368 at 143.40.

To take the victory, alBalooshi also raced past Tony Schumacher, teammate Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence in earlier rounds.

“We had a strong day today,” said alBalooshi. “It’s a good win, especially when you have Tony Schumacher first round, Shawn Langdon second round, and ‘Steve-O’ (Torrence), who’s been doing a good job. Doug’s car was the best car all weekend, so it made it a very big day for us to take him down in the final and get the trophy.”

It is a great start to the season for alBalooshi, who finished 11th in his rookie season in 2012 and eighth overall last year. It is the first time alBalooshi has led the Top Fuel points standings.

“Last year, our car started to get better and better,” alBalooshi said. “I felt like our car was better down in Florida (in preseason testing), and I’ve been telling people, ‘I think we have a hot rod to start the season with.’ I feel like our car got better and better and better each round. When I won the first round against Tony, I felt like my day was open.”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Feb. 21-23 with the NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.

Sunday’s race was the first of 24 NHRA events scheduled for this season.

Pro Stock Championship Point Standings

1. Jason Line             118
2. V. Gaines               96
3. Vincent Nobile          86
4. Shane Gray              73
5. Dave Connolly           55
5. Erica Enders-Stevens    55
5. Jeg Coughlin Jr.        55

Funny Car Championship Point Standings

1. John Force             144
2. Matt Hagan              94
3. Del Worsham             76
4. Bob Tasca III           71
5. Robert Hight            61

Top Fuel Championship Point Standings

1. Khalid alBalooshi      113
2. Doug Kalitta           107
3. Spencer Massey          75
3. Steve Torrence          75 
5. Shawn Langdon           65

The NHRA and Drag Race Central contributed to this report.