Summit Racing Pro Stock driver Jason Line kicked off the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with a win at the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel and Matt Hagan in Funny Car also were winners at the first of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events scheduled for 2015.
Line, who finished second in Pro Stock last year, also won the Winternationals in 2014. Line defeated rookie Drew Skillman (a longtime sportsman standout) in the final with a 6.545-second pass at 211.83 miles-per-hour.
“Our Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro was just steady the whole time,” Line said. “It was great right from the start. We were both steady. When you can have days like today when the driver and the car are in sync, you get lucky enough [to win]. Man, to come here and win this feels phenomenal. I’m as happy as I get.”
Highlighting the celebration in the winner’s circle was the fact that team owners Ken and Judy Black were in attendance to watch Line score his 36th Pro Stock trophy in his 75th final round.
“It’s great to get off to a good start. I say it every year – if you want to win all the races, you’ve got to win the first one,” said Line, who won the Winternationals last year as well. “To be honest, I didn’t think the off-season had gone well enough for us, but apparently it did.
“It feels really great to win, and I’d also like to say congratulations to Drew Skillman for making it to the final today. I told him he did a great job, and he is going to win a lot of races, no question. I just didn’t want him to win that round. That would make it look too easy, make us old guys look like we don’t know what we’re doing. But obviously, the kid is a great driver, and he’s got great equipment. He did a good job today.”
After overcoming a spectacular engine explosion during qualifying on Friday, Hagan and his team rallied to qualify 12th on Saturday. He then powered his Dodge Charger R/T to four round wins on Sunday, including a winning final-round performance of 4.011 seconds at 320.89 miles-per-hour to hold off his teammate Ron Capps at the finish line. Capps’ Dodge Charger R/T finished in 4.078 at 314.90.
With crew chief Dickie Venables making the necessary adjustments, Hagan said his confidence in his 10,000-horsepower race car never wavered after the incident.
“You try to put it out of your mind and not think about it,” Hagan said. “These [race cars] are animals out there and you never know what you are going to get when you crawl in there to drive one. It’s always an experience. You have to respect it, but you can’t fear it.”
It was Hagan’s second-straight Pomona win, fourth victory overall at this track and his first Winternationals win. He raced past Tony Pedregon, John Hale, and Del Worsham in early rounds before beating Capps in the final.
“Pomona is very special to me and it’s an historical track,” said Virginia cattle rancher Hagan of his 15th career victory. “The fans are awesome here. It’s been great. The history of this track and everything that’s happened here through the years, it puts it in perspective for me and makes [winning here] even more special.”
Langdon scored the Top Fuel victory in dramatic fashion by edging rival Antron Brown’s Matco Tools dragster at the finish line. The 2013 champ, who entered this race without a full time sponsor but had support from Food Network star Guy Fieri during the weekend, powered his dragster to a time of 3.799 at 309.91 to finish in front of Brown, whose machine stopped the clocks in 3.804 at 310.70.
It was Langdon’s second Winternationals win and the 10th victory of his career. The win gave the team much needed momentum after their sponsor Al-Anabi Racing from the country of Qatar pulled funding from the team just weeks before the season opener.
“There are things that happen in life and then there are moments when things just fall into place,” said Langdon, the event’s #1 qualifier, who posted the quickest time in category history with a 3.700-second run on Saturday. He defeated Steve Chrisman, Leah Pritchett, and Spencer Massey in early elimination rounds before racing past Brown in the final.
“We had a lot going on positively with Guy Fieri here this weekend,” Langdon continued. “We had to come out here and do well and make a statement. Now we’ll take what we did here and move on to Phoenix and continue what we are doing. We are still looking for sponsorship and trying to do the best we can.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Feb. 20-22 with the NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
Pro Stock Championship Point Standings
1. Jason Line 123 2. Drew Skillman 97 3. Erica Enders-Stevens 81 4. Roger Brogdon 80 5. Chris McGaha 55
Funny Car Championship Point Standings
1. Matt Hagan 107 2. Ron Capps 94 3. Del Worsham 74 4. Robert Hight 73 5. Courtney Force 61
Top Fuel Championship Point Standings
1. Shawn Langdon 124 2. Antron Brown 92 3. Spencer Massey 78 4. Larry Dixon 73 5. Richie Crampton 59
The NHRA and Drag Race Central contributed to this report.