What's the saying: "Old age and treachery beats youth and skill every time." That didn't exactly happen at the Winternationals in Pomona, California, but veterans drivers did quite well at the first race of the year.
The NHRA Full Throttle series began its season under cool cloudy conditions which made for some great speeds and times. And great racing prevailed with some of the same cream rising to the top as most of last year's stars were right in the mix again in 2012.
Pro Stock champs
In Pro Stock, the semi final round represented all the champions from the past ten years: Greg Anderson, Jeg Coughlin, Mike Edwards and Jason Line. Although the Funny Car class has an ongoing story with two female rookies, the Winternationals presented history-in-the-making with the first Pro Stock event to field two women qualifiers. Pro Stock pioneer Erica Enders and young Grace Howell both qualified for the event and additionally, Howell - making her NHRA Pro debut - became the first female to qualify a Ford in Pro Stock (source - Ford). Both were eliminated in the first round.
The day belonged to the veteran champions with two four-time national champions in the final: Anderson and Coughlin. Coughlin is returning from another retirement and the time off must have helped as he had reactions times of .021, .015, .026 and .017 during eliminations. And even though Coughlin beat Anderson off the line in the finals, it wasn't enough as Anderson went around him for the win.
Old was new
You couldn't help but hear about the two female rookies entering Funny Car this year as they were the talk of the media. But when it came down to who would win the meet, old age and treachery won out. News-wise, Alexis DeJoria and Courtney Force were front and center as the first two female rookies to start a NHRA Funny Car season (see related articles). DeJoria lost in the first round and Courtney won her first race before losing in the second round.
Veterans Ron Capps and 65 year old Gary Densham made it to the semis but were beat by Mike Neff and 62 year old John Force, who was almost a non-story last year - yes, I know, it's hard to say John is ever a non-story. Anyway, fortunately for John, he was able to win in the finals when another of his cars driven by Neff, strangely, had a terrible reaction time and lost to John on a hole shot.
Morgan Lucas had great qualifying efforts and looked strong in the early elimination rounds but when it came time for a decent run in the semis, he didn't have it.
Who did have it was the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team, and more predominantly Spencer Massey. All three DSR cars made it to the semis. And it was in the semi's that the cool conditions and DSR's speed was obvious when the relatively young 29 year old Massey broke the NHRA national speed record for a 1000 feet when he went a blistering 328.62 mph. That was more than enough to beat his teammate Tony Schumacher. In the finals, Massey defeated his other teammate Antron Brown for the win.
The current recession notwithstanding, the 52nd annual season-opening race at Pomona had phenomenal racing and some incredible speeds even if the final round of qualifying was rained out Saturday.
So remember, if you really want to know about thrills and excitement, nothing tops going to the drags and hearing, feeling, seeing and tasting a sport with devastating 8,000 horsepower behemoths roaring down the drag strip.
Sources - NHRA, ESPN
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus blogged about every type of racing for several years.