Rodger Brogdon won in Phoenix and has already been the points leader in the rugged Pro Stock class.
Baytown, Texas — For the third straight season, Rodger Brogdon has a Pro Stock victory. The difference during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is that it came during the second race of the year and Brogdon thinks there is potential for more.
Brogdon won in Phoenix and has already been the points leader in the rugged Pro Stock class, a clear indication that his Rooftec Chevrolet Camaro may be better than ever. After the early-season victory Brogdon is not settling, either, and has his sights set on both more victories and moving back up the points standings.
Currently in fourth place, Brogdon gets his next chance, this time coming at his home track during this weekend’s 28th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston.
... there are eight or 10 cars that can win any race.
"It's good when you know when you leave home that you really do have a chance of competing and winning the race,” Brogdon said. “It's a whole bunch different than anything we've done in the past.
“The key is probably when we decided to go with Elite Motorsports power. We've had a pretty good team in the past, but we just didn't have the power we needed. Nick Ferri with Elite is doing a heck of a job, so we've got to give him and Elite most of the credit.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2, including live final round eliminations on Sunday. It marks the sixth of 24 races during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Brogdon won at Bristol in 2013 for his first career Pro Stock victory and then made another major move late in 2014 when he won the NHRA Nationals during the Countdown playoffs in Reading. That momentum carried over to 2015 and Brogdon has displayed impressive power, advancing to two semifinals and claiming the victory at Phoenix to start his Pro Stock season better than ever.
A pair of first round losses in the last two events have slowed his burst out of the gate just a bit, but Brogdon believes he and his team, led by crew chiefs Jeff Perley and Pete Smallwood, have the solution heading to Houston.
"We were good at the first two races, and we qualified well and went to the semis at the Gatornationals,” Brogdon said. “Charlotte, we didn't do very well: We only have one decent run and the transmission broke first round. In Vegas, we didn't run as well as we could, either.
"We've been a little bit too conservative the last couple races. We're going to go run at a local track Monday and make some runs to the eighth-mile. We're going to be more aggressive when we get to the Houston race. I think we should be able to qualify in the top three."
Brogdon has been able to do that on three occasions in 2015, another impressive feat in a Pro Stock class that has featured five different winners through five events. The latest in Las Vegas came from reigning world champion Erica Enders-Stevens, who claimed a popular victory when she won in front of family and friends at her home track last season.
The list of standouts reads much longer and also includes four-time world champ Greg Anderson, who has two wins at Houston and is looking to continue his early season momentum. Anderson’s teammate, two-time world champ Jason Line, has also won twice at Houston and opened the season with a victory at the tradition-rich Winternationals, while Allen Johnson, Shane Gray, Jonathan Gray, Four-Wide Nationals winner Larry Morgan, Chris McGaha and two-time Houston winner Vincent Nobile all figure to be in the title mix in Houston.
"The top 10 is so tough this year," Brogdon said. "The top 10 cars are really, really fast. We kind of figured that at the first race of the year, but there are eight or 10 cars that can win any race. There are a bunch of fast, good cars. And there are a couple cars who haven't shown themselves yet, so it's really tough."
One feather in Brogdon’s cap is racing close to home. It means added responsibility, but Brogdon and his team are dialed in when it comes to entertaining guests and then being locked in during the race.
"It's nice be so close to home, for sure,” said Brogdon, who resides in the Houston suburb of Tomball. “We've got so many people who want to come out, customers, family, and we've been working on that all week, trying to figure out who wants what and what day they're going. Racing at home is not easy. On Friday and Saturday, you try to visit as many people as you can. We have most of our people out on Saturday, but Sunday is all business, so there's not much visiting going on. We'll just go in there prepared for this one just like any other."
In Top Fuel, Brown, the current points leader, claimed his second career Houston victory in the Matco Tools dragster last year en route to six overall victories and has started this season with a win in Charlotte. Three-time Top Fuel world champ Larry Dixon has three career victories at Royal Purple Raceway, while eight-time and defending world champ Tony Schumacher, who won his first race of the season in Phoenix, has two wins in Houston. Others to watch include Spencer Massey, Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd, Steve Torrence, reigning rookie of the year Richie Crampton, who won the most recent event, and four-time runner-up Brittany Force.
Hight claimed his second Funny Car victory at Houston when he defeated Jack Beckman in the final round last season, while teammate and 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force, who won in Las Vegas, has seven wins in Houston, the most for any driver in a pro category, but none since 2002. Two-time world champ Tony Pedregon and his brother, two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, have combined to win seven Houston races, while class stars also include reigning world champion and current points leader Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Courtney Force, Alexis DeJoria, two-time Houston winner Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Tim Wilkerson.
NHRA Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, April 24, with sessions at 4 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, April 25, at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 26.