Weather truly played havoc in the 49th running of the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona Raceway, but today, Tuesday, Feb. 10, the winners were all smiles. It took six days to complete before Doug Kalitta, Ron Capps and Jason Line received their trophies after the final round of eliminations in the top three pro classes took place.
California had storms roll in over the six days with winds and rain; alas today was one that started with sunshine. Sunday was the last time the drag racers were on the track as Monday was a complete wash out; however all three of the Pro classes were able to complete the first round match-ups based on the top 16 qualifiers. Well except for Pro Stock, they started the first round but then the rain came in and shut it down. Today, the same thing happened before rain again shut them down but finally the rain let up with temperatures in the low 60s, enabling them to complete the first round.
"It's pretty cool to win this because Connie and Scott have won here, and the roll cage of my car is actually the same one that was in Scott's car when he won here in 2005," said Kalitta. "I think of Scott when I'm up there on the line because he had a couple of things he would do to get himself worked up and I've followed that, so it reminds me of him when I do them. He's with us all the time, and I'm sure he's proud that all three of us have won at the Winternationals."
Kalitta made it to the final round by first taking on Urs Erbacher after qualifying in 11th before he had to meet Cory McClenthan for the quarterfinals, besting him by only 0.04 seconds to move to the semifinals. Having not won an event since 2007, Kalitta could taste the victory but first had to meet the challenge that would come from Morgan Lucas to make it to the final elimination. He did it and found out he would face the top Top Fuel qualifier, Antron Brown.
It was a showdown between the Kalitta Motorsports driver and the Mike Ashley racer. Both wanted to start the season in the number one position and they leave the line with nary a gap between them to the finish line. In the end, Kalitta had a 3.822 for a speed of 308.57mph with Brown crossing the line with a 3.847 (307.16mph).
"This really was an awesome weekend for our Matco Tools crew," Brown said. "You can't complain when you go to the final round. We have a no complaining rule here at MAR (Mike Ashley Racing) and we're really thrilled with this long weekend here at Pomona."
Funny Car is just as heated as Top Fuel and Pro Stock with top contenders who roar down the line looking to score the victory to be in the final Countdown chase for the final crown. Capps found his mark early this season compared to 2008; he opened the first round Sunday taking the win over John Force.
Like Kalitta, Capps did not see an overall event win since last year and he also had not-so-hot qualifying position back in 13th. His first opponent today for the quarterfinals was Bob Tasca III but Capps was ready and moved to the semifinal round only to meet another of the John Force Racing's Mustangs with Robert Hight at the wheel. Taking his Dodge Charger to the win with a 4.05 to Hight's 4.08.
Capps final win for the day came easier than expected when Jim Head was unable to get off the line smoothly when he lost traction, ending his run.
"We ran 4.07 in the final here last year when we lost [at the NHRA Finals]," said Capps, "and that 4.05 against Robert was awesome because we always get up to race him and Jimmy Prock. We bring out the best in each other, and we knew we'd have to have our A game. We were worried about Jim Head, too, because he can run low e.t. at any time, and we learned that lesson last year in Seattle against Tony Bartone, where I was already counting that trophy before we ran him in the final. But seeing Doug win in front of us was very emotional, and I couldn't wait to get down there to celebrate with him."
Jason Line had luck in his first match when Rickie Jones spun his tires, allowing Line to sail his Pontiac GXP to the win. Line's second competitor was Johnny Gray in the quarterfinals but again, Line had the power and took the win with a 6.549 over Gray's 6.595.
The semifinal match was Line versus Allen Johnson; both had earned identical ETs in round two but Line had the lane choice with a faster mile per hour time. Line was able to gain an advantage over Johnson's Stratus off the line and when Johnson slowed down, Line backed it off, taking the win with a 6.584 (211.30mph) which again will give him the advantage in the final.
His match was Mike Edwards in the GXP and a match-up it was. The two took off at the green lights with Line posting a 0.026 versus Edwards' 0.065 and those who came back to Pomona to see the final outcome were not disappointed. In the end Line set a new top speed for Pro Stock at the venue with a 211.63mph. His final time was 6.567 versus Edwards who crossed the line at a 6.575 (210.01mph).
"I drove decent and had a pretty good hot rod -- probably the second best one here -- and I would have loved to have raced Greg (Anderson) in the final, but we had a good race and it feels good to win," said Line. "We knew these conditions would be fast and we seem to shine in these types of conditions, so I was excited about it. I don't know what it is about this race, but our team seems to do really well here. It seems like the more time we have in the shop the better we do, and you're always pumped up to come here to start the season."
Even with the rain delays and a short time before they head to Phoenix for the second round, the teams and their drivers put on a good show at the season opener.