POMONA, Calif. – Doug Kalitta opened the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season by snapping the winning streak of reigning Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence on Monday.
Kalitta took home the Top Fuel victory with a 4.014-second pass at 269.29 mph in his Mac Tools dragster to defeat Torrence in the final round of the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Kalitta entered the event as the defending Winternationals champion after winning the season-opening event last season. The victory increases his career win total to 45.
Prior to Monday’s Winternationals finale, which was postponed by rain on Sunday, Torrence had won six-straight events dating back to last year and 27 consecutive rounds.
“This place has always been very special for me,” Kalitta stated. “To have success here is more than you could imagine for me. We were fortunate to get by the Capco guys but we’re going to keep at it. We are really hungry, and we’ve got Rob (Flynn, crew chief) and Troy (Fasching, crew chief) doing just an awesome job. I’m just really proud of them.”
After qualifying in the seventh position, Kalitta took down Scott Palmer, Billy Torrence and Terry McMillen on the road to victory.
S. Torrence was the No. 1 qualifier for the event and defeated Steve Faria and Mike Salinas as he recorded his seventh consecutive final round appearance and 15th of his career.
Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) were victorious in their respective categories.
Hight powered to the win with a run of 3.881 seconds at 329.75 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS to take down Jack Beckman. After finishing as the runner-up at the 2018 Winternationals, Hight emerged victorious at the season-opening event for the fourth time in his career.
“You look at the Funny Car class and I think its tougher this year than last,” Hight said. “To come out here and be the No. 1 qualifier and win the race, that’s quite an accomplishment for this team. We’re going to have to be on our game all year long.”
Hight sat atop of the category following qualifying and took down Terry Haddock, Bob Tasca III and team owner John Force en route to his 46th career win.
Beckman reached his first final round since Brainerd last season after besting Phil Burkhart Jr., Cruz Pedregon and teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.
In Pro Stock, Butner won the Winternationals for the second-straight season by defeating teammate Jason Line with a 6.522-second run at 211.59 mph in his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevrolet Camaro. It was his eighth career victory.
“We were really struggling during qualifying,” Butner stated. “I definitely feel like we had the best car all four rounds today. I feel like we have a great car and team this year and I’m looking forward to keep going. We’re going to try and win them and the KB Racing team is as strong as ever.”
Butner entered eliminations third in qualifying before taking down Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha and two-time champion Erica Enders.