POMONA, Calif. – Steve Torrence picked up right where he left off at the end of last year as the new NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season kicked off Friday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Torrence piloted to the Top Fuel qualifying lead at the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com.
Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are also provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the first of 24 events on the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Torrence leads the Top Fuel category with a run of 3.716-seconds at 330.07 mph in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster posted during the first qualifying session of 2019. After remaining undefeated during the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, he is looking for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season in hopes of continuing the streak.
“Really good run to come out of the trailer,” Torrence stated. “We had a really good test session out in Phoenix and to come out here and pick up where we left off last year was the plan. Being able to come out and do it is a whole different thing and so far we are doing well. We are just trying to keep with the momentum.”
Defending event winner Doug Kalitta is currently second in his Mac Tools dragster with his run of 3.716 at 326.87 and Scott Palmer is third with a 3.720 at 328.38.
Hight leads the Funny Car category with a run of 3.871 at 329.67 recorded during his second pass of the day in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS. He’s chasing the top position at the season-opener after wrapping up 2018 second overall in the points.
“Honestly, I thought the run was going to be in the top four,” Hight said. “I thought there were some other cars that were going to run equally as well so I didn’t think it was going to hold up. I feel like there’s more left in it and Jimmy Prock (crew chief) is pretty enthused about it.”
Defending Funny Car world champion J.R. Todd sits sixth currently after a 3.940 at 319.68 in his DHL Toyota Camry, while last year’s Winternationals winner Matt Hagan is eighth following his 3.971 at 323.19.
In Pro Stock, Enders currently holds the top spot after driving to a 6.528 at 212.09 in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in the first qualifying pass of the day. She is seeking to secure her first No. 1 qualifying position of the season after locking in one in 2018.
“It’s huge to go No. 1 on day one at Pomona,” Enders said. “We didn’t have many No. 1 qualifiers over the last couple of years, so we built a new race car this year. To come out here and just go low like that was pretty awesome.”
Bo Butner sits in the No. 2 spot after a 6.530 run at 213.10 in his Nitro Fish Chevrolet Camaro, while Rodger Brogdon will enter Saturday third in the qualifying order following his pass of 6.543 at 212.06.