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Kalitta, Hight, Butner Take NHRA Opener Top Honors
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Raising their championship trophies at the Winternationals are, from left, Bo Butner, Pro Stock; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel. Photo By Mike Burghardt
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Taking home the top spot in the Pro Stock category at the Winternationals was Bo Butner, defeating Jason Line in the final round. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The 59th annual Lucas Oil Winternationals, presented by Protect the Harvest, ultimately showcased blue skies and great race track conditions for the rain delayed final eliminations.

In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence was picking up where he left off from last season. But, to make things worse for the competition, his dad Billy Torrence was also making thundering runs. The Torrence’s had qualified one and two, Steve (365.7 at 331.61mph) and Billy (3.662 at 326.79 mph). Billy Torrence was taken out by Doug Kalitta (on a hole shot; 0.048 to 0.096) in round two, 3.714 a 325.69 mph to (quicker) 3.670 at 331.04 mph. Kalitta battled his way to the final round by taking out Scott Palmer, Billy Torrence and Terry McMillen. Steve Torrence looked invincible with an opening 3.688 at 330.96 mph win over Steve Faria, 3.678 at 331.36 mph single round two advancement, and a “hole shot” (0.060 to 0.077) charge over Mike Salinas (3.688 at 329.50 mph to quicker 3.687 at 318.47 mph) into the final round. In the final, Kalitta left first (0.057 to 0.082), as both drivers lost traction. Kalitta was able to recover for a 4.014 at 269.29 mph to 4.008 at 240.25 mph win. Torrence and his CAPCO dragster came close to running down Kalitta and the MAC Tools dragster but his engine quit near the finish line. The loss broke a 27 consecutive elimination round winning streak for Torrence.

In Funny Car, it looked like it was going to be all Robert Hight and the “Prock Rocket”, who qualified on the pole with a 3.871 at 329.67 mph. But, ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman, qualifying second with a 3.900 at 330.23 mph, was not going to be a simple walk-over. Hight would march through eliminations with wins over Terry Haddock (4.076 at 246.57 mph to 4.877 at 164.87 mph), Bob Tasca III (3.856 at 331.61 mph to 3.932 at 322.58 mph) and John Force (3.883 at 328.22 mph to 3.930 at 321.42 mph). Beckman was nimble and quick as he took out Phil Burkhart Jr. (Broke) in the opening round with a 4.102 at 237.96 mph. Then he got by Cruz Pedregon (3.875 at 331.94 mph to 3.962 at 328.46 mph) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.898 at 327.59 mph to 5.216 at 144.83 mph). In the Funny Car final, Hight and his AAA of Southern California Chevy Camaro (#one qualifier) would take on (#two qualifier) Beckman and his Infinite Heroes Dodge Charger. Hight would get away first (0.054 to 0.062) and hold off Beckman for the win with a 3.881 at 329.75 mph to (a quicker) 3.880 at 329.42 mph margin.

In Pro Stock, Roger Brogdon had qualified his Chevy Camaro in the top spot with a 6.522 at 212.03 mph, but fouled out and broke in the opening round. Bo Butner and Jason Line had no such problems. Butner ran 6.501 at 212.39 mph, 6.526 at 211.43 mph and 6.518 at 211.3 mph to take out Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha and Erica Enders to advance into the final round. Line took out Fernando Cuadra, Steve Graham and Alex Laughlin with runs of 6.536 at 211.93 mph, 6.531 at 212.03 mph and 6.527 at 211.13 mph. Heading into the final round Line drew a line at the end of the track and dared everyone else to cross it before him. Nobody did. But in the final Butner knew how to get there first. Butner left on Line (0.036 to 0.058) and never looked back, with another strong 6.522 at 211.59 mph run. Line not only left 0.022 seconds behind Butner, but then blew his engine trying to catch him, with a 7.160 at 148.58 mph.

The NHRA Mello Yello season heads into Phoenix, Arizona for the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals over the weekend of Feb. 22 through 24.