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Former Champions Arise To Capture Season Opener
PS Line
In Pro Stock, it was Jason Line, near lane, taking the top spot in the final round over competitor Drew Skillman. Mike Burghardt/The Leader

The sun spent most of the weekend shining down on the 55th annual Circle K Winternationals in Pomona as the NHRA Mello Yello kicked off the 2015 season with a near capacity crowd at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon (2013 Top Fuel season champion) came into the season opener with doubts about his team’s future after country state of Qatar decided to pull its funding just before the season started. But, team owner Alan Johnson told him to plan on at least the first two events as they worked on some possible funding support. Langdon made the most of it, as he dominated all the elimination rounds, setting low elapse time each round (3.741, 3.748 and 3.762 to get into a final round matchup against the 2012 Top Fuel season champion, Antron Brown. Langdon, in his Knuckle Sandwich/Alan Johnson Racing dragster left first (0.045 to 0.055) and never looked back, taking the Circle K Winter Nationals Top Fuel crown over Brown and his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.779 at 309.91 mph to 3.804 at 310.70 mph effort.

Funny Car saw one major upset and that belonged to John Force and the 16-time champ was on the wrong side, as his Peak Anti-Freeze/Chevy Camaro SS lost traction at about 300 feet out, allowing Bob Bode in his Bob Bode Motorsports Toyota Camry (who also lost traction) to take a pedal fest win. Coming into the event, Force had an 11-0 record over Bode. Courtney Force, who qualified number one with the only sub-4 second Funny Car run of the event, was gone in round two when she lost traction. Robert Hight, in the last Team Force car, suffered the same fate in the semi-final round. The final round of Funny Car featured Don Schumacher Racing teammates Ron Capps in his Napa Dodge Charger vs. newly crowned 2014 Funny Car champion Matt Hagan in his Rocky Boots Dodge Charger. Capps got away first (0.046 to 0.074), but couldn’t hold of Hagan, who took the win with a 4.011 at 320.89 mph to 4.078 at 314.90 mph blast.

Pro Stock looked like it was going to be a repeat of the NHRA Final round matchup between the newly crowned champion, Erica Enders-Stevens and Jason Line. But, Stevens’ rookie teammate, Drew Skillman had other ideas, as took her out in the semi-final round by way of a hole-shot (0.015 to 0.072 reaction time advantage) to put her on the trailer with a 6.590 at 210.41 mph to (her quicker) 6.573 at 211.53 mph effort. In the final round, two-time Pro Stock season champion Jason Line took the rookie out, 6.545 at 211.83 mph to 6.556 at 211.13 mph, to put his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro in the winner’s circle. Though he lost in the final round, this was an impressive performance by Skillman, in his first ever event in the highly competitive Pro Stock category.

The NHRA Mello Yello series now moves on to Chandler, Arizona for the Carquest Auto Parts Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the second event of the 24-event season schedule, Feb. 20 through 22.