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Mello Yello NHRA Finals Feature Big Surprises
Doug Kalitta won the weekend Top Fuel event at Pomona by defeating Richie Crampton in the final round. Photo By Mike Burghardt

Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, Erica Enders and Andrew Hines claimed the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello championship in, respectively, Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Top Fuel, Torrence won his second career NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel championship. But, this was not without controversy. In the opening round, Torrence squared off against independent minimally funded newcomer, Cameron Ferre. The competitor knew he was not at the same budget level as Torrence, so he utilized the staging trick of forcing Torrence to stage first to try and take Torrence out of his game. Torrence preferred to stage last. This caused Torrence to have a poor reaction time (0.142). He quickly made up the difference, winning 3.734 at 327.832 mph to 4.040 at 294.82 mph. In the shutdown area on the live TV interview, Torrence discussed his displeasure of the tactic. He then talked to Ferre, they shook hands, but as Torrence scolded Ferre, the competitor appeared to be laughing it off, when Torrence suddenly pushed him in the face. But, it was determined that here was no need for disciplinary action, which would have disqualified Torrence from the event. Torrence then went on to defeat championship contender, Brittany Force in the monumental second round match up. He clinched the season title once he staged his car in the semifinals, which he lost to Richie Crampton on “hole-shot” (0.068 – 0.183 reaction time). Crampton collected the win (3.762 at 327.51 mph to (quicker) 3.751 at 324.59. Torrence was heavily booed by the fans, for his unsportsmanlike behavior toward Ferre. Torrence, however, won the season championship, while Doug Kalitta won the weekend event at Pomona by defeating Crampton in the final round (3.716 at 332.67 mph to 4.884 at 154.28 mph).

In Funny Car, Robert Hight collected his third NHRA Mello Yello season championship, but lost the chance for his seventh event win of the season, when his car stopped running after his crowd pleasing extended burnout. This allowed Jack Beckman to streak to a 3.920 at 323.27mph event win, his second event win of the season. Hight’s plan was to do the long smoky burnout, quickly back up and defeat Beckman. But, the car shut off due to some mechanical problem and Hight did not capture the event victory.

Erica Enders claimed her third NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock season championship, as her Elite Performance teammate, Jeg Coughlin collected his second event win of the season. Starting at the Labor Day event in Indy, she and her team found the performance magic they had in the past, becoming one of the dominating drivers in the class.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines came into the event with a commanding lead, making him (almost) a sure thing to win his sixth NHRA Mello Yello season championship. But, a young Jianna Salinas (daughter of Top Fuel driver and team owner, Mike Salinas of San Jose) shocked the drag racing world. After qualifying 13th with a career best 6.972 at 194.60 mph, she defeated Andrew Hines (who red-lighted), Matt Smith and Jerry Savoie to collect her first career event victory. As she defeated all season championship contenders, Hines was able to capture his sixth career championship.

It was a very emotional first career win for the young lady rider, as she was congratulated by many of the NHRA champions including Enders, Hines and Torrence, as well as her family.

Jianna Salinas qualified 13th with a career best 6.972 at 194.60 mph in Pro Stock Motorcycle, then went on to collect her first career event victory. Photo By Mike Burghardt