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The NHRA 2020 Season Opens At 60th Annual Winter Nationals
Hosting their trophies at the NHRA season opener are, from left, Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock; Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The 60th annual NHRA Lucas Oil Winter Nationals featured several noteworthy items. The most notable was the defending 2019 Top Fuel Champion not being present. Steve Torrence and his Capco team did not show for the season opening event. Many rumors and speculations circled through the media, other racer discussion ranks as to the reason or reasons. There was no official reason put out. Several other teams that receive technical support from the Capco/Torrence team, also were unable to attend.

But, even with the defending champion not in attendance the event marched strongly on. In Top Fuel, Brittany Force, once again under the Monster Energy Drink colors, captured the #1 qualifying spot with a strong 3.657 at 334.32 mph, edging out her JFR teammate, Austin Prock and his 3.680 at 330.72 mph.

During eliminations, it was Doug Kalitta and his MAC Tools team that would march into the final round. Kalitta took out Brandon Welch, Justin Ashley and Brittany Force along the way. His semifinal defeat of Force was the highlight of the class, as he won a tight 3.675 at 329.26 mph to 3.689 at 332.84 mph battle. The final round featured Kalitta against the 2019 season rookie of the year, Austin Prock and his Montana Brand team. Kalitta picked up the win, as Prock lost traction within the first 60 feet and could only watch Kalitta drive away to a 3.698 at 330.23 mph win, the 49th of his career.

In Funny Car it was Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman and (2019 Season Champion) Robert Hight who qualified in the top three spots. Hagan looked like he had one of the strong cars in the category. Hagan’s racing day was ended in the semifinals by John Force. Hagan lost traction at the launch and the 16-time champion drove into the final round with 3.923 at 331.28 mph run. Though several funny cars ran in the 3.8 second zone, the most dominating car belonged to “Fast” Jack Beckman. Beckman received his lucky break in the opening round as he lost traction early in the run. His opponent, lost traction immediately, and Beckman was able use his best driving skills to coax out a 4.291 at 294.18 mph to 7.622 at 92.71 mph victory. From that point on, Beckman dominated the class. In a huge final round battle, Beckman defeated John Force with a 3.837 at 333.33 mph to 3.897 at 332.34 mph.

In Pro Stock, one of the big stories was the announced upcoming retirements from driving of two of the biggest names in Pro Stock: Jeg Coughlin, a five-time Pro Stock season champion, and three-time champion Jason Line. Both will retire from full-time driving at the end of the season. These two premier drivers both marched into the final round with consistent 6.5-second performances. Coughlin was nearly two-hundredths of a second quicker than all the other cars in the class, throughout eliminations. Line had a consistent mid-3.5 second race car and consistent starting line reaction times, In the final, Line got away first (0.018 to 0.027), but Coughlin got around him by 60 ft. and marched to a 6.522 at 210.80 mph to6.56 at 209.56 mph event win. This was the 65th national event win of Coughlin’s illustrious career, with 23 more events left in 2020, before he retires.

This the first time in the history of Pomona Raceway that the winners of all three professional categories at the previous season finals also won the season opening Winter Nationals.

The next event of the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season is at Wild Horse Raceway in Chandler, Arizona in two weeks.