By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Thunder In The Sun As NHRA Opens In Pomona
Roaring to the victory in the season opener in Pomona in Top Fuel was Justin Ashley, who looks to be one of the contenders for the season championship. Photo By Mike Burghardt

Justin Ashley, Robert Hight and Erica Enders started the season with wins in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock at the season opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals.

In Top Fuel, Justin Ashley introduced a new sponsorship partner, Phillips Connect, to the high powered world of Top Fuel drag racing with a thundering win. Ashley utilized consistently quick reaction skills and a great tuned car to advance past Jim Maroney (3.699 at 330.39 mph to 4.056 at 234.09 mph), Antron Brown (3.692 at 333.33 mph to 3.742 at 3.26.00 mph) and reigning four-time Top Fuel champion, Steve Torrence, (3.702 at 32942 mph to 3.731 at 326.00 mph) to advance to the final round. Austin Prock, after a two-year layoff (during the COVID-19 shutdown), didn’t miss a beat. Prock is also known for his uncanny starting line reaction skills, and showed that he was going to be a major championship contender this season. He took out Clay Millican (3.725 at 333.08 mph to 4.350 at 170.08 mph) in the opening round. Then it would be eight-time champion, Tony Schumacher, who had just taken out Doug Kalitta in the opening round. In the semis, it was a battle between the John Force Racing Top Fuel teams, as Prock took on the number one qualifier, Brittany Force. Prock got away first (0.033 to 0.047) to end Force’s day by a 3.687 at 331.36 mph to 3.700 at 328.06 mph margin, as both cars exploded their engine super chargers just before the finish line. The final round would feature two of the quickest cars in the class, with two of the best starting line reaction skilled drivers. Prock left first (0.049 to 0.050), but Ashley got to the finish line stripe first by a 3.694 at 314.63 mph to 3.713 at 333.00 mph margin for the win. In the Top Fuel category, the competition for the championship looks to be the best in years, as there are about 10-12 full-time racers that have strong chances to lay claim to the 2022 Top Fuel season title. Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Justin Ashley, Mike Salinas, Austin Prock, Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon, Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican, Josh Hart and Leah Pruitt (now with Tony Stewart racing) have all upped their games.

In Funny Car, Ron Capps became a new team owner (Ron Capps racing), and he quickly demonstrated that the 2021 season was no fluke. After taking the top qualifying spot, he took out 16-time champion John Force, J.R Todd (2018 champion) and Cruz Pedregon (two-time champion) to march into the final round. On the other side of the ladder was three-time champion, Robert Hight. Hight’s AAA of Southern California team lost its consistency and winning ways in 2021. But, over the off season (and during pre-season testing) they found it. Hight marched pass Jason Rupert, Tony Jurado and Matt Hagan to reach the final round. Each round, matched or bettered the performances of Ron Capps. In the final Capps left first (0.055 to 0.074) but Hight got around him for the win (3.861 at 329.58 mph to 3.882 at 333.82 mph) to deny Capps of his first career event win as a team owner. In Funny Car, Robert Hight, Ron Capps, John Force, JR Todd, Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan (now with Tony Stewart racing), Bob Tasca and Tim Wilkerson are all strong full season contenders for the Funny Car championship.

Simply put, the “nitro classes” (Top Fuel and Funny Car) should feature some of the best battles and closest racing seen in years.

In Pro Stock, the key match ups will (more than likely) come down to Erica Enders (four championships) and Greg Anderson (five championships). Enders laid down the first shot as she qualified number one and relentlessly marched to the final round past Christian Cuadra, Dallas Glen (2021 rookie of the year) and (arch rival and reigning 2021 champion) Greg Anderson. In her battle with Anderson, she left first (0012 to 0.026) and took a 6.569 at 20943 mph 6.797 at 171.14 mph win, as Anderson’s car drifted out of the groove. In the final round, Enders closed the deal with 6.559 at 210.31 mph win over Aaron Stanfield, who lost traction and shut off early. For Enders, the event win was historic as it was also the 900th Pro Stock class event held in the history of the NHRA. Not only did she receive the normal event “Wally” but also a special polished chrome “Hurst Shifter” trophy to commemorate the event.

Final round action in the Pro Stock category at the NHRA Winternationals saw Erica Enders, near lane, taking down Aaron Stanfield for the season opening victory. Photo By Mike Burghardt