In NHRA drag racing, the win light always goes to the driver or rider first to the stripe. In qualifying for the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series professional categories, that can sometimes be a misleading light, as the following competitor’s qualifying pass might have been quicker, meaning that racer would move up the qualifying line.
Now NHRA is attempting to make it easier for the novice drag racing attendee to understand the logistics of qualifying. Starting at the upcoming Lucas Oil Winternationals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona season opener for professionals, scheduled Feb. 8-11, the sanctioning body will apply a new win light format.
At that race and, presumably, throughout the 23-race Mello Yello season, the qualifying win light will be shown for the racer who has the better elapsed time (ET), even if that competitor has a late reaction time (RT) and doesn’t make it to the finishing stripe quicker than their competitor in qualifying.
The change was requested by Mello Yell series public announcers, led by Alan Reinsert; it was approved by NHRA’s senior vice president of racing operations, Graham Light. The series’ technology partner, Compulink, has created new software as a courtesy to assist in this new program.
Reinhart noted he’d been approached by first-time fans asking how one guy “won” a qualifying “race,” but the other took No. 1. “In qualifying, the objective is to run quick, so why not designate that?” Reinhart asked. He said it would only be relevant a few times during Friday-Saturday sessions because, as he’s often said, “During qualifying in NHRA, the cars qualify and the drivers practice. The win light should show who ‘won’ qualifying.”
The announcers contend that many race-goers are not cognizant of how qualifying positions are devised, particularly when they see one competitor get a win light but the losing racer end up higher on the qualifying order. Simply glancing at the win light often isn’t sufficient to comprehend to whom the round win goes.
This new qualifying program will not be continued during Sunday’s Mello Yello eliminations, as the win light will go to the first driver or rider at the stripe. Only Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock compete in the season’s first two contests; Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Mod join the balance of NHRA series competitors at the Gatornationals at Gainesville in mid-March.
This story has not been confirmed by NHRA, but it has been confirmed by Reinhart.