NHRA Picks Up a Race; Teams Make Changes

NHRA, Virginia Motorsports Park

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series marks a return to Virginia Motorsports Park (VMP), outside Richmond, on June 8-10, 2018, enabling the series to produce the 24-race season it had expected to conduct.

When Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ announced a shut-down on the eve of NHRA’s 49th race at the venue, NHRA had several offers to make up the date, preferring to work with new ownership at VMP, which last hosted NHRA drag racers in 2009. New owner Tommy Franklin, together with his family recently purchased the venue and, along with general manager Allen Carpenter and his team, are prepping the track and facility to completely refurbish the track surface for the 11,000-horsepower nitro classes.

Teams are prepping their lineups for this weekend’s pre-season testing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park outside Phoenix, Ariz., site of the series’ second official race. The combination of testing and then continuing to Pomona to start the season gives teams good preparation – and an opportunity to escape the winter weather prevalent in team locales like Brownsburg, Ind. and Ypsilanti, Mich.

Reigning Top Fuel and Funny Car champions John Force Racing (JFR), which earned its 19th and 20th overall titles in November at Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway, have made some integral changes to its team lineups. While 2017 Top Fuel champion Brittany Force continues with crew chief Brian Husen, Ronnie Thompson joins this crew as assistant; Alan Johnson continues as the team’s consultant.

Funny Car champ Robert Hight continues with crew chief Jimmy Prock and assistant Chris Cunningham, while Brian Corradi happily returns to his Funny Car roots in joining Daniel Hood as co-crew chiefs for Courtney Force’s Funny Car. The team’s patriarch, 16-time Funny Car titleholder John Force will hand the tuning duties to Jon Shaffer and Jason McCulloch this year.

Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), fielding three Top Fuel and four Funny Car entries again in 2018, has announced rising star Leah Pritchett to the team’s US. Army lineup, joining eight-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher and three-time titleholder Antron Brown. She’s hoping all the success will rub off for her Mopar/U.S. Army dragster team. Schumacher has worn Army colors since September of 2000.

Pritchett start the 2017 in a big way, winning the first two races of the year and ending up with four event titles in six final-round appearances. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us, to represent the soldiers who serve and enable us to do what we love. Tony and Antron have had an insurmountable impact on my life; I am humbled and honored to join them in representing the U.S. Army,” she said.

Kalitta Motorsports just announced an extension of their association with WIX Filters, as both J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon’s Funny Car entries will receive major associate branding on both cars, as the filter manufacturer continues as official filters for Team Kalitta. The company also has associate branding on Richie Crampton and Doug Kalitta’s Top Fuel dragsters.

With testing commencing later this week, the teams are prepping for their Lucas Oil Winternationals season-starter Feb 8-11 on Auto Club Raceway at Pomona’s dragstrip.

About Anne Proffit 51 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.
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