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NHRA Moves Up Relaunch Date

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 4 2020

The NHRA will re-fire the engines in July. (Photos courtesy of the NHRA)

NHRA is accelerating the re-launch of its professional Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule from a previously announced August timetable to mid-July amid revised guidelines addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. 

NHRA officials announced Wednesday the Series and associated programs will be contested on back-to-back weekends beginning at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., outside Indianapolis.

The two events will be run on consecutive weeks, July 11-12 and July 18-19, at the home of the newly-sponsored Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals. These races will serve as launch points for 15 more Series events beginning two weeks later in Kent, Wash., near Seattle. The season will conclude with the crowning of  Series champions Nov. 13-15 during the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

The revised schedule is subject to changes due to evolving facts and guidelines dealing with the pandemic.

“We’re excited for our Mello Yello Series to return to action, not just for the racers and fans but also for everyone who loves and supports NHRA Drag Racing,” NHRA President Glen Cromwell said in a statement from the sanctioning body’s headquarters in Glendora, Calif. “Because we are an outdoor sport, we feel comfortable opening these Indianapolis events to a limited number of fans who are the lifeblood of our sport and following the guidance of the state of Indiana to resume racing.”

The Indianapolis-area events, both of which will be televised on the FOX Broadcast Network, will be open to a limited number of spectators, with offers being extended via email to NHRA members and 2020 U.S. Nationals ticket-holders. 

The first event, July 11-12, will feature all four professional classes _ Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. The second event, July 18-19, will feature Top Fuel and Funny Car along with the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series presented by J&A Service, Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Series and the SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. Neither event will include Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competition.

The revised 2020 schedule will consist of 19 total events, with 17 being contested when the series resumes in July. The first four races _ both Indianapolis-area events as well as the newly-sponsored Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals and the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil _ will be broadcast on FOX.

Sixteen events on the revised schedule will be condensed to two-day competition schedules for the Series classes due to economic and logistical factors. This will entail one-day of qualifications (two rounds) on Saturday and final eliminations on Sunday. Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series classes will begin racing on Friday.

Events in Joliet, Ill., near Chicago; Norwalk, Ohio; Richmond, Va.; Epping, N.H., and Sonoma, Calif., and the spring races in Las Vegas and Concord, N.C., originally scheduled for the 2020 season, have been canceled as a result of the pandemic. But the previously canceled NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga., near Atlanta, has been returned to the 2020 schedule in late August.

The event at Sonoma Raceway was scheduled for July 24-26 as part of the traditional three-race Western Swing. Since announcing the race postponement in early May, Sonoma Raceway and NHRA officials worked to find an alternate date. But with a limited number of options in the late fall, Raceway management was not confident it could host a successful event.

“In working with NHRA’s revised 2020 season schedule, the best option for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals would have been in November,” said Steve Page, the track’s president/general manager. “With the uncertainty of weather, which would affect the racing and camping experience, we are not confident we could provide an event up to the standard our fans have come to expect. We are thankful for our passionate NHRA fans and can’t wait to get back to racing in 2021.”

This marks the first time the NHRA national event in Sonoma has been canceled or rescheduled since the series’ inaugural visit in 1988. Sonoma Raceway is continuing to work with the sanctioning body regarding the NHRA Division 7 Drag Races, presented by Korbel, scheduled for July 15-19. An announcement pertaining to that event is forthcoming.

NHRA Sonoma Nationals ticket-holders on file with Sonoma Raceway may choose to receive an event credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20 percent or receive a full refund of their purchase price. The 120 per cent credit can be applied toward admissions for the 2021 NHRA Nationals event in Sonoma.

Fans who have purchased tickets for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals should complete the exchange request form within 30 days at www.sonomaraceway.com/nhra-exchange to start the ticket exchange process.

The JEGS Allstars competition, originally scheduled as part of the Route 66 Raceway event in Joliet, Ill., and the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, originally scheduled as part of the Sonoma event, will both be contested at the U.S. Nationals.

As previously announced, due to the compressed schedule, points will not be reset after the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

The season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Pomona and the NHRA Arizona Nationals in Chandler, Ariz., were contested before the pandemic prompted the current scheduling shutdown.

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Revised 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, subject to change:

July 11-12 _NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing at Lucas Oil Raceway, Clermont, Ind.

July 18-19 _NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing at Lucas Oil Raceway, Clermont, Ind.

July 31-Aug. 2 _Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals, Kent, Wash.

Aug. 7-9 _Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Morrison, Colo.

Aug. 14-16 _ Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn.

Aug. 21-23 _Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, Topeka, Kan.

Aug. 28-30 _NHRA Southern Nationals, Commerce, Ga.

Sept. 3-6 _Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind.*

Sept. 11-13 _Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa.

Sept. 18-20 _NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C.

Sept. 25-27_ Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.

Oct. 2-4 _AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill.

Oct. 9-11_ NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.

Oct. 16-18_ AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas

Oct. 23-25 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals, Baytown, Texas

Oct. 30-Nov. 1_Dodge NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas

Nov. 13-15 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

Note _ All events will contest Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on Saturday and Sunday only. The U.S. Nationals will contest one Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying round on Friday and two rounds on Saturday.

PSC _ Pro Stock will be contested at this event; PSM_  Pro Stock Motorcycle will be contested at this event.

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Point standings (top 10) following the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., the second event of the 2020 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series  schedule:

Top Fuel _1. Doug Kalitta, 212; 2. Brittany Force, 153; 3. Leah Pruett, 137; 4. Austin Prock, 131; 5. Steve Torrence, 121; 6. Justin Ashley, 108; 7. Antron Brown, 103; 8. Shawn Langdon, 91; 9. Clay Millican, 85; 10. Shawn Reed, 83.

Funny Car _1. Jack Beckman, 220; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 175; 3. John Force, 173; 4. Ron Capps, 128; 5. Matt Hagan, 124; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 107; 7. Robert Hight, 100; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 99; 9. Bob Tasca III, 87; 10. (tie) Paul Lee, 65; J.R. Todd, 65.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 203; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 197; 3. Jason Line, 168; 4. Kenny Delco, 132; 5. Bo Butner, 131; 6. Chris McGaha, 106; 7. Alex Laughlin, 104; 8. Matt Hartford, 85; 9. (tie) Cristian Cuadra, 82; Fernando Cuadra Jr., 82.

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| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 4 2020
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