NHRA Read­ies For Thun­der­ing Start To 2017 Cam­paign

Escalon Times - - NEWS - By MIKE BURGHARDT Rac­ing Cor­re­spon­dent

The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Rac­ing sea­son is just a few weeks off and there are quite a few changes in or­der. First, and fore­most, the cham­pi­onship points earned at the sea­son end­ing event has been in­creased. The win­ner of the Auto Club NHRA Fi­nals in each of the pro­fes­sional classes will now claim 150 points (each round is worth 30 points in­stead of 20). With the ad­di­tional points also awarded dur­ing the qual­i­fy­ing rounds and fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing po­si­tions, it now pos­si­ble for a driver to earn as much as 190 points at the event (130-points at all other events, ex­cept Indy; 160-points). This will make the fi­nal event more im­por­tant to the cham­pi­onship than it was in the past. Each driver must be in one of the top ten se­ries point po­si­tions in their cat­e­gory (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Mo­tor­cy­cle), by the com­ple­tion of the Chevro­let Per­for­mance NHRA U.S. Na­tion­als in In­di­anapo­lis to make the “Count­down to the Cham­pi­onship.” The count­down to the cham­pi­onship con­sists of the last six events on the 24-event sea­son sched­ule.

There has also been quite a bit of driver/team news this off sea­son. John Force has re­gained the ser­vices of cham­pi­onship crew chief Jimmy Prock and gained Chris Cun­ning­ham as his co-crew chief for his Peak Per­for­mance Chevro­let, which should make him a fa­vorite to win the sea­son ti­tle. Prock was crew chief with Jack Beck­man the last two sea­sons. John Medlen now takes over the crew chief du­ties for Jack Beck­man on the In­fi­nite He­roes Dodge. Dean “Guido” An­tonelli (leav­ing as Gen­eral Man­ager of John Force Rac­ing) will now work with Medlen as co-crew chief. Del Wor­sham, who won the cham­pi­onship in 2015, has left the Kalitta Mo­tor­sports/ DHL Funny Car team to race with his father (Chuck Wor­sham) as the tuner/driver of the Wor­sham Fam­ily Funny Car. J.R. Todd will move from driver of the Kalitta Mo­tor­sports Seal Mas­ter Top Fuel drag­ster to the DHL Funny Car. Rookie, Troy Cough­lin Jr., will now drive the Seal Mas­ter Top Fuel drag­ster. John Hale, who drove the Jim Dunn Fuel Funny Car the last two sea­sons, has de­cided to stop driv­ing in the se­ries so he can spend more time with his fam­ily and busi­nesses. Jim Camp­bell will now take over those driv­ing du­ties, with spon­sor­ship from the 7-Eleven store chain. Two time Top Al­co­hol Funny Car Sea­son Cham­pion, John­nie Lind­berg (rookie) will now drive the Jim Head Rac­ing Toy­ota, as (son) Chad Head wanted more fam­ily time. Court­ney Force made some of the big­gest spon­sor­ship news, as she is now pri­mar­ily spon­sored by Ad­vance Auto Parts. In­de­pen­dent racer, Scott Palmer will com­pete at all 24 events this sea­son with his “Liq­uid Voodoo” Top Fuel Drag­ster. In Pro Stock (two-time cham­pion) Erica En­ders and team­mate; six-time cham­pion) Jeg Cough­lin will re­turn to Chevro­let Ca­maros on the Richard Free­man Elite Mo­tor­sport team .They both drove Dodges last sea­son. In Pro Stock Mo­tor­cy­cle, three-time se­ries cham­pion An­gelle Sam­pey will join the 2016 “Auto Club Road to the Fu­ture Rookie of the Year” Cory Reed with a two bike team.

With the nu­mer­ous off­sea­son race team and driver changes, along with the Cham­pi­onship Point change, the 2017 sea­son looks to be very ex­cit­ing. De­fend­ing Pro­fes­sional cat­e­gory cham­pi­ons, An­tron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Ja­son Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Mo­tor­cy­cle) will have their work cut out for them. The sea­son will kick off in Pomona, for the Win­ter Na­tion­als, on Feb. 9. The se­ries vis­its the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia area for the Toy­ota/NHRA Sonoma Na­tion­als at Sonoma Race­way on July 28-30. If you are un­able to at­tend an event, you can watch them on FS1 (Fox Sports One).

PHOTO BY MIKE BURGHARDT

For the 2017 NHRA sea­son, John Medlen takes over the crew chief du­ties for Jack Beck­man on the In­fi­nite He­roes Dodge.

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