Race Weekend Central

Nitro Shots: The Penultimate Edition

Penultimate is a fancy word meaning the second from last. In this case, it refers to where we are in the NHRA season, having just finished the penultimate event of 2017 in Las Vegas, with just the final event in Pomona left to go in two weeks. One class, Pro Mod, has wrapped up for the year, while the other four Mello Yello series professional classes will close in Pomona.

Congratulations to Troy Coughlin, 2017 J&A Services Pro Mod Series champion. This is Coughlin’s third class championship. He went out and sealed the deal himself in Las Vegas, beating fellow championship contender Mike Castellana in the second round to clinch the title.

“You look up in the stands and see all those people and you just want to win one more round,” Coughlin said. “The plan of attack we had happened to work. We crossed the finish line and saw those flashing win lights on the guard wall and you think this is a dream come true. It is hard to do and this class is getting tougher and tougher.”

While he won the war, he did not win this last battle. Coughlin was defeated in the finals by Stevie “Fast” Jackson, who finished his rookie year in NHRA with two wins under his belt. It’s hard to think of Jackson as a rookie, even if it was the first year in NHRA competition for the trash-talking grudge racing and drag radial star.

Jackson took the opportunity to do a little of that trademark yapping after his season-ending win, promising that next year he will be the guy who wins the war. He makes things exciting and he’s good for this series.

“What an awesome win. This is my first time racing in Vegas and it’s an unbelievable experience,” said Jackson. “This is a tough class to even qualify for. To win the last race of the season is a game changer for us. Nobody wants to eat their Thanksgiving dinner thinking about getting their butt kicked.

“Being a part of Bahrain 1 (race team) is very special,” Jackson said. “We are a big family and next year is mine.”

That leaves the rest of the professional classes to hash things out in Pomona. With points and a half on the line, meaning as many as 191 points would be available to a single driver who can maximize their weekend throughout qualifying and eliminations. That means the championships are very much still in play.

In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence leads Brittany Force by just 20 points, and Doug Kalitta trails by just 84. Antron Brown, 135 behind, and Leah Pritchett, 166 back, have not been eliminated, although Torrence would need to fail to qualify while Pritchett earned max points for her to end up with the trophy.

Funny Car also has a tight battle going on. Robert Hight took the top spot from Ron Capps in Las Vegas, but only holds 15 markers over Capps. Courtney Force (-125), Jack Beckman (-152), and Matt Hagan (-161) are also mathematically still alive.

With fourth place Tanner Gray too far back at a deficit of 184 points, Pro Stock has come down to a battle to see which KB Racing driver will reign supreme. Greg Anderson is in front right now but Bo Butner trails by just 40 and Jason Line is still very much alive at 76 back.

Only Pro Stock Motorcycle is likely just a formality. LE Tonglet is not mathematically out, but he trails Eddie Krawiec by 150 going into the last event and Krawiec has been winning with regularity lately.

What’s News?

* NHRA has announced that Glen Cromwell, currently serving as Senior Vice President, Media and Marketing, will take over as President effective January 1, 2018. Current president Peter Clifford will take over the newly created role of Chief Executive Officer. Cromwell will report to Clifford and the NHRA’s board.

Cromwell has been with the NHRA since 1997, starting out as a division director, and has been involved over the course of the last 20 years with the sport’s marketing efforts, most recently leading the NHRA’s television and new media activities.

“I’ve loved NHRA ever since I started as a division director, and I feel honored to have the opportunity to lead this amazing organization,” said Cromwell. “I can’t wait to get started and to continue to grow the sport and lead the NHRA team.”

* Elite Motorsports has announced an expansion of sponsorship for two-time champion Erica Enders with Melling Performance. Melling will now take up primary sponsorship on Enders’ car for 16 of 24 races in 2018 and will be a major associate for the remaining eight events.

“Hopefully the next winner’s circle celebration will be all about Melling Performance and Mell-Gear,” said Enders, who earned one of her 22 career wins this season in New Hampshire. “I’m a happy girl right now knowing we can focus on helping grow their brand rather than spending all our time looking for sponsors. This is going to be a very productive off-season.”

* Bob Tasca III will return to Funny Car full-time in 2018 with the support of Ford Performance. Ford will provide sponsorship throughout the season, serving as primary sponsor for 16 races and co-sponsor for all the remaining events. In addition, Tasca will also receive engineering help from Ford as well as technical support through a new alliance with Don Schumacher Motorsports.

“This is a very exciting day for me personally, and for everyone involved at Tasca Racing,” said Tasca III. “We have always been a Ford family and have a long history with drag racing, so to be able to return to NHRA Funny Car full-time in 2018 with the support of our long-time friends at Ford is the perfect scenario for us.”

Hey Y’All, Watch This:

Sunday’s Pace Laps featured video of the Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle finals from Las Vegas, so in the interest of fair play, enjoy the Funny Car and Pro Stock finals today.

Yes, that was Smokey and the Bandit you just saw. Bo Butner likes to dress up his car for Halloween. Last year his Camaro came as the General Lee. This year he was the Bandit.


QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)

About the author

A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning former writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni works in web design and freelances with writing in North Carolina.

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