Pomona, Calif. (Feb 28, 2011) - The NHRA kicked off the 2011 season at the Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, on a rainy and cold February weekend. Red Line Oil teams did well at the first race of the season, with record setting runs in Top Fuel Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car and a win in Pro Stock.
Al-Anabi Racing celebrated early in the event when driver Larry Dixon took the No. 1 qualifier spot on Saturday evening, the 49th time he was top qualifier but his first at the Winternationals. Dixon's 3.770-second run at 324.98 mph set the national elapsed-time record and the Auto Club Raceway speed record; although other teams reached higher speeds during eliminations. With the national ET record, Dixon received a 20-point bonus. In eliminations, Dixon's dragster lost traction at half track, and Terry McMillen got the upset win.
"With everything that our Al-Anabi team has done over the course of the last 12 months and the last couple of days at this event, it was disappointing to go out in the first round," Dixon said. "We were too hopped up, and it went out and spun the tires. It's disappointing but not life threatening. The good that came out of the weekend is that we leave Pomona with the national elapsed time record, and we were able to bring that record to our camp. The bar was set high when they set it, and I'm proud that the Al-Anabi team has it now." This was the team's first race weekend with Red Line Oil, running Red Line 70WT Race Oil in the Engine and Heavy Shockproof Gear Oil in their Differentials. Teammate Del Worsham, in his first race back in top fuel in almost 18 years, made a solid semi-final appearance.
In the Pro Stock class, Red Line driver Jason Line and the KB Racing/Summit team started the season in the best way possible on Sunday, capturing the Wally. What made the win all the more satisfying was the fact that Line wasn’t sure he would even be able to drive. Line has been recovering from the back surgery he had four weeks ago, and said he was not feeling very well for about a week prior to the race.
"I said before the start of the year that I wanted to win all the races, and I couldn’t do that without winning here in Pomona, so I'm glad that this Summit Racing team was able to get the job done today," said Line. "Our performance is a testament to this Summit Racing crew. They gave me a fast hot rod that never varied by more than nine thousandths of a second in all four runs. It drove like a Cadillac more than a Pontiac. On top of that, I had a pretty good day behind the wheel, and we ended up having a great day."
Line qualified 11th with a 6.590 second/210.54 MPH pass. He defeated V. Gaines and Vincent Nobile in Rounds One and Two of eliminations. The semifinals were an all-Summit Racing matchup as Line and 2010 Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson were paired at the line. It was all over when the Christmas tree turned green as Line cut an incredible .001 reaction time and led all the way to the finish line, running a 6.532/211.76 to Anderson’s 6.563/211.10. Squaring off against veteran Greg Stanfield in the final, Line and his crew Knew they would need a near-perfect performance to open the year with a win. Line responded by posting the quickest elapsed time of the weekend at 6.529-seconds with a speed of 211.89 mph to outdistance Stanfield’s 6.595-second, 210.70 mph effort. This was the 22nd national event win of Line’s career and second at the NHRA season-opener.
In the Alcohol Funny Car ranks, Former World Champion Tony Bartone captured another NHRA National Event title for Rick Jackson Racing. The Long Island, New York, driver won in dramatic fashion after setting a National Record elapsed time in the final. The victory was Bartone's 32nd of his career and his third national event victory driving for the team and famed tuner Steve Boggs.
Bartone's march to the title featured a round two match-up against Alexis Dejoria, the first time Dejoria and Bartone met in NHRA competition. As Dejoria had difficulty staging her Tequila Patron-sponsored Monte Carlo within the 7-second time limit, this triggered the red-light in her lane and sent the Centre Pointe Collision Center-sponsored Mustang on a solo run. Technical changes for the semi final against Steve Gasparelli paid off in spades as Bartone recorded a stellar 5.460 second elapsed time at a booming speed of 264.08 MPH to capture the round win and a trip to the money round.
The final had Bartone against Doug Gordon, with both drivers leaving the starting line with identical reaction times; however Boggs and Bartone saved their best effort of the final, recording a a 5.452-second elapsed time at 264.70 mph, while Gordon trailed with a 5.579 ET to earn the runner-up position. Bartone’s run eclipsed the existing record 5.455 set by TAFC kingpin Frank Manzo.
"This was a total team effort and it’s been a long time coming," stated Bartone, whose last NHRA National Event victory came in 2009 in Las Vegas. "We'd like to thank our families who let us come out here and have fun at the race track and of course all our fans and marketing partners for their continued support. This is an awesome feeling and I look forward to building on this victory during the entire year."
In other NHRA Sportsman news, Red Line-racer Jimmy Defrank took runner-up honors in the hotly-contested Super Stock category. This race was run on Monday due to weather delays.