NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series (formerly NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series (2009-2012), NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series (2002-2008), and NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series (1971-2001) is the top competition division of the NHRA. It consist of four classes, Top Fuel Dragster, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
The champion of each category is determined by a point system where points are given according to finishing placement and qualifying effort. The season is divided into two segments. After the first 18 races, the Top 10 of each pro category are locked in and compete in the last 6 races with the difference in points greatly minimized. This is called the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is made up of 24 races from February to November and it is second only to NASCAR in terms of most popular forms of racing in America by several objective criteria (ESPN/TNS Sport Fan Poll, Cable TV Ratings, Internet traffic). Winston was the title sponsor of the series from 1971 until 2001, before a new governing rule stated the Master Settlement Agreement restricted R. J. Reynolds to one sponsorship of a sporting event; they chose NASCAR. In 2002, The Coca-Cola Company took over sponsorship of the series, which became known as the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series and had the slogan "Very Real Power."
The series has four main professional classes: Top Fuel Dragster, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle. Top Fuel was the first category, with Funny Cars added in 1966, Pro Stock four years later and Pro Stock Motorcycles in 1987. Both Top Fuel and Funny Cars regularly see top speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour (480 km/h) today, and one thousand foot times anywhere from 3.70 to 4 seconds. Both these cars burn fuel consisting of 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol. The Pro Stock record is 214 miles per hour (344 km/h), with times often in the 6.4-6.7 second range and the Pro Stock Motorcycles usually run at 190+ mph (310 km/h), with times in the low 7- to high 6-second range. Top Fuel (class designation: TF/D top fuel dragster) and Fuel Funny Car (class designation: TF/C top fuel coupe) have recently been limited to a 1,000-foot (300 m) track, instead of the historic 1/4 mile [1,320 feet (402 m)], as a means to limit top speeds and increase safety (there had been a number of engine explosions at or near 300 mph resulting in driver injuries and death). Currently, driver and spectator safety has been enhanced even while top speeds often approach and exceed 300 mph.
Some of the popular racers to come through the series include "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, and Shirley Muldowney. Those three gained much attention from the 1960s through 1970s with their speed and personalities, a combination rarely achieved today through the political correctness of sponsorship in today's drivers. Nonetheless there are still colorful characters today, such as 15-time Funny Car world champion John Force. His daughter, 2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force Hood has made appearances on Good Morning America and The Tonight Show and was voted AOL's Hottest Female Athlete in 2007.
On April 24, 2008, the NHRA and Coca-Cola announced a change in branding for the series effective 2009, with the professional classes referred NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, with the new slogan "Go Full Throttle or Go Home." In concert with the re-branding of the series, Coca-Cola extended their deal with NHRA by two years, from 2011 to 2013.
Before the iconic Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals, labor day weekend in 2012, Coca-Cola again announced a change in branding for the series. Starting in 2013, the professional categories will be racing under the series of the citrus soda, Mello Yello. Coca-Cola's deal with NHRA is currently contracted through 2018.
All NHRA Mello Yello Series races are broadcast in the U.S. on ESPN and ESPN2. Veteran broadcaster Paul Page previously anchored the coverage alongside former racer Mike Dunn. However, in 2012, Paul publicly announced his final show for the NHRA in 2012. Pit and trackside reporters have included Gary Gerould, Dave Rieff and John Kernan. On February 6, 2013, NHRA announced Dave Rieff, who has been a pit reporter since ESPN began its NHRA coverage in 2001 and a staple of NHRA television for 17 years, will move into the anchor announcer position for the 2013 season. In addition to hosting coverage of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Rieff will continue his lead role on the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series telecasts. Joining Rieff in calling the action from the booth will be former NHRA racer Mike Dunn, who is beginning his 12th year with ESPN as a color analyst for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Gary Gerould will return as a pit reporter at all 24 events. Veteran announcer John Kernan, who joined the NHRA telecast team in 2007, will split pit reporter and trackside duties with Jamie Howe. Howe has served as a pit reporter for the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series telecasts since 2011 and this year she will increase her presence in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series telecasts. Some former TV announcers include Steve Evans, Brock Yates, and Dave McClelland. In the past, some NHRA national events were also covered in the U.S. by CBS Sports (mostly the now-defunct The Nashville Network before and after the 1997 acquisition until the channel's demise in 2000), NBC Sports (including current Comcast property USA before its acquisition), and Fox Sports (through the now-defunct Speed).
On July 2, 2008, following the death of Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta, the NHRA announced that race distances for Top Fuel and Funny Car classes would temporarily be reduced to 1,000 ft from the traditional 1/4 mile (1320 ft). The measure was intended to be temporary while safety solutions were explored; however, the races have remained at 1000 feet since Kalitta's death. The distance remains at 1,000 feet today at the request of the teams as a cost-saving measure, with no indication by NHRA officials of any intent of returning to the full quarter-mile format any time soon. By late 2012, 1,000 foot racing became globally recognised as the 2012 FIA European and 2012–13 ANDRA titles in Top Fuel became 1,000-foot championships, as Santa Pod, Hockenheim (the last two quarter-mile nitro strips), and Australian nitro racing switched to the 1,000-foot distance only for selected tracks.
Starting with the 2007 season, the NHRA implemented a "regular season" and "playoff" system to determine the champion in each class, billed as the "Countdown to 1". Each season is divided into two segments of races, with the bulk of the races making up the first segment, and the final events making up the second segment. After the first segment is complete, the drivers in each class at or above the cutoff point in the standings (8th place up to 2007 and 10th place thereafter) become eligible for the championship, while the drivers below the cutoff point are eliminated from championship contention, though they still participate in the remaining race events. The points for the advancing drivers are readjusted so that they are separated by a fixed margin, with first place receiving bonus points. The drivers then compete for the championship over the final races of the season.
Before 1974, the season champion was determined by the winner of the World Finals event. The Professional categories contain the divisions of Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock (Automobile), and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
|Year||Top Fuel||Funny Car||Pro Stock||Pro Stock Motorcycle|
|1965||Maynard Rupp||Gary Lawson|
|1966||Pete Robinson||Ed Schartman|
|1970||Ronnie Martin||Gene Snow||Ronnie Sox|
|1971||Gerry Glenn||Phil Castronovo||Mike Fons|
|1972||Jim Walther [a]||Larry Fullerton||Bill Jenkins|
|1973||Jerry Ruth||Frank Hall||Wayne Gapp|
|1974||Gary Beck||Shirl Greer||Bob Glidden|
|1975||Don Garlits||Don Prudhomme||Bob Glidden|
|1976||Richard Tharp||Don Prudhomme||Larry Lombardo|
|1977||Shirley Muldowney [b]||Don Prudhomme||Don Nicholson|
|1978||Kelly Brown||Don Prudhomme||Bob Glidden|
|1979||Rob Bruins [c]||Raymond Beadle||Bob Glidden|
|1980||Shirley Muldowney||Raymond Beadle||Bob Glidden|
|1981||Jeb Allen||Raymond Beadle||Lee Shepherd|
|1982||Shirley Muldowney||Frank Hawley||Lee Shepherd|
|1983||Gary Beck||Frank Hawley||Lee Shepherd [d]|
|1984||Joe Amato||Mark Oswald||Lee Shepherd|
|1985||Don Garlits||Kenny Bernstein||Bob Glidden|
|1986||Don Garlits||Kenny Bernstein||Bob Glidden|
|1987||Dick LaHaie||Kenny Bernstein||Bob Glidden||Dave Schultz|
|1988||Joe Amato||Kenny Bernstein||Bob Glidden||Dave Schultz|
|1989||Gary Ormsby||Bruce Larson||Bob Glidden||John Mafaro|
|1990||Joe Amato||John Force||Darrell Alderman||John Myers|
|1991||Joe Amato||John Force||Darrell Alderman||Dave Schultz|
|1992||Joe Amato||Cruz Pedregon||Warren Johnson||John Myers|
|1993||Eddie Hill||John Force||Warren Johnson||Dave Schultz|
|1994||Scott Kalitta||John Force||Darrell Alderman||Dave Schultz|
|1995 [e]||Scott Kalitta||John Force||Warren Johnson [f]||John Myers|
|1996||Kenny Bernstein [g][h]||John Force||Jim Yates||Dave Schultz|
|1997||Gary Scelzi||John Force||Jim Yates||Matt Hines|
|1998||Gary Scelzi||John Force||Warren Johnson||Matt Hines|
|1999||Tony Schumacher||John Force||Warren Johnson||Matt Hines|
|2000||Gary Scelzi||John Force||Jeg Coughlin, Jr.||Angelle Sampey|
|2001||Kenny Bernstein||John Force [i]||Warren Johnson||Angelle Sampey|
|2002||Larry Dixon||John Force||Jeg Coughlin, Jr.||Angelle Sampey|
|2003||Larry Dixon||Tony Pedregon||Greg Anderson||Geno Scali|
|2004||Tony Schumacher||John Force||Greg Anderson||Andrew Hines|
|2005||Tony Schumacher||Gary Scelzi [g]||Greg Anderson||Andrew Hines|
|2006||Tony Schumacher||John Force||Jason Line||Andrew Hines|
|2007||Tony Schumacher||Tony Pedregon||Jeg Coughlin, Jr.||Matt Smith|
|2008||Tony Schumacher [j] [k]||Cruz Pedregon [k]||Jeg Coughlin, Jr.||Eddie Krawiec [c]|
|2009||Tony Schumacher||Robert Hight [l]||Mike Edwards [m]||Hector Arana|
|2010||Larry Dixon||John Force||Greg Anderson||LE Tonglet|
|2011||Del Worsham||Matt Hagan||Jason Line||Eddie Krawiec|
|2012||Antron Brown||Jack Beckman||Allen Johnson||Eddie Krawiec|
|2013||Shawn Langdon||John Force||Jeg Coughlin, Jr.||Matt Smith|
- first title after change from front-engine to mid-engine Top Fuel cars, primarily for safety reasons.
- first championship for a female driver in any category
- won the championship without winning a single event
- also won the IHRA World Pro Stock Championship in the same year. Shepherd is the only driver to do so.
- In 1995, the points system was revamped. The winner of an event received 100 points, runner-up received 90, 3rd place received 80, the other semi-finalist received 70, second round competitors received 50, and all qualifiers would receive 10.
- Johnson had one of the biggest comebacks in NHRA history, moving from the bottom of the top 10, gaining over 500 points, with half the season completed, to capture the Pro Stock title.
- gave driver championships in both nitro classes. Bernstein and Scelzi are the only two drivers to have accomplished this.
- Bernstein gave his championship trophy to Alan Johnson, brother, and crew chief of late Top Fuel driver Blaine Johnson, who had died during qualifying at the U.S. nationals that year.
- Force's 11th Championship in 2001 made him the winningest driver in NHRA history, beating the 21-year-old record held by Pro Stock driver Bob Glidden (10).
- Schumacher won his record sixth Top Fuel title in 2008, beating the 16-year-old record held by retired Top Fuel driver Joe Amato.
- Nitro class race distance was shortened to 1,000 feet starting July 2, 2008.
- Hight's win made John Force the winningest team owner in NHRA history, with 17 total championships (15 as a driver, one with Hight, and another with Tony Pedregon).
- Edwards went 27 years between NHRA titles (he won the 1981 Sportsman class Modified title), the longest in history.
- "Meet the Hottest Athlete in Sports". Retrieved 2009-09-08..
- NHRA News: In interim measure, Top Fuel, Funny Car to race 1,000 feet
- "What is the Countdown?". Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- Official website
- Official NHRA Drag Racing Podcasts
- Drag Race Central The Latest NHRA News and Analysis