NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Continental (Pro Modified only)
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (Pro Stock Motorcycles only)
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is a drag racing series organized by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). It is the top competition series of the NHRA, comprising competition in four classes, including 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 six races with the difference in points greatly minimized.
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: AA/D top fuel dragster) and Fuel Funny Car (class designation: AA/FC 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 16-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 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. Although unpopular with the fans, 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 title in Top Fuel became 1,000-foot championships, as Santa Pod and Hockenheim (the last two quarter-mile nitro strips) made the switch, and Australian nitro racing switched to the 1,000-foot distance only for selected tracks.
Starting with the 2007 season, the NHRA implemented a playoff system to determine the champion in each class, billed as the Countdown to The Championship. 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.
Winston cigarettes was the title sponsor of the series from 1975 until 2001, when a condition of the Master Settlement Agreement required Winston to drop either its sponsorship of the NHRA, or the NASCAR Winston Cup Series; Winston chose to retain its NASCAR sponsorship. Winston ended their sponsorship with NASCAR two years later. The Coca-Cola Company has since held the title sponsorship rights for the series, under a deal that, in 2012, was extended through 2018. From 2001 to 2008, the series was branded with the company's Powerade brand, before switching to Full Throttle in 2009. In 2013, following Coca-Cola's most recent extension of its sponsorship, the title sponsor was changed to Mello Yello.
With Mello Yello having introduced a new logo, the NHRA unveiled a new logo for the series in January 2016, as well as a new "My NHRA" marketing campaign that plays upon the logo to feature drivers and other personalities discussing what the NHRA means to them.
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||N/A||Gary Lawson||Classification|
|1966||Pete Robinson||Ed Schartman||N/A|
|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 [j]||Tony Schumacher [k]||Cruz Pedregon||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||Eddie Krawiec [c]|
|2009||Tony Schumacher||Robert Hight [l]||Mike Edwards [m]||Hector Arana|
|2010||Larry Dixon||John Force||Greg Anderson||L.E. 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|
|2014||Tony Schumacher||Matt Hagan||Erica Enders-Stevens||Andrew Hines|
|2015||Antron Brown||Del Worsham||Erica Enders-Stevens||Andrew Hines|
|2016||Antron Brown||Ron Capps||Jason Line||Jerry Savoie|
|2017||Brittany Force||Robert Hight||Bo Butner||Eddie Krawiec|
|John Force||16||Funny Car||1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013|
|Bob Glidden||10||Pro Stock||1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989|
|Tony Schumacher||8||Top Fuel||1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014|
|Dave Schultz||6||Pro Stock Motorcycle||1987, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996|
|Kenny Bernstein||6||Funny Car
|1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1996, 2001|
|Warren Johnson||6||Pro Stock||1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001|
|Joe Amato||5||Top Fuel||1984, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992|
|Jeg Coughlin Jr.||5||Pro Stock||2000, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2013|
|Andrew Hines||5||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2004, 2005, 2006, 2014, 2015|
|Don Prudhomme||4||Funny Car||1975, 1976, 1977, 1978|
|Lee Shepherd||4||Pro Stock||1981, 1982, 1983, 1984|
|Gary Scelzi||4||Top Fuel
|1997, 1998, 2000, 2005|
|Greg Anderson||4||Pro Stock||2003, 2004, 2005, 2010|
|Eddie Krawiec||4||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2008, 2011, 2012, 2017|
|Shirley Muldowney||3||Top Fuel||1977, 1980, 1982|
|Raymond Beadle||3||Funny Car||1979, 1980, 1981|
|Don Garlits||3||Top Fuel||1975, 1985, 1986|
|Darrell Alderman||3||Pro Stock||1990, 1991, 1994|
|John Myers||3||Pro Stock Motorcycle||1990, 1992, 1995|
|Matt Hines||3||Pro Stock Motorcycle||1997, 1998, 1999|
|Angelle Sampey||3||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2000, 2001, 2002|
|Larry Dixon||3||Top Fuel||2002, 2003, 2010|
|Antron Brown||3||Top Fuel||2012, 2015, 2016|
|Jason Line||3||Pro Stock||2006, 2011, 2016|
|Gary Beck||2||Top Fuel||1974, 1983|
|Frank Hawley||2||Funny Car||1982, 1983|
|Scott Kalitta||2||Top Fuel||1994, 1995|
|Jim Yates||2||Pro Stock||1996, 1997|
|Tony Pedregon||2||Funny Car||2003, 2007|
|Cruz Pedregon||2||Funny Car||1992, 2008|
|Matt Smith||2||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2007, 2013|
|Matt Hagan||2||Funny Car||2011, 2014|
|Erica Enders-Stevens||2||Pro Stock||2014, 2015|
|Del Worsham||2||Top Fuel
|Robert Hight||2||Funny Car||2009, 2017|
|Shirl Greer||1||Funny Car||1974|
|Richard Tharp||1||Top Fuel||1976|
|Larry Lombardo||1||Pro Stock||1976|
|Don Nicholson||1||Pro Stock||1977|
|Kelly Brown||1||Top Fuel||1978|
|Rob Bruins||1||Top Fuel||1979|
|Jeb Allen||1||Top Fuel||1981|
|Mark Oswald||1||Funny Car||1984|
|Dick LaHaie||1||Top Fuel||1987|
|Gary Ormsby||1||Top Fuel||1989|
|Bruce Larson||1||Funny Car||1989|
|John Mafaro||1||Pro Stock Motorcycle||1989|
|Eddie Hill||1||Top Fuel||1993|
|Geno Scali||1||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2003|
|Mike Edwards||1||Pro Stock||2009|
|Hector Arana||1||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2009|
|LE Tonglet||1||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2010|
|Jack Beckman||1||Funny Car||2012|
|Allen Johnson||1||Pro Stock||2012|
|Shawn Langdon||1||Top Fuel||2013|
|Ron Capps||1||Funny Car||2016|
|Jerry Savoie||1||Pro Stock Motorcycle||2016|
|Brittany Force||1||Top Fuel||2017|
|Bo Butner||1||Pro Stock||2017|
NHRA events have been broadcast on television, with such efforts dating back as far as 1985. By the 1990s, events were split between ESPN, NBC, and The Nashville Network. TNN also broadcast a weekly highlight program, NHRA Today. Due to logistical and scheduling issues, including the possibility of long turnaround times between heats, weather delays, and other factors, events are typically broadcast in a condensed form via tape delay. From 1992 until 2000, TNN carried live coverage of selected final rounds, typically with a condensed package to air until the finals began.
In 2001, the NHRA entered into an agreement with ESPN for it to become the exclusive broadcaster of NHRA events, shortly after MTV Networks had effectively shut down the CBS motorsport operations after its acquisition of CBS Cable, and the demise of TNN. During its 14-year stint as rightsholder, ESPN faced criticism for the structure and scheduling of its coverage. Due to scheduling conflicts with other sports properties to which it held rights, ESPN typically broadcast its NHRA coverage in inconsistent and otherwise undesirable timeslots. In the final years of the contract, the NHRA attempted to structure selected events so that they could be televised live; by the 2015 season, at least six events were broadcast live.
In July 2015, ESPN and the NHRA agreed to end their contract one year early, with the association citing ESPN's scheduling issues as a concern. In turn, the NHRA announced a new television deal with Fox Sports beginning in the 2016 season. Coverage primarily airs on the FS1 and FS2 cable channels, while 4 events per-season are broadcast on Fox (including the flagship U.S. Nationals). Fox committed to televising live Sunday coverage from at least 16 of the 23 events per-season, two-hour qualification broadcasts and encores (including the condensed highlights program NHRA in 30), and coverage of selected Sportsman Series events. NHRA president Peter Clifford explained that the deal would be a "game-changer" for the association, citing Fox's history of motorsports programming, as well as its commitment to increased coverage of NHRA events, including live network television coverage.
During the first two years of the contract, Fox had achieved an average viewership of 600,000 viewers—a major increase over ESPN's broadcasts. Some events had attracted an audience of over 1 million. The association cited favorable scheduling practices (including better time slots and additional encores, as well as using NASCAR broadcasts as a lead-in), and increased promotion of the event broadcasts as part of FS1 and FS2's programming, as having helped build their audience.
- 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, one of only three drivers to do so
- 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 11-year-old record held by Pro Stock driver Bob Glidden (10).
- Nitro class race distance was shortened to 1,000 feet starting July 2, 2008.
- Schumacher won his record sixth Top Fuel title in 2008, beating the 16-year-old record held by retired Top Fuel driver Joe Amato.
- 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.
- "After 27 Years, Series Goes Off Tobacco Road". Los Angeles Times. November 8, 2001. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- "Mello Yello taking over as NHRA title sponsor". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- "NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series logo gets bold makeover". Autoweek.
- Sharrington, Kevin (October 28, 1990). "Renovations, TV taking the credit for bigger, diverse crowds". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- "NHRA still finding itself at mercy of TV networks". Houston Chronicle. April 22, 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2015.(subscription required)
- "Sources: NHRA Races To Air On FS1, Ending 14-Year ESPN Tie-In". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- "NHRA president calls move to Fox Sports in 2016 a 'game-changer' for series". Autoweek. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- "Fox TV releases 2018 NHRA Mello Yello drag-racing series schedule". USA Today. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
- "NHRA Chief Content Officer Ken Adelson talks changes for 2018, relationship with Fox Sports". Awful Announcing. 2018-02-06. Retrieved 2018-03-14.