A lot has happened since we last saw cars go down the track at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, California last November. With the start of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series upon us, we’ll catch you up on the top 10 stories that took place in the off-season.
Erica Enders Returns to Chevy
After winning two Pro Stock world titles with Chevrolet under the hood in 2014 and 2015, Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr., made the sudden switch to Mopar Dodge in 2016. The manufacturer change proved to be a rough transition as both Enders and Coughlin Jr. desperately struggled to go rounds throughout the year. In December it was announced that Mopar and Elite Motorsports were going their separate ways and that the team would return with Chevy for the upcoming 2017 season.
Del Worsham Leaves Kalitta Motorsports
With 4 seasons and a Funny Car World Championship under his belt with Kalitta Motorsports, Del Worsham parted ways with the Michigan-based team in order to rejoin his family-owned Funny Car operation, Worsham Racing. Del cited “unfinished business with [his] family’s team” as his reason for leaving. Worsham first raced for his family’s team from 1990 to 2008.
JR Todd Tries His Hand at a Funny Car
On the heels of Del Worsham’s departure from Kalitta Motorsports, it was announced that JR Todd will take over the driving duties of the DHL Toyota Funny Car. Todd, a successful dragster driver admits that “Driving a Funny Car is something I’ve wanted to do for the past couple of years.” Todd got his first taste of drag racing in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing series as a child and started his Top Fuel career in 2006.
Troy Coughlin Jr. Makes the Move to Top Fuel
Initially a part-time, six race deal was in place for the Top Fuel rookie to partake in for the 2017 season, but after a turn of events Coughlin Jr. will run a full season in the SealMaster Dragster with the Kalitta Motorsports team. With Del Worsham vacating the DHL Toyota Funny Car and JR Todd set to take his place, a full-time ride was in place for Troy Coughlin Jr. The son of two-time Pro Mod World Champion, Troy Coughlin Sr., has previously raced in the Super Comp and Super Gas categories of the Lucas Oil Sportsman.
Tanner Gray Continues the Legacy
Tanner Gray will be the third generation of his family to race in the NHRA professionally. His grandfather ,Johnny Gray, and father, Shane Gray have raced Funny Car and Pro Stock respectively. His father elected to step out of the seat at the end of the 2016 season in order to give Tanner a shot at racing in the big leagues. As a former asphalt, dirt, and junior dragster racer, it’s not surprising that 18-year-old Tanner Gray would end up in the seat of a Pro Stock car. He will make his professional debut at the Circle K Winternationals in Pomona, CA.
Aaron Brooks Tunes for Cruz Pedregon
Cruz Pedregon will be handing over the tuning duties to longtime nitro crew chief, Aaron Brooks. Pedregon failed to go rounds and only made on final round appearance last year. Brooks recently tuned for Richie Crampton at Morgan Lucas Racing. Pedregon prefers to go solo when it comes to making decisions regarding the setup of his Funny Car. The pair struggled to make it down the track in preseason testing but are looking to turn their luck around once the season gets underway.
Shawn Langdon Without a Ride
2013 Top Fuel World Champion will be without a ride until further notice. Langdon joined Don Schumacher Racing at the end of 2015, when he replaced Spencer Massey. Langdon had a successful full season with DSR last year and managed to pick up three wins and finish 5th in the Top Fuel point standings. Due to a lack of sponsorship, Langdon will sit on the sidelines as Don Schumacher looks for another sponsorship deal. Last year the car featured Sandvik Coromat and Red Fuel Powered by Schumacher as its primary sponsors.
Jimmy Prock Leaves DSR and Takes the Crew with him
Jack Beckman was left without a crew chief or crew when Jimmy Prock decided to go back to his longtime home, John Force Racing. With his departure he took John Medlen and the majority of the Infinite Hero crew with him. But it didn’t take long for John Medlen to come back to DSR after he spent a couple weeks with JFR. Prock will tune for John Force for the 2017 season. Meanwhile, John Medlen, Dean Antonelli, and Neal Strausbaugh will all tune for Jack Beckman.
Morgan Lucas Racing Folds
After years as a mainstay team in the nitro ranks, Morgan Lucas Racing announced to their employees at the NHRA Finals that that would be their last hoorah. Morgan Lucas ran part-time last year while Richie Crampton ran the team’s other car full-time. A lack of on-track results and a possible cabinet position in the Trump Administration took MLR off the racetrack. Morgan’s father and founder of Lucas Oil, Forrest Lucas, eyed the position of Interior Secretary which meant that Morgan would be left to take over the family business. Crampton has yet to find a ride for the 2017 NHRA season.
Alex Laughlin Drives Everything
Gas Monkey Energy Pro Stock driver, Alex Laughlin will have his hands full for the 2017 season. While he’s not sure when he’ll be back in the seat of his door slammer, Laughlin will race Top Alcohol Dragster for approximately 15 events with Anthony Dicero Racing. Laughlin is also looking to race Pro Mod and/or Top Fuel this season. While most drivers consider racing more than one or two classes to be impossible, Laughlin does not seem deterred by the challenge of possibly being behind the wheel of 4 racecars.