CHANDLER, Ariz. (January 31, 2018) The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is fast approaching with little over a week to go until the first race of the season in Pomona. Dozens of Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock teams loaded up their haulers and headed west for testing, or as NHRA likes to call it: Nitro Spring Training.
Today marked the first day of pre-season testing in Chandler at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Unlike last year’s Nitro Spring Training the Pro Stock cars have elected to run with the nitro classes instead of testing after the nitro classes were completely packed up and done.
Because it’s only the first day some drivers never made a pass down the track, while others decided to take advantage of the empty lanes and essentially hot-lap their cars to gather data.
Last season’s standout privateer Clay Millican is back for more. While it’s still only the first day, Millican managed to go 3.790 seconds, despite shutting it off early. In a later run, Millican posted a wicked quick sixty-foot time, .812 seconds, but suffered tire shake at half-track. Don Schumacher Racing and John Force Racing’s dragsters didn’t have the opening day outing that they were expecting. Both teams cars struggled to make it down the track and were only able to get a couple of passes in. Noticeably missing from today’s action was both of Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuelers belonging to Doug Kalitta and Richie Crampton. The drivers’ cars are at the track but the drivers are en route to Arizona and will most likely start testing tomorrow.
Leading the pack is Matt Hagan who ran 3.888 seconds at 327.43 mph towards the end of the day. Hague’s run stuck out in particular not just because of the elapsed time but because that particular run was one of the few that was carried out from start to finish. Many drivers shut off their cars before the finish line and others couldn’t shake the rust off to make complete passes. We also got to witness Shawn Langdon step behind the wheel of a Funny Car. Langdon, who won the Top Fuel championship in 2013, is starting his freshman campaign as a Funny Car driver. Neither of his two passes went past half track during today’s test session.
Just like the nitro classes, many of the Pro Stock drivers were faced with the predicament of getting back in the groove, literally and figuratively. Erica Enders, Vincent Nobile, and Alex Laughlin were the only three who made multiple passes. Enders was pulling double duty as she put laps down in her car as well as her teammate Jeg Coughlin’s Chevy Camaro. In one of his final passes, Laughlin went 6.612 seconds in the quarter mile at 209.01 mph. Nobile and Enders had difficulty even getting their cars to half track for most of the day. It’s surprising to see Pro Stock in the mix with the nitro cars in testing because the last 320 feet of the track isn’t prepped in order to preserve the Top Fuel and Funny Car tires. Some of those Pro Stock drivers who made it down the track actually shut off the ignition and pulled the chutes early to avoid the lack of traction at such high speeds with little downforce to keep them planted.