For the second time in 2019, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to action for back-to-back weekends with a visit to Atlanta Dragway for the Arby’s Southern Nationals. The seventh of 24 rounds for the premier Top Fuel and Funny Car classes, Atlanta will also see the Pro Stock Motorcycle class take on its fourth event of this year’s championship.
Last week’s NGK Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals, the second and final four-wide round of the year, saw all three of these classes in action, with a unique mix of winners among them. Defending Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence, who swept last year’s Countdown to the Championship as part of an 11-win season, finally got his first win of 2019, becoming the sixth different Top Fuel winner in six races to start the year. Shawn Langdon scored his long-awaited first career Funny Car victory for Kalitta Racing, while Andrew Hines’ Pro Stock Motorcycle win was his 50th career triumph.
Both Torrence and Hines enter Atlanta as points leaders, with Torrence now 34 points clear of Pomona winner Doug Kalitta and Hines boasting a 38-point advantage over defending Atlanta winner Eddie Krawiec. In Funny Car, though, it’s Robert Hight who boasts a massive lead of 142 points over Matt Hagan and 165 points over John Force, who continues to chase his landmark 150th career victory. Hight has three victories in six starts so far this year, tied with Pro Stock racer Bo Butner for the most in the series so far.
Both of last year’s Southern Nationals winners who will be competing this weekend are still searching for their first Wally of 2019. Aside from Krawiec, defending Top Fuel winner Leah Pritchett is engaged in a tight scrap for third in points, as she and two others are within 16 points of Clay Millican for a top three spot. 2018 Funny Car winner Courtney Force retired before the season, but the success of both Hight and John Force so far this year suggest that her former teammates have a great chance of putting John Force Racing on top of the box again on Sunday.
After this weekend’s event in Atlanta, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will get an off weekend before heading to Virginia Motorsports Park in two weeks’ time. The Virginia NHRA Nationals will represent the first race for the Pro Stock class since Las Vegas in the beginning of April, and one of just eight events before this year’s Countdown that will feature all four premier classes.