Aaaahh, what better way to start the weekend than with the smell of burned rubber and nitromethane in the morning?
Where does the name ‘Winternationals’ come from, you ask? Well from Pomona, California… where since 1961 the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (known as Pomona Raceway) is host of the NHRA’s Winternationals event that marks the beginning of each interesting and intense drag racing season.
How did it all start?
The Pomona Raceway is a reality thanks to the car club “Choppers of Pomona”, and police officer, Sergeant Bud Coons and other hot rod enthusiasts that managed to convince the county in 1952 to allow such manifestations in the hopes that kids will no longer drag race illegally. After getting the papers signed and raising funds to lay pavement on the empty gravel lot… in 1953, the first ever legal drag race of Pomona takes place. That first race weekend reportedly attracted over 18,000 spectators who witnessed the best ET of that day, 10.93 (respectable taking into consideration that 6 decades later, the best ET as of 02/08/2018 is 3.658, set by Leah Pritchett on Feb 24, 2017 even though it’s a 1,000 foot distance.)
NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) held its first ever Winternationals in 1961. It had such a success that it instantly became NHRA’s second national event and dubbed “The traditional season opener”.
Ever since the rumble of high-performance engines echoed across the Fairplex at Ponoma, many rookies made their debuts together with innovative mechanical beasts all to the satisfaction of thousands of drag racing fans.
Today, with over six decades on the NHRA calendar, the Winternationals have successfully produced double that number of years worth of memories that fans all over the world cherish.
Here are the top 10 most memorable moments from the Winternationals:
- The Mystery Train, 1963 – Winner of the Top Gas Class in the “Freight Train twin-engine dragster” is Floyd Lippencott Jr. (true name: Bobo Muravez, that hidden his name because his parents had forbidden him to drag race)
- First Lady, 1966 – First ever woman to win a major drag racing national event was Shirley Shahan that had a stunning victory in the popular Top Stock Class.
- “Grumpy” wins the first Pro Stock Go, 1970 – Bill Jenkins, favorite of the crowd managed to best the unbeatable Sax&Martin team in the final with low e.t of the meet winning his first NHRA’s Pro Stock title.
- Garlits Kicks ’em in the rear, 1971 – After a near-fatal accident one year earlier, Don Garlits competes with a revolutionary rear-engine dragster that brings him the tile in the Top Fuel Class.
- Real Winternationals, 1978 – Supposedly the home of sunshine and blue skies (as Southern California is called) gave the participants and crowd an event that was besieged by foul weather that included a rare dusting of snow
- Seven Seconds to Glory, 1982 – First time NHRA switches Pro Stock rules from a complicated weight-break rule to a straight-up 500-cubic-inch limit. With this amount of horsepower, Lee Shepherd managed to lead the class with the first ever seven-second pass!
- What a turn of events, 1990 – K.C Spurlock wins Funny Car in his Pro debut by knocking off John Force, Bruce Larson and Ed “the Ace” McCullach in the final…all these before the ink dried on his nitro license.
- “The King” goes down – 1993 – Kenny Bernstein world champion in that period loses in front of Joe Amato. But not only the title, also his engine, tire and control of his race car as he violently tumbles top-end. “The Bud King” as he was called, was thankfully unhurt.
- Putting on a show, 2006 – In round two of the Funny Car class, Robert Hight’s engine blows and destroys the body. The team manages to fix it just in time for the third round and decides to pull the damaged body off its show car…and they win the class.
- Real talent, 2008 – Antron Brown showed that being a former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer can’t limit him to only 2 wheels. He went on to qualify No.1 in his Top Fuel debut!
Today the NHRA’s Winternationals put on a great, intense and hard to look away type of show! With top of the line engine technology that puts to the ground more than 11,000 horse power (almost twice the power of the most powerful locomotive today or more than 7 x that of a Koenigsegg Regera put together). These babies burn a lot of fuel in the warm-up and during the race events.
Did you know that after each race, the team of mechanics break open the engine to verify all the components? It’s such an intense run and all components are stressed to the maximum… that in the 4 seconds or less a race takes, a lot of damage can appear.
Luckily for some of these top race teams, they also have a secret formula up their sleeves which acts as an extra layer of protection during these intensely abusive race runs and even in the event that something goes wrong. This formula is CleanBoost® 70W™ Racing Oil fortified with CleanBoost® EMT ™ Engine Metal Treatment. A mix of formulas that protects a high rpm engine in all conditions, even in the most severe cases of an oil bath failure.
Let’s watch as these NHRA top alcohol champions Garrett Bateman and Chris Demke and many others put on a show for us at the Pomona Raceway Winternationals!