Jack Beckman led a four-car parade of Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car machines in qualifying to start the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series campaign, taking the No. 2 qualifying position at the season-opening 59th annual NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California.
Beckman closed qualifying with a powerful 3.900-second elapsed time (ET) during the final qualifying session on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway to earn the second spot heading into Sunday eliminations and was joined in the top-five by fellow Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and Dodge//SRT Mopar drivers Tommy Johnson, Jr. (third), Matt Hagan (fourth) and Ron Capps (fifth).
Following a morning rain shower, cooler temperatures and a cloud-cluttered sky provided competitive conditions and the results showed it for the Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT contingent.
Beckman’s run moved him from the 11th position up to second overall and became even more impressive as the final session proceeded. He will face Phil Burkart in the first round of Sunday’s elimination rounds.
Johnson improved from fourth to second in qualifying session three with his pass of 3.904 ET behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT. He will face Tim Wilkerson in Sunday’s first round.
Two-time NHRA Funny Car champion and two-time defending Winternationals winner Hagan followed Johnson’s lead and posted his best pass of the weekend in Q3. The Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT stopped the clock at 3.909 ET and Hagan will face John Force in round one Sunday.
Capps, the 2016 Winternationals champion, holds down the fifth spot with his Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT. The 2017 Funny Car champion held the provisional top position after Friday’s first qualifying session and will take on Gary Densham Sunday.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett improved her times Saturday but failed to make it cleanly to the finish line. Pritchett looked to be on a stout pass early Saturday afternoon, but couldn’t complete her run under full power and posted a mark of 3.963 ET. She closed qualifying with a lap of 4.011 ET and holds the 12th position on the qualifying ladder. Pritchett will begin her quest for a second Winternationals triumph in the last three seasons by facing her DSR teammate Antron Brown in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.