GLENDORA, Calif. --
The three champions will kick off their title defense at the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-9 at the famed Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race is the first of 24 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events on the 2014 schedule, all of which will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2. Defending events champions are Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel; Courtney Force in Funny Car and Vincent Nobile in Pro Stock.
Langdon, a Mira Loma, Calif. Native, won his first Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship last season and started it in style, winning the season opening event at his home track. Ending 2013 with seven victories, four runner-up finishes, seven No. 1 qualifying positions and 54 round wins, the former Junior Dragster champion returns in his new-look Al-Anabi Racing dragster and plans a similar attack to the 2014 season.
2012 Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown will lead the field chasing to knock Langdon from the top. Brown, the first African-American to win a major auto racing championship, finished second last season in his Matco Tools dragster and is ready to return to championship form. His Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher will be tough competition again, having won seven world championships.
Doug Kalitta, Steve Torrence, Bob Vandergriff, Brittany Force and newcomer Richie Crampton, who replaces Morgan Lucas in the GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster, is in the running for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, NHRA's top rookie of the year, and figures to be a player in Top Fuel.
The top of the point standings is a familiar spot for Force. Collecting his 16th Mello Yello Funny Car world championship title and first since 2010, Force knows how to get the job done. With four wins, four runner-up finishes and 54 round wins, the 64-year-old is ready for 2014 and felt the whole John Force Racing team had a productive offseason.
Force will have tough competition as he tries for number 17. 2011 Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan, who finished second last year with five wins and five runner-up finishes, figures to be a major candidate to win the 2014 title.
Other top Funny Car challengers include Hagan's DSR teammates, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson who returns to the series in the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. Force's daughter Courtney won the event last season and Robert Hight has two wins at the season opening event. Kalitta Motorsports Funny Car entries, Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria, tested well last weekend in South Florida and figure to add to the challenging competition.
A familiar face returned to the top of the standings in Pro Stock last season with Coughlin taking his fifth world championship. Coughlin, who secured four wins and four runner-up finishes in the season, was pleased with his 2013 season and pointed out that the team was able to celebrate accordingly.
But Coughlin isn't ready to rest on his laurels. The JEGS Mopar Dodge Avenger driver will have to fend off teammate Allen Johnson and fellow Pro Stock competitors Jason Line, Shane Gray, Erica Enders-Stevens, V. Gaines among others to defend his NHRA Mello Yello title.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins on Friday, Feb. 7 with the first session beginning at 12:30 p.m. and a second session beginning at 3:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Feb. 8 at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will be showcased during the event, featuring exciting side-by-side racing action at more than 250 mph.
For tickets for the Circle K NHRA Winternationals, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to www.NHRAtix.com.
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