HOLLYWOOD, Calif. --
Tue, 13 Nov 2018, 16:44 PM
Torrence, Todd, Gray and M. Smith Honored as 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series World Champions in Hollywood
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2018 Gary Nastase Photography www.garynastasephotography.com
Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd, Tanner Gray and Matt Smith were celebrated as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag
Racing Series champions on Monday during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards
ceremony at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.
Tony Pedregon, Matt Smith, Tanner Gray, Lewis Bloom,
Todd, Steve Torrence and Dave Rieff
The championship drivers were honored for their season-long achievements and presented with checks
and trophies for winning 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship titles during
the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's playoffs.
Torrence won the category crown after he clinched the championship during eliminaitons at the NHRA
Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In his championship season, Torrence
raced to 11 victories including making NHRA history by sweeping the playoffs.
Todd raced to his first Funny Car championship Sunday during the opening round of eliminations
Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. He secured six victories during
the season including winning the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. In the six-race
playoffs Todd won three of them.
Pro Stock racer Tanner Gray became the youngest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world champion.
During his championship season Gray notched seven victories including securing his first career win
at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win in Indianapolis. In the NHRA Mello
Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, Gray cemented his first crown with three
wins and maintained the points lead throughout the entire playoffs.
Smith won his third championship after not qualifying at the season opening event for the
two-wheeled category in Gainesville. The team hit their championship stride beginning at Brainerd
with three consecutive No. 1 qualifying positions. In the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Countdown to the Championship Smith cemented his crown with three victories and took the points
lead starting in Charlotte 2. He won the championship in dramatic fashion by defeating defending
world champion Eddie Krawiec during the final round at the season finale.
Top Fuel pilot Bill Litton was named the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future
Award and the $20,000 prize. The award recognizes the top NHRA rookie performer of the year. Litton
competed in 14 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events during the 2018 season. He defeated Tony
Schumacher, Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett to advance to the quarterfinals at Atlanta, Richmond,
Sonoma and Pomona. Litton raced to his career best time of 3.901-seconds at the event in Atlanta
and his career best speed of 318.17 mph at the race in Dallas. The other candidates in the rookie
class were Kelly Clontz (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Steve Graham (Pro Stock), Kebin Kinsley (Top Fuel),
Jim Maroney (Top Fuel), Ryan Oehler (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Mark Paquette (Pro Stock Motorcycle),
Wally Stroupe (Pro Stock), Ron Tornow (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Terry Totten (Top Fuel), Richard
Townsend (Funny Car) and Audrey Worm (Top Fuel).
"I am so blessed and thankful for this award," Litton stated. "I've prayed for the opportunity to
drive a Top Fuel dragster since I was eight years old and thought for a long time it was a longshot
dream. The Worsham's, and our team deserves the credit for putting me in this position. I am very
grateful that two legends of the sport like Chuck and Del have the confidence in me to pilot their
Top Fuel dragster."
Chevrolet was honored during the evening as the 2018 NHRA Manufacturers Cup winner. The season-long
points battle was captured on the strength of the Camaro Funny Cars driven by two-time Funny Car
world champion Hight, 16-time category champion John Force and Courtney Force. The Pro Stock
category was also represented by first-time world champion Gray, Greg Anderson, Bo Butner, Erica
Enders, Drew Skillman, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha and Jason Line. This is the
23rd time Chevrolet won the award and second consecutive year for the manufacturer.
"Competition in the NHRA is fierce," said Mark Kent, Chevrolet's director of motorsports
competition. "At every NHRA event, drivers of Chevrolet vehicles in the Funny Car, Pro Stock, Super
Stock and Stock classes compete for race wins and valuable manufacturer points. Chevrolet is very
proud of their efforts and is truly honored to again receive the NHRA Manufacturer Cup."
, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits
The NHRA also presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award to legendary driver, "Big
Daddy" Don Garlits, a pioneer in the sport of drag racing. Not only was Garlits the first drag
racer to break through a myriad of speed barriers, he's also known for his innovations in safety.
Most notably, he perfected the rear-engine Top Fuel dragster design to create a safer driving
experience and revolutionizing the class.
Drivers in ten categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also were recognizes as 2018
world champions: Joey Severance (Top Alcohol Dragster), Sean Bellemeur (Top Alcohol Funny Car),
Frank Aragona Jr. (Competition Eliminator), Justin Lamb (Super Stock), Brian McClanahan (Stock),
Steve Williams (Super Comp), Devin Isenhower (Super Gas), Paul Nero (Top Dragster), Ronnie Proctor
(Top Sportsman) and Leah Pritchett (SAM Factory Stock).
The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony will be available to view for fans
worldwide on the internet starting Wednesday, Nov. 21, at NHRA.com and the NHRA channel on YouTube.
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