BAYTOWN, Texas – After winning the last two NHRA Top Alcohol world championships in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Jonnie Lindberg had big expectations when he joined Head Racing to drive a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car for the first time. But through his first two races in the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, even Lindberg couldn’t have imagined his rookie season would start this well.
Lindberg advanced to the final round at his Funny Car debut in Gainesville and followed it with another finals berth at his second race in Las Vegas. The Swedish-born Lindberg has made a distinctive impression on the star-studded class and he is eager to keep this early-season momentum going at this weekend’s 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
“Only having three runs with a (Funny Car) before Gainesville, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Lindberg said. “We jumped in the car in Gainesville just hoping to make it down the track and we made the finals, and then did it again in Vegas. It’s been great. It’s a good combination with Jim (Head, crew chief and team owner) and I. I don’t really think about the car in the other lane. I think it’s a good combo we’ve got going and it’s working really well.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 23. It is the fifth of 24 events during the 2017 season.
Lindberg has jumped to eighth in points despite missing the first two races of the year, knocking off world champs Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Robert Hight and Jack Beckman in the past two races. He lost to John Force, a seven-time Houston winner, in Gainesville and then to Tommy Johnson Jr. in Las Vegas, but as positioned himself as one of the top contenders for the NHRA’s Auto Club Road to the Future Award, given annually to the NHRA’s top rookie. Lindberg and Head aren’t satisfied, though, and know the next step is finishing the job.
“When you’re that close it’s almost worse to runner-up than lose in the first round because you are so close,” Lindberg said. “We just want to win now and of course we’re going to try for that. That’s always been my goal, even if it is my rookie season. I just try to do my thing and make as good of a run as I can. You can be up and down quick in this sport, so hopefully we can keep it rolling and do well. If we stink one week, we’ll just go back and try harder the next week.”
The NHRA SpringNationals kicks off a string of three straight race weekends, a stretch that also includes events in Charlotte and Atlanta. Lindberg welcomes that next challenge, even if he knows he’s facing off against a loaded Funny Car class that includes defending winner Courtney Force, reigning world champ Capps and points leader Hagan, who has two wins this season. But Lindberg sees plenty of potential from a Head Racing team moving in the right direction.
“We need to continue to work on getting our E.T. better and I have to cut my reaction times,” Lindberg said. “Those are the important things right now. Jim is really good at getting the car down the track and that’s big. It’s hard to win if you smoke the tires. Now we just need to make it a little faster. We have the power and this is a team that works really hard.”
Kalitta has back-to-back SpringNationals wins in Top Fuel, but will have to top the likes of back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, points leader Tony Schumacher, two-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force and Texas native Steve Torrence.
Anderson won for the third time in Pro Stock at Royal Purple Raceway a year ago, and has a victory in 2017. He’ll face off against defending world champ and teammate Jason Line, along with 2017 winners Shane Gray and his son, rookie Tanner Gray.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes its second of 12 stops in 2017 at Royal Purple Raceway. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System as well. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from 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 Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 22, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 23.
To purchase event tickets, call (281)-383-7223 or visit www.RaceRPR.com. Kids 13 and under are free with a paid adult spectator side ticket. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on spectator side tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
WHAT: 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition also will be featured in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series.
WHERE: Royal Purple Raceway, Baytown, Texas. From Interstate 10 take the State Hwy. 99 (Grand Parkway) exit, which is exit 799. Take a right on State Hwy. 99 and go to the first exit (2 miles) which is FM 565. Take a right on FM 565 and Royal Purple Raceway will be on your right. For additional information about directions please visit www.racerpr.com.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 21-23
FRIDAY, April 21 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 22 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 5:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 23 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, April 23, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise three hours of finals coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
2016 EVENT WINNERS:
Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Courtney Force, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock.
John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 6, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 3, TF; Ron Capps, 3, FC; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; Mike Edwards, 3, PS; Bob Glidden, 3, PS; Cruz Pedregon, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.724 seconds by Steve Torrence, April ‘16; 330.07 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’15.
Funny Car – 3.899 seconds by Tim Wilkerson, April ‘16; 328.06 mph by Del Worsham, April ’16.
Pro Stock – 6.519 seconds by Jason Line, April ’15; 212.66 mph by Mike Edwards, April ’13.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
For tickets call (281) 383-RACE (7223). Tickets also available online at www.racerpr.com
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Tony Schumacher, 382; 2. Leah Pritchett, 376; 3. Antron Brown, 357; 4. Doug Kalitta, 301; 5. Brittany Force, 258; 6. Steve Torrence, 251; 7. Clay Millican, 187; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr., 176; 9. Terry McMillen, 164; 10. Scott Palmer, 148.
1. Matt Hagan, 368; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 324; 3. John Force, 314; 4. Ron Capps, 275; 5. Courtney Force, 218; 6. Jack Beckman, 205; 7. Robert Hight, 201; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, 183; 9. Jim Campbell, 180; 10. J.R. Todd, 170.
1. Greg Anderson, 380; 2. Jason Line, 367; 3. Bo Butner, 299; 4. Tanner Gray, 296; 5. Shane Gray, 278; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 266; 7. Erica Enders, 219; 8. Chris McGaha, 193; 9. Drew Skillman, 190; 10. Vincent Nobile, 183.