NHRA’s 2018 drag racing season set down just south of Phoenix for its second race of the season as Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park hosted the 34th annual Arizona Nationals.
The event played out under rather atypical cool atmospheric conditions and featured a multitude of Chevrolet performance highlights and victory lane celebrations.
Recently crowned 2017 NHRA Lucas Oil Super Stock World Champion Justin Lamb gave everyone an early indication that he is fully focused on defending his title in 2018. Lamb, who is from Henderson, Nevada, wheeled his high-flying and high-winding SS/AM ’10 Cobalt to victory, running down opponent Mike Cotten in the final round with a winning 8.513 e.t. Lamb’s win was the 19th of his career and his 8th in Super Stock.
Washington-state based NHRA Lucas Oil Stock Eliminator racer Jody Lang prevailed yet again in his super-consistent M/SA ’81 Malibu Wagon. Lang, after qualifying 54th out of 62 cars entered, rolled past the competitive field and defeated the AA/SA ’69 Camaro raced by Brian McClanahan in the championship round. Lang’s e.t. of 12.328 at 94.78 mph took the win light as McClanahan’s super-clean, all-white Camaro tripped the red light (-.004). For Jody, this was NHRA national event win number 29 of his remarkable career and his 20th in Stock.
Texan Chris McGaha outgunned the Pro Stock class driving his Harlow Sammons Racing ’18 Camaro. Chris combined a great .007 reaction time with a superior run of 6.529 e.t. at 211.59 mph to best the Summit Racing Chevy Camaro raced by Jason Line in the final round. McGaha qualified seventh and defeated three other Camaros during the earlier elimination rounds: Tanner Gray, Erica Enders, and Alex Laughlin. The win was NHRA career score number six for the Odessa-based racer.
The event’s hard fought Super Street 10.90 index class featured an all-Chevrolet final round battle with the eliminator going to home state racer David Kiesel (Desert Hills, Arizona). Kiesel drove his ’76 Vega past the ’69 Chevelle raced by Californian Chris Borges in the final round. For Kiesel, the win was his first at the NHRA national event level and came in his first-ever career final.
Fuel Funny Car racing featured the first win since the 2016 season for Courtney Force, daughter of John Force and driver of the Advance Auto Parts-sponsored Chevrolet Camaro. Courtney’s win was a very dominating one as she scored the event win from the pole position. Over the course of the weekend she set both ends of the Funny Car track record: 3.826 e.t. and 337.16 mph. Courtney handled opponent Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round after having defeated Del Worsham and Matt Hagan in rounds one and two. Courtney was scheduled to meet her father John in the semifinals. However, that match proved to be single after John Force had a spectacular collision at the top end of the track with Sweden’s Jonnie Lindberg in the second round. Thankfully, both Force and Lindberg were uninjured in the incident, which did provide NHRA drag racing both some mainstream and worldwide media headlines.
The Super Gas (9.90 index) title went to a fan-favorite race car when Todd Barton’s show-quality ’55 Chevy Bel Air prevailed. Barton (Norwalk, California) ran to a final round 9.905 e.t. to beat another Chevy racer, Val Torres, who broke out with a 9.899 e.t. The victory was Barton’s second win in the popular machine.
The Chevrolet march to victory lane also included a win in the ferocious Top Sportsman class by Utah’s Bryan Warr. Warr toppled the super competitive 32-car field racing his nitrous-assisted “Warr-Path” ’04 Corvette. His final round e.t. of 6.978 at 196.22 beat the ’69 Camaro raced by Bud Preuss. Warr had qualified his machine 19th prior to winning the five-round eliminator. It was his first NHRA event title.
Photos by Bruce Biegler