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The latest update as of February 9, 2018

NHRA Winternationals underway at Pomona

The action at the traditional season opener in Pomona, the 58th annual Winternationals, has begun in earnest with the first rounds of Pro qualifying completed. Yesterday's opening day saw the Top Alcohol cars make their first attempts, at the end of a long day of Sportsman qualifying. The action continues later this afternoon with the second qualifiers for the Pro cars, Top Fuel Harleys, and the Top Alky gang(s).

There's not enough time to write anything about Pomona until tomorrow, and we've just received the Friday photos from last week's "Spring Training" test session at Phoenix, so it's going to be a busy weekend here, and much busier of course in Pomona. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the weekend.

The latest update as of February 6, 2018

NHRA Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park - SUNDAY

Our good friend Bob Snyder ran into a series of misadventures over the weekend, culminated by locking his keys inside his van in the parking lot at the track.... 45 miles from home. It was a long night and that was one contributing factor in our delayed coverage of the Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. That said, here's the best shots from Sunday, when the Top Alochol and Top Fuel Harleys took to the track, and some of the lesser known racers brought out their cars.

Julie Nataas AFD --- Jordan Vandergriff AFD

Julie Nataas (left) and Jordan Vandergriff (right)

Greg Anderson PS --- Jason Line PS

Greg Anderson (left) and Jason Line (right)

Shawn Cowie TAD --- Scott Palmer TF

Shawn Cowie (left) and Scott Palmer (right)

Jack Beckman FC --- John Force FC

Jack Beckman (left) and John Force right

Sean Bellemeur TAFC --- Tiffany Januik TAD

Sean Bellemeur (left) and Tiffany Januik (right)

Nick Januik TAFC --- Matt Bynum NFC

Nick Januik in his Top Alcohol Funny Car (left) and Matt Bynum driving the "Nitro Nick" nostalgia flopper(right)

Bo Butner in Harry Hruska's PM --- Ray Martin

Bo Butner driving Harry Hruska's Pro Mod (left) and Ray Martin's "Intentional Incident" (right)

Ray Martin TAFC launch --- Ray Martin TAFC burnout

Two more shots from earlier in the day of Ray Martin's Top Alcohol Funny Car

The latest update as of February 4, 2018

NHRA Spring Training continues at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park - SATURDAY

Jonnie Lindberg FC --- Terry McMillen TF

Jonnie Lindberg (left), Terry McMillen (right)

Bill Litton TF --- Cruz Pedregon FC

Bill Litton (left), Cruz Pedregon (right)

Shawn Langdon FC --- Courtney Force FC

Shawn Langdon (left), Courtney Force (right)

--- Bob Tasca FC --- Robert Hight FC

Bob Tasca III (left), Robert Hight (right)

--- Jack Beckman (left) Tommy Johnson (right) FC ---

Jack Beckman left lane Tommy Johnson right lane

Tommy Johnson FC --- Terry Brian TF

Tommy Johnson (left), Terry Brian (right)

Scott Palmer TF --- Jack Beckman FC

Scott Palmer (left), Jack Beckman (right)

Ron Capps FC --- John Force FC

Ron Capps (left), John Force (right)

Tommy Johnson FC --- Mike Salinas TF

Tommy Johnson (left), Mike Salinas (right)

Bo Butner PM --- Jeg Coughlin PS

Bo Butner (left, driving Harry Hruska's Pro Mod car), Jeg Coughlin (right)

--- Greg Carrillo TF ---

Greg Carrillo

The latest update as of February 3, 2018

NHRA Spring Training continues at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park - FRIDAY

We're working on going through all the great Firday Fotos that Bob Snyder sent us from "Spring Training". It might be tomorrow before they're all posted, but stay tuned.

Cruz Pedregon FC --- Ron Capps FC

Cruz Pedregon left, and Ron Capps (right)

Courtney Force FC --- JR Todd FC

Courtney Force (left), and JR Todd (right)

Steve Torrence TF --- Mike Salinas TF

Steve Torrence (left), and Mike Salinas (right)

Clay Millican TF - Matt Hagan FC --- Tommy Johnson FC

Clay Millican vs Matt Hagan (left), and Tommy Johnson (right)

Robert Hight FC --- Erica Enders PS

Robert HIght (left), Erica Enders (right)

Courtney Force FC --- Cruz Pedregon FC

Courtney Force (left), Cruz Pedregon (right)

Jack Beckman FC --- Shawn Langdon FC

Jack Beckman (left), Shawn Langdon (right)

Tony Schumacher TF --- Terry McMillen TF

Terry McMillen (left), Tony Schumacher (right)

John Force FC --- Matt Hagan FC

John Force (left), Matt Hagan (right)

Greg Carrillo TF --- Bo Butner PM

Greg Carrillo (left), Bo Butner in Harry Hruska's car (right)

Ron Capps FC --- Jeg Coughlin PS

Ron Capps (left), Jeg Coughlin (right)

Deric Kramer PS --- Doug Kalitta TF

Deric Kramer (left), Doug Kalitta (right)

Richard Townsend FC --- Brittany Force TF

Richard Townsend (left), Brittany Force (right)

Tim Wilkerson FC --- Matt Hagan - JR Todd FC

Tim Wilkerson (left), Matt Hagan and JR Todd (right)

Bob Tasca FC --- Blake Alexander TF

Bob Tasca (left), Blake Alexander (right)

Courtney Force - Cruz Pedregon FC --- Terry McMillen TF

Courtney Force and Cruz Pedregon (left), Terry McMillen (right)

Richie Crampton TF --- Jack Beckman FC

Richie Crampton (left), Jack Beckman (right)

The latest update as of February 2, 2018

NHRA Spring Training starts at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park - THURSDAY

Judging by the pictures we've received from ace photog and good friend, Bob Snyder, it looks like a nice time to be in Phoenix for the unofficial/official kickoff of the 2018 NHRA drag racing season. Lots of race cars, new faces, new paint schemes - actually wraps nowadays - and some rather stout numbers coming out of the Arizona desert facility. We'll be working as time permits this weekend to bring photos and reports from the "Spring Training" event.

Remember to refresh this page each time you visit - and you really should come back to see the latest news and photos from Phoenix - throughout the weekend. To see full-size images, click on the smaller images on the page.

Erica Enders PS - 6.559 - 210.57 --- Alex Laughlin PS - 6.590 - 209.04

As you can see from the scoreboard insets, two-time World Champion Erica Enders led the gas-burning brigade with a very nice 6.55 - 210 mph pass, while Alex Laughlin slotted in behind her with a solid 6.59 at 209 mph. Sporting the "Speed Society" colours that he first ran at last year's World Finals, Laughlin presents a much-needed new look in the Pro Stock class.

Robert Hight FC - 3.880 - 324.05 --- Shawn Langdon FC

Moving on up to the nitro floppers, 2017 World Champion Robert Hight picked up almost where he left off last season with a very quick out-of-the-box 3.88 at 324 mph, while Funny Car rookie Shawn Langdon didn't fare so well on his first pass, with hard tire shake, clocking in at 8-seconds.

Robert Hight FC - 3.880 - 324.05 --- Leah Prtichett TF - 3.740 - 308.28

Here's a couple of the fast - actually not always as fast as the floppers - cars, with Steve Torrence opening the season with a 3.77 at only 268 mph. Shortly after that blast, Leah Pritchett came out in her new Pennzoil-Army colours (bye bye Papa John's) and put down a very respectable 3.74 at 308 mph to start her test week.

Courtney Force FC --- Cruz Pedregon FC

Courtney Force (left) began the season with a jarring wakeup call, with hard tire shake and a timeslip that read 7.49, as new tuner Brian Corradi began to acclimatize himself to the JFR (John Force Racing) camp. With Snap-On Tools extending their long running sponsorship for another three years, Cruz Pedregon (right) rolled into Phoenix ready to rock and prepare for much improved results in 2018. His first lap didn't quite match up to his expectations, with a 5-second time showing up on the scoreboards.

JR Todd FC --- Ron Capps FC

Not much to report on this pair either, as they didn't factor on the top run charts on their first attempts. JR Todd left, and "RunnerUp" Ron Capps on the right, both shut off early, but Todd did manage to break into the 3's later in the day with a 3.995 pass.

Antron Brown TF --- Tony Schumacher TF - 3.717 - 330.15

Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Antron Brown left, and Tony Schumacher, right, both carded some strong numbers on their first runs of the new season. Brown posted an early shutoff 3.816, while Schumacher called that and raised him a full tenth at 3.717, coupled with the first 330 mph pass of the day, to show he was serious about contending for his first championship since 2014. Lagter in the day, Brown leapfrogged over "The Sarge" with a best of the day 3.714 at 328.46 mph.

Vincent Nobile PS --- Deric Kramer PS

Two Pro Stock regulars who didn't have much impact on the scoreboards on Thursday were Vincent Nobile (shaking off the rust after sitting out the Countdown portion of the 2017 NHRA schedule) and Deric Kramer on the right. Nobile was "credited" with a 6.271 on one pass, but the unanimous consensus of the timeslip was "bogus". Kramer did put down a solid 6.64 later in the day.

Jonnie Lindberg FC - 3.960 - 298.04 --- Bob Tasca FC

Two fresh new looks from the nitro flopper contingent saw Jonnie Lindberg, left, put down a 3.96 at 298 in his first pass of testing in Jim "The Mad Scientist" Head's always experimental car. On the right, returning to full-time competition with a new sponsorship from Ford, Bob Tasca III was shut off with a fuel leak in his first go-round.

Tommy Johnson FC - 3.938 - 298.67 --- Matt Hagan FC - 3.940 - 281.19

A pair of DSR stablemates, Tommy Johnson on the left, and Matt Hagan (right), showed they were ready to rumble with two early shutoff runs in the 3's. Johnson's solid 3.93 at 298 mph was nearly eclipsed by Hagan's almost-as-quick 3.94 at just 281 mph. Two very good starts to the season for the veteran racers.

Bo Butner PS - 6.602 - 209.46 --- Alex Laughlin PS - 6.580 - 209.10

Defending World Champion Bo Butner opened his 2018 account with a solid, but unspectacular 6.602 pass, but was overshadowed by an ever-improving Alex Laughlin, who moved into second spot on the test "ladder" with a strong 6.580 clocking.

Mike Salinas TF --- Richard Townsend FC

A rather odd pairing here, with Mike Salinas on the left, preparing for his first season of full-time NHRA competition. Mike earned his Top Fuel license nearly ten years ago, and made his NHRA debut in 2011, and finally decided to join the tour full time after qualifying at all seven events he attended in 2017. On the right side is the still unwrapped "Nitroholic" of veteran nostalgia flopper racer Richard Townsend who made two runs (a 4.63 and a 5.88) towards upgrading his license to "big show" status.

Jeg Coughlin PS - 6.619 - 208.52 --- Bo Butner PS

After a tire shake afflicted first pass, Jeg Coughlin rolled to a decent 6.61 at just 208 mph on his second attempt, while Bo Butner went in the wrong direction, slowing from his earlier 6.60 to a 6.62 on his second lap.

Doug Kalitta TF - 3.729 - 315.34 --- Richie Crampton TF

After an early shutoff in his first attempt, Doug Kalitta stayed on the pedal to nearly the finish line, clicking it just a tad soon with a very good 3.729 at only 315 mph. On the right side, in the new look "Kalitta Air" Top Fuel car, Richie Crampton improved from a 5-second first pass to a 4.27 - still well off the pace - as he and tuner Connie Kalitta sort out a new combination.

Tommy Johnson FC - 3.913 - 312.78 --- Matt Hagan FC - 3.879 - 330.72

On the left side, Tommy Johnson improved slightly over his earlier 3.93 pass with a 3.913 at 312 mph, while Matt Hagan jumped up BIG time with a quick 3.879 e.t., coupled with the top speed of the day at 330.72 mph.

That's all from Thursday's first open test day at Phoenix's Wild Horse Pass Motorports Park. We're hoping to see Friday's photos before the end of the day, and after that, there's still two more days of action before the alky cars hit the strip.

John Force FC

Hold on a minute. Where's all the JFR (John Force Racing) cars? Yes, there was one shot of Robert Hight near the top of the page, but where are Courtney, Brittany, or John. OKay, here's one shot of the "Old Truck Driver" hisself, John Force, launching into his 45th (or thereabouts) season of nitro drag racing. He ended the day with best numbers of 3.963 at 305.22 mph.

The latest update as of January 21, 2018

Happy New Year! - 20th Anniversary Edition

As the year goes on we'll dig through the Northern Thunder archives and post a few tidbits of "What's New" rants and other bits from the early days of this website. It's been a long ride and I've mellowed quite a bit over the years, but it will be interesting, and at times embarassing, to look back at the beginning of the website. Stay tuned!

For now, you can just click on the January 27th 1998 edition of "What's New" to see what we were reporting about at that time. Please note that none of the links on that page are currently working and you'll have to hit the back button to return to this page.

NHRA season kicks off in less than two weeks

Yes, it's almost that time again, and we'll be watching with interest to see who shows up at Phoenix in preparation for the season-opening Winternationals. A quick check of the NHRA website this morning revealed that there are still ZERO official entries in Top Fuel and just FOUR in Funny Car. The best entry numbers in the blown/injected classes were Top Alcohol Funny with 11 cars, and Pro Stock with 10 contestants.

Obviously these numbers will swell considerably before the gates open at Pomona on February 6th, but it is more than a little odd that there are so few cars/drivers entered this close to the event date. A quick look at the two following events shows a similar entry shortage in the pro and semi-pro classes. The only exception is the first Pro Mod race of the season at Gainesville, which is fully subscribed with the maximum 28 entries.

An even stranger development is the very sudden announcement that the Old Bridge Township dragstrip at Englishtown is shutting down it's drag racing programs after more than 50 years in the straight-line business. There has to be more, a lot more, to this story than the media releases by the track owners, and the response from NHRA. Let's wait and see how it all turns out. At this point it appears to be a done deal, but we've seen so many times over the years how things have turned around very quickly in the fastest moving sport on earth. As always, stay tuned for new developments over the coming weeks. The epitaphs for Raceway Park may be just a tad premature.

LATE Update

Entries for the NHRA Winternationals are literally "flooding" in with Top Fuel "leading" the way with TWO cars entered. That's a bazillion percent more than the ZERO entries that have been showing on NHRA.com for the past two weeks. If this is the sign of a developing trend, we might even see a full 16-car field by the time eliminations start on February 11th.

To see previous updates, go to the What's Old page

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