POMONA — As predicted, Sunday was ugly.
It was a day of rain in Pomona, putting a damper on the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) first final eliminations of the 2019 season, eventually pushing the action back at the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals until Monday morning.
Around 9 a.m., there was a break in the storm and the NHRA immediately got its track preparation crew out on the Auto Club Raceway track.
The track was ready at 11 a.m. and the Top Fuel dragsters were called to the staging area.
At 11:15, only 15-minutes past the originally scheduled start time, Doug Kalitta and Scott Palmer blasted off from the starting line.
With a 3.707-second pass at 323.91 miles per hour, Kalitta was the first racer to earn a spot in the second round of eliminations.
A mere 15-minutes later, rookie Austin Prock defeated 2017 national champion Brittany Force in a rocky debut — the sixth pair down the 1,000 foot track.
Prock blasted off, spun his tires, got off and back on the accelerator — pedaling — to finish in 4.02 seconds at 312.21 mph.
Force had an even rockier run, pedaling early before shutting down midway and coasting across the finish line in 5.851-seconds.
“That was awesome. It was the first time I’ve ever had to pedal a dragster. I saw Billy (Torrence) having to peddle two races before me so I was ready for it,” said Prock, who, after one round, is undefeated in his pro career. “I knocked off the former champ (2018’s Brittany Force) today and the 2019 champ (Steve Torrence) in qualifying. I can’t believe how well I’m doing.”
To add to his first-ever final round drama, Prock’s parachutes failed to open at the end of the run.
“I pulled the lever and it moved a couple links but wouldn’t go any further. I almost ran into the kitty litter (sand pit) but got it to stop just before hitting the sand. I cut a couple links out in the garage and that won’t happen again.”
Then the rain returned. It was light but fairly steady with a few breaks.
During the breaks, the NHRA’s jet dryer and the rest of the track preparation crew jumped into action.
But it was a losing proposition and shortly before 3 p.m., the NHRA called everything off, postponing the finals until Monday at 10 a.m.
In between the Kalitta and Prock wins, Terry McMillen eliminated Richie Crampton, Leah Pritchett bested Antron Brown, Billy Torrence knocked out Cameron Ferre, and defending champion Steve Torrence knocked off Steve Faria.
And no one else got on the track.
The Alan Johnson-tuned Mike Salinas Top Fuel dragster lined up against Clay Millican but that’s when the rain returned. The cars were first pushed back from the starting line and then towed back to the garage.
The forecast calls for a sunny, dry day on Monday when the drag racers will finish up the season’s opening weekend.