It may Oscar Sunday in Hollywood but just down the freeway in Pomona there are three NHRA drivers that are plenty happy with their 60th anniversary pewter Wallys they received for winning the 51st annual Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals.
Young gun Morgan Lucas drove his GEICO Top Fueler past teammate Shawn Langdon and into the winner's circle to assume the points lead for the first time in his career.
"This is so special to me because Pomona is one of the big-time races," Lucas said. "Here, Gainesville (Fla.), Indy, and selfishly the Lucas Oil race in Brainerd (Minn.), those are the races you want to win. Today we had a lot of luck come our way but we ended up with the trophy and that's what counts."
Lucas took out Brandon Bernstein, Terry McMillen, and Del Worsham en route to his ninth final round appearance. The southern California native then squared off with Langdon, a school buddy from nearby Jurupa Valley High.
"We used to talk about the future and daydream that maybe someday we could drag race professionally when we were supposed to be paying attention in English class," Lucas said. "We worked hard to get to this point and it's special. Our guys helped the Lucas team today and they helped us out before the final. That's how we do it. We all share in this win."
Lucas's 3.835-second pass at 316.38 mph was just too much for Langdon's run of 4.047 seconds at 313.73 at mph as Lucas drove to the fourth victory of his career.
Former Full Throttle champion Robert Hight took his Auto Club Ford Mustang to the money round at his sponsor's track and collected his 19th career win on a holeshot, meaning he left before his rival with enough of a time gap to win the race with a slower overall elapsed time.
"To win the Winternationals, the first race of the year, and to win at Auto Club Raceway is just awesome," Hight said.
Hight outran Ron Capps, team owner and father-in-law John Force, and fellow Bob Tasca III on his way to the final round. In the final round Hight faced 2010 Funny Car runner up Matt Hagan and his DieHard Dodge Charger.
"You look at the class and it isn't that easy to win," Hight said. "Look at the guys I had to beat to get up here today."
Hight did his job as a driver and drilled Hagan off the starting line. Hagan's 4.023 second pass at 310.20 mph wasn't enough to run down Hight's 4.056 at 312.71 mph.
"If we had slipped up just a little bit in the final I wouldn't be up here holding this special addition Wally right now," Hight said. "I'm just glad I did my job and so did my guys."
Hight struggled at the end of the 2010 season. He was unable to get out of first round during the entire Countdown to the Championship, so winning the opening race of the season is just what he was hoping for to kick off 2011.
"You just have to fight through those tough times and we'll never give up," Hight said. "I've been joking with Force during the off season telling him I'm coming for that championship this year, and I mean it. We're all one team over here at John Force Racing but I do want another one."
Jason Line and his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP earned the first victory of the year in the ultra competitive Pro Stock class.
"You really can't start any better I guess," Line said. "I said I want to win all the races this year and if I want to win them all I need to win the first one, so we're off to a good start."
Line won from the 11th qualifying position, taking out teammate and 2010 champion Greg Anderson, Vincent Nobile, and V. Gaines to reach the final round. He then ran a 6.529 second pass at 211.89 mph, his quickest E.T. of the day, to take out Greg Stanfield.
"We ran great all day but saved the best for the finals," Line said. "It was a wacky weekend with the weather and all but it was a great way to finish the weekend and start of the year."
Line suffers from Spinal Stenosis, a genetic disorder that causes pressure on the spinal cord, and he had surgery to alleviate the strain during the offseason.
"It's just one of those things that needed to get fixed," Line said, "but I drove better today than I've driven in a long time so I think I should have had this surgery a while ago."
The next stop on the 2011 Full Throttle Series will be the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, March 11-13, in Gainesville, Fla.
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