2018 Arizona Nationals
The NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park outside Phoenix is an annual tradition dating back to 1985 and since 1990 it has been the second stop of the Mello Yello drag racing series. This event follows the historic Winternationals in Pomona, CA and would mark the second time within a month that the NHRA teams have visited Wild Horse as they tested to prepare for the season in early February. Personally it is my favorite weekend of the year as not only it is my chance to see the stars and cars of the NHRA at my home track but a chance to see friends that I only get to see once a year. This edition of the Arizona Nationals would go down as one of the most memorable events I have ever witnessed.
The nationals always start off with Stock Eliminator qualifying. 2017 Stock Eliminator World Champion Jeff Strickland in his brand new Copo Camaro, one of the fastest cars in Stock eliminator
In the slowest car in competition crowd favorite Bill O'Connor in his 1980 Plymouth Horizon shows the ranges of cars that appear in stock eliminator
Probably my favorite stocker of the weekend was Greg Marshall's 88' Oldsmobile Cutlass. One of the reasons is that my first car was a 89' Cutlass and Oldsmobile holds a soft spot in my heart
As I began my stroll around the pits the first pit I always stop by is Scott Palmer's He is a longtime independent who has recently gotten help from Tommy Thompson & CatSpot litter to attack the full tour. Here he is working on his dragster early in the morning
As the first pro session got underway I had the privilege of spending time and shooting with longtime photographer Gil Rebilas. Even got to learn a few tips and tricks that would help me later this weekend.
Jonnie Lindberg in his beautiful looking Jim Head funny car. Unfortunately it would not look so beautiful by the end of the weekend
Former World Champions Robert Hight & Matt Hagan side by side in the first qualifying session
One tip I learned from Gil is if you dont get the whole car in frame at least get the engine in case an explosion happens. Here is a head gasket failure on Mike Salinas' dragster at 300+ mph
Going back into the pits in between pro sessions is a great time to watch the cars warm up and inhale that sweet nitromethane. Here is Terry McMillen warming up with crew chief Rob Wendland overseeing the process
Back on the track for Pro Stock is local racer Matt Hartford in his Total Seal sponsored Chevy Camaro
Greg Anderson & Alex Laughlin in a side by side qualifying run
Bob Tasca & Cruz Pedregon in the 2nd qualifying session
Richie Crampton pilioting the DHL/Kalitta Air dragster for the legend Connie Kalitta
On the final run of the night Tony Schumacher in the Army dragster would reset the national speed record that he eclipsed in the first qualifying session. Also Steve Torrence in the near lane ran the 4th quickest run of all time in what would be the quickest side by side pass in history
The record scoreboard.
Saturday morning would start with Stock Eliminations. Another favorite was Jay Randall's 78 Buick Regal
Karen Comstock in her 2016 Cobra Jet Mustang
A west coast heavy hitter in Stock, Brad Burton
As I walked back to the pits I snapped a cool shot of Dan Fletcher the all time leader in sportsman wins with 104
Former world champion Erica Enders-Stevens
West coast runner Joey Grose
I did not get any good shots for most of the qualifying session however Gil told me the previous day to keep plugging away and keep shooting and you might get something
A Split second later Tommy Johnson Jr. had a huge explosion and fire. While i missed getting the entire car in the shot it still came out awesome, at least in my book
A friend of mine Jerry Cordero with a cutout he made of Scott Palmer wearing a sombero
Ricky House on his nitro powered Top Fuel Harley. These are some of the wildest vehicles in all of drag racing
Terry McMillen & Antron Brown in the final qualifying session
Shawn Langdon in his brand new Global Technology funny car for Kalitta Racing
Courtney Force setting the top qualifying spot during Saturday night qualifying
Blake Cardoza, Bob Szelag & Rick Ducusin crew members for Scott Palmer get the car ready for final eliminations the following day
A group of top fuel racers hanging out before driver intros. They include (L-R) Shawn Reed, Billy Torrence, Blake Alexander, Steve Torrence & Scott Palmer
The crew for Deric Kramer receiving the #1 qualifier award for the first time in their careers
Local top fuel racer Greg Carillo defeating 8X World Champion Tony Schumacher for his first career round win, he would advance to the semis this day
Top Fuel racer Blake Alexander driving for Bob Vandergriff
Another major round one upset was Richard Townsend defeating former World Champion Jack Beckman in his first raceday start
In the second round of funny car eliminations a very scary moment happened when John Force had a huge finish line explosion which caused his car to veer in front of Jonnie Lindberg. Both cars slammed into each other and then slammed into both walls.
The remains of the once beautiful funny car body belonging to Jonnie Lindberg being towed back to the pits
After a few tense moments Lindberg exited his car under his own power and John Force was awake and alert although he had to be cut out of his car to be transported to a local hospital. This is what was left of John Force's body
Scott Palmer talking to good friend Bobby Lagana prior to his first career final round after 15 years of racing.
Scott's crew getting the car ready for the final round
Pro Stock FInal Round Chris McGaha defeats Jason Line
The pro winners of the Arizona Nationals
(TF) Steve Torrence
(FC) Courtney Force
(PS) Chris McGaha
My canadian buddy Brent Mazur with top fuel winner Steve Torrence
The post race party just getting started in Scott Palmer's pit. Funny Car racer Jeff Diehl is joining in
Scott's son Tyler Palmer in the drivers seat ready to fire the car up to whack the throttle 11 times. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen at a dragstrip
My video of this amazing moment is right here
The celebration went well into the night and early into the morning. This photo sums up the craziness that went on.
And this will conclude my photo blog of the 2018 NHRA Arizona Nationals, probably the best national event I have ever attended. A lot of emotions were captured over the three days and is one of the reasons I look forward to this event every year.