By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: May 16, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
Dinwiddie Schools to close May 17 due to expected travel impacts
DINWIDDIE – The population of Dinwiddie County is likely to grow by a few thousand people and a few thunderous machines as Southside Virginia once again takes center stage with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returning to Virginia Motorsports Park this month.
On May 17-19, NHRA is slated to return to a track the motorsports organization calls a “fan favorite,” for three days of drag racing action after a strong and well-received return to the track in 2018, the first time the track has hosted NHRA since 2009.
Last year, sold-out crowds filled the seats of Virginia Motorsports Park to take in the three days of racing action on the track’s brand-new surface. This year, fans will find many improvements made to Virginia Motorsports Park including upgraded grandstands, new lighting, remodeled restroom facilities as well as improvements made to the entrance and parking areas.
“We’ve spent a lot of time working on improving the traffic flow into the event,” said Virginia Motorsports Park owner Tommy Franklin. “We’ve widened the entrance roads to the parking lots and, most significantly, we’ll be offering free parking, which will also speed up the entry process because fans won’t have to stop and have a transaction before getting into the parking lots. We think that will make a great improvement over previous years.”
Tens of thousands of people are expected to make their way along U.S. Route 1 starting Friday afternoon, which prompted local school officials in Dinwiddie to cancel classes that day. The school division took similar action last year when NHRA returned to the region due to the expected impacts of higher traffic volumes along a key roadway for county school buses.
The top stars in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle will compete for the coveted Wally trophy at a facility highly-regarded for its fast conditions. Race coverage will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in 2019, including final eliminations coverage starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 19.
The Top Fuel category will be filled with tough competition including reigning champion Steve Torrence. Torrence’s incredible Top Fuel season in 2018 included a world championship and also his first career victory at Virginia Motorsports Park. He beat Doug Kalitta, the current points leader and a former winner at the track, in the final round, setting up his title run. The Texan will look for a repeat in 2019 against Clay Millican, Leah Pritchett, three-time world champ Antron Brown, Terry McMillen, 2017 world champion Brittany Force, who won the most recent event in Houston, Mike Salinas, who earned his first career win in Las Vegas, and Gainesville winner Richie Crampton.
In Funny Car, fans will be treated to a thrilling racing action with competitors such as 16-time world champion John Force, who enters the 2019 race looking for his 150th career win. Force and Cruz Pedregon are the only current drivers to win at Richmond, though a number of stars will look to change that in 2019, including defending world champion J.R. Todd, 2017 world champ Robert Hight, who is the current points leader with three wins in 2019, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Pro Stock veterans Jason Line and Jeg Coughlin Jr. remain the only current winners in the class at Virginia Motorsports Park, and Coughlin already has one victory in 2019. Both, though, are chasing 2017 world champion Bo Butner, who has been dominant out of the gates to the tune of three victories in four Pro Stock races. Other top stars trying to track down Butner include two-time world champ Erica Enders, who was the runner-up in Virginia in 2018, Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford, Alex Laughlin, and Rodger Brogdon.
Making its first appearance at the track since 1998, the talented riders in Pro Stock Motorcycle put on an entertaining show, as LE Tonglet ended up with the victory in 2018. Looking for their first victory in Richmond include a number of talented competitors, including defending world champion Matt Smith, five-time world champ Andrew Hines, who won in Gainesville, Vegas winner Hector Arana Jr., 2017 world champ Eddie Krawiec and three-time world champ Angelle Sampey.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2019 at Virginia Motorsports Park. Defending world champion Mike Janis is the also defending Pro Mod winner at the race. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Virginia Motorsports Park will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their NHRA Virginia Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 19.
For those wanting to join their fellow racing lovers at Virginia Motorsports Park, tickets can be purchased by calling 800-884-NHRA (6472) or by visiting their website at http://NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. All students can save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with their student ID on hand.
In addition, as part of the NHRA’s continued support of first responders and members of the military, they will offer 20 percent off general admission tickets at the gate for those men and women.
Those unable to attend will be able to watch Dinwiddie and Southside Virginia be featured nationally as cable sports network Fox Sports 1 will carry coverage of the NHRA Virginia Nationals, including final eliminations starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 19.