April 9, 2018
BAYTOWN, Texas – After an unfortunate early-season mishap, rising Funny Car star Jonnie Lindberg is determined to get back on a path that led to three final round appearances during his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rookie season in 2017.
The mishap was a two-car crash with Lindberg and John Force in Phoenix, meaning the team had to put together a new car for the most recent race in Gainesville. That didn’t go as planned, as Lindberg didn’t qualify in his 10,000-horsepower Head Racing Funny Car, but the two-time NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Top Alcohol Funny Car world champ is anxious for redemption heading to the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway, April 20-22.
“We’re struggling a little bit with the tune-up this year,” said Lindberg, who is eighth in Funny Car points. “We need to keep working and doing our best to be more consistent. We have a good team and everybody is working really hard. I just felt bad because we worked so hard for Gainesville and didn’t qualify. But then when we do better, we can appreciate it all more. It’s not easy in this class. We know the car can run low, we just need to work on doing it more often.”
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 22. It is the fifth of 24 races during a 2018 season where Lindberg is still expecting big things after a fantastic rookie campaign in 2017.
He advanced to the final round in his first two Funny Car appearances last season and enjoyed a strong year, finishing 12th in points. But with the Jim Head-owned team expecting to race all 24 events this year, Lindberg is determined to finish in the top 10 and earn his first Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship berth. That means building some strong early-season momentum in Houston, which kicks off a stretch of three consecutive race weekends.
“Of course, in this class you always need to be on your ‘A’ game,” Lindberg said. “For me, it’s not really about going to one race or three races in a row, it’s about doing our best. Of course, this year we want to be in the top 10 and to do that, we just need to go rounds, and do whatever we can do to go rounds. It’s going to be tough this year, but we’ve got a good shot at it. I’m fortunate to work with good people. They’re fun to work with and we work pretty good together.”
Lindberg and team owner Head, a former Funny Car and Top Fuel standout, have meshed well in their short time together, in part because they both have big goals. It’s centered on going as quick as they can and winning races, something Lindberg would like to do for the first time at Royal Purple Raceway. It won’t be easy against a lineup that will include defending winner Capps, points leader and Pomona winner Matt Hagan, Phoenix winner Courtney Force and Gainesville winner Jack Beckman, but Lindberg and Head aren’t afraid to mix it up with the elite in the class.
“Me and Jim think the same, which is if they can do it, why can’t we,” Lindberg said. “We’re all trying harder to get better. I’m not the best driver out there and I still need to work on my reaction times, but I’m doing my best and we’re just a group that works. I know Jim is out there to win and so am I. We’re not out there to BBQ and camp. We’re out there to win races.
Pritchett is after her first win of 2018 in Top Fuel following her hot start a year ago. She’ll have to do it against the likes of points leader and Texas native Steve Torrence, defending world champion Brittany Force, Gainesville winner Richie Crampton, and Pomona winner Doug Kalitta.
Butner, the defending Pro Stock world champ, currently leads in points, won in Pomona, and raced to a final round appearance in Gainesville. Butner will look to fend off the likes of Gainesville winner Tanner Gray and Phoenix winner Chris McGaha.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes its second of 12 stops in 2018 at Royal Purple Raceway. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can also watch the spectacular Lone Star Lightning Jet Dragster & the El Arabe Jet Car. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will contain meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend during the weekend of the NHRA Spring Nationals include Tom “Mongoose” McEwen, Richard Tharpe, and “Waterbed” Fred Miller.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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 in motorsports 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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 6 p.m. on Friday, April 20 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 21, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 22.
To purchase event tickets, call (281)-383-7223 or visit www.RaceRPR.com.