NHRA had some notable highlights and changes throughout its 2013 season. The latest brand change from entitlement sponsor Coca-Cola saw NHRA rebadged as the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in 2013, taking over from Full Throttle. There was one new and three returning champions when all was said and done.
In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon turned years of potential into an overdue first championship for the powerful Al-Anabi Racing team. Langdon finally ended his career winless drought in the 2012 Countdown, which set him up well for 2013. He won seven times in 10 final round appearances, including the series’ marquee event, the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. A runner-up in Dallas and win in Reading in this year’s Countdown secured him the title by 164 points over 2012 class champion Antron Brown.
John Force returned to the top of Funny Car for his record-extending 16th class championship. Wins at St. Louis, Reading and Las Vegas in the Countdown all occurred in succession and propelled the drag racing legend from more than 60 points down to Matt Hagan clear of the field. The win at Las Vegas came over his daughter Courtney in the final round. Hagan was second with Jack Beckman third in the final standings. Courtney Force had a banner year with a win at Pomona to open the year and the widely acclaimed appearance in and on the cover of ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue” over the summer. But not all was good for John Force Racing, who announced the departure of Castrol and Ford at the end of 2014. The team continues to press ahead in the search for new partners.
Pro Stock featured the tightest top-five class battle of the year with Jeg Coughlin Jr. emerging at the top of the heap for his fifth class championship (first since 2008). Coughlin won four final rounds, notably Charlotte and Reading in the Chase, to edge defending class champion Allen Johnson by just 58 points. Jason Line (70 points back), Mike Edwards (90) and Shane Gray (92) rounded out the top-five. Line and KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson, long the dominant forces in Pro Stock, spent most of the year dialing in their newer Chevy Camaros to the class; Anderson had an off year, going without a single “Wally” and finishing only eighth in the points.
Matt Smith took home his second Pro Stock Motorcycle class title (2007) in a year where Buell riders finished in eight of the top 10 spots. Three-time champion Eddie Krawiec led Harley-Davidson’s charge in third place; L.E. Tonglet (seventh) was Suzuki’s lone interloper.