Before every event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, ESPN analyst Mike Dunn will rank the top three drivers -- and riders on weekends the Pro Stock Motorcycle crew competes -- in each category. Up this week? The Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.
As we get ready to start the 2014 drag racing season, I'm sitting in my office, watching 6 inches of snow fall as I prepare the year's first NHRA Power Rankings. I moved to Pennsylvania 24 years ago, and I can tell you this: If this had been my first winter here, I would be in Southern California doing these. It's been brutal.
After reviewing last season, we have decided to change the format a little this year. Instead of five in the rankings, we are going to go with three. It's not going to make it easier -- in fact, I think it will be harder -- but it should allow us to put a little more focus on the teams that get picked. We also from time to time will pick a driver or two to watch at a certain event who might not be ranked.
As for how the rankings are tabulated, last year I tried a number of different formulas and found when I focused on performance in qualifying and in eliminations over a three-race period, that seemed to work best. A number of times, it allowed me to spot trends and rank a driver who might not have done anything going into a race but went on to have a good race.
Of course, other times it would bomb because, let's face it, our sport is unpredictable and that is why we love it!
So, enough of my rambling -- here are the rankings:
1. Shawn Langdon
2. Antron Brown
3. Doug Kalitta
Langdon and Brown both tested well in West Palm Beach, Fla. Kalitta did not test but always does well in Pomona, including this past November, so I expect him to hit the ground running.
1. John Force
2. Matt Hagan
3. Courtney Force
John Force is the defending Mello Yello champion. Courtney Force is the defending event champion, and Hagan won the season finale with a stout performance. Another driver to watch: Del Worsham.
1. Jeg Coughlin Jr.
2. Allen Johnson
3. Erica Enders-Stevens
One and two in the rankings are the 2014 and 2013 Mello Yello champions. Enders-Stevens comes in driving a Rickie Jones ride that won the Pomona finale in convincing fashion. With all the changes in this class in the offseason, I think it will be really fun to watch, especially in the early part of the season as a lot of new teams will be trying to get into a rhythm.