The two “tool” cars get side by side during qualifying.

The Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster, piloted by Antron Brown, has accomplished a lot as a team, but never a win in the NHRA Winternationals.  

"We've been in the final here and in the semis numerous times and we've never won the Pomona Winternationals, so this was one race we just wanted to win really badly," said Brown, the two-time reigning and three-time Top Fuel champion.

Brown qualified third and opened his day with a run of 3.742 seconds at 321.35 mph that ousted Steve Chrisman. Brown then needed his signature quick reaction time to beat rookie Troy Coughlin Jr. with a holeshot in the second round. Brown clocked in with a run of 3.733 at 325.69 to Coughlin's 3.727 at 327.35, but his reaction time of 0.030 of a second to Coughlin's 0.106 made the difference.

Brown advanced to a semifinal matchup against Doug Kalitta who got the win a run of 3.698 (331.85 mph) that beat Brown's 3.731 (324.90).

"The car is definitely consistent, just not the fastest out here this weekend. This was a wakeup call for me, just to come to the first race and get back in the groove, and we learned that we have more work to do. I've got plenty of work to do and us as a team do as well.”

Troy Coughlin Jr. moved into the SealMaster dragster seat vacated by J.R. Todd.

Troy Coughlin Jr. reached the second round in his first event at the wheel of the SealMaster Top Fuel dragster. After beating Shawn Reed with a 3.728 at 328.46 mph to Reed's 3.854 at 316.60 mph, he lost to reigning world champion Antron Brown on a holeshot, with Brown's quick start and 3.733 at 325.69 mph enough to beat Troy Jr.'s 3.727 at 327.35 mph

"Not a bad day," Troy said. "I really just need to keep getting used to the process on the starting line and really hone in on the bulb for better reaction times. I'll keep working on my speed and strength training during the off weeks. That will help also.

"Rob Flynn, Connie Kalitta and the Sealmaster Toyota guys have got this thing working so consistently. They've given me a car to compete in that's going to be a winner's circle bandit so I just need to get a hold of my end of it so we can get on a roll and enjoy this ride."

Terry McMillen’s Rob Wendland-tuned team recorded a new personal best elapsed time in the fourth qualifying session when they posted a 3.734, qualifying them seventh. They took that momentum into the first round of eliminations and clocked another solid 3.75 run in their win against Clay Millican in round one.

McMillen faced Doug Kalitta in the second round of eliminations and didn’t fair quite as well.While the car continued posting solid eary incremental times, a mid-race incident caused an explosion that slowed McMillen from his previous pace.

“We had an intake valve give us a problem and it brought us back to reality a little bit,” McMillen said.