BILLY MORRIS LOOKING TO BE A "PROBLEM" IN POMONA
Billy Morris's drag racing roots may have begun with him racing dragsters on the sand with his dad. But the Southern-California based driver has always paid attention to what was going on, on the asphalt, looking up to hometown heroes John Force and Don "The Snake'' Prudhomme.
Now in his sixth season behind the wheel of the "Problem Child" Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car, competing mainly in the NHRA Heritage Series, Morris is thrilled to have the opportunity to race down the same track the drivers he idolized did, like Prudhomme and Force, as he is set to compete in the Legends Nitro Funny Car series this weekend which makes its 2023 debut at the 63rd annual NHRA Winternationals from the newly rebranded In-N-Out Pomona Dragstrip.
"I've always wanted to run down the track in Pomona, the Winternationals," Morris admitted. "We've been going for years and years and seeing the big show guys perform out there, always wanted to run the track. It's obviously one of our home tracks being so close to us. I'm really excited that we actually get to pull the trigger and make some passes down there."
Not only has Morris thought about the opportunity of getting to race down the legendary Pomona dragstrip, but he's also relishing the opportunity of potentially getting to add his name to the list of winners to have won the NHRA Winternationals, one of the most iconic and history filled drag races in the world as well.
"I have thought about that, and man, that definitely brings your energy level up," Morris said. "Obviously it takes the whole team to really get a car underneath me that can win the race, and then if they could do that, it's up to me at the end to really put this thing in the winner's circle. I think we got the team, the owner, and the crew chief to really win a couple of these races. Not knowing how many opportunities we're going to have to be able to get there. So we really want to put our best foot forward and really try to strive and get that victory."
Legends Nitro Funny Cars, a series showcasing some of the best nitro-burning Nostalgia Funny Car's in the world on the big stage at NHRA national events, was introduced at the Las Vegas Fall race in 2022, the NHRA Nevada Nationals. Morris and his team had a pretty successful weekend, making it to the final round. Unfortunately, Morris turned on the red light in the final round, handing the win to now Five-Time NHRA Heritage Series Funny Car Champion Bobby Cottrell.
However, the series received positive reviews with their performance in Las Vegas. Morris believes the Nostalgia Funny Car class showcased in front of a bigger audience is only a positive for the class.
"I think it's great for our class, especially great for the sport," Morris said. "The guys really put on a good show in Vegas when we ran at the end of last season. Very stoked to be back and for them to have us back, and hopefully, we can all put on a good show, have some close racing, and really make this stick.
"I think it's obviously great for the fans, puts a lot of exposure on our class, and definitely a step forward for our class here."
One of the different dynamics for the drivers racing in the Legends Nitro Funny Car series is racing to the 1000-foot mark, like "big show" counterparts, rather than racing the full quarter-mile like they're used to running in the NHRA Heritage Series. Morris admits racing on the big stage of the Camping World Drag Racing Series is still something he's getting a little used to, but welcomes it all.
"Racing in Bakersfield, Boise, and all the other great tracks we race at, we're the main show out there," Morris said. "Us and the front-engine Dragsters were the top dogs out there, not so much in the big show races, but they all treated us great out there, from the other racers to the people running the track, tech guys. Everything was a little different, but it was a great time just being able to run there with the big show guys, especially running our car with that many fans in the stands. It was really a great experience.
"As a driver, I like to leg that thing out to the 1320 a quarter mile. Just for driving capabilities, I like making the full pass, but as far as a good show for the fans, less engine carnage, less downtime. I think it's a good idea for everybody. Nobody wants to take a little extra time getting any track clean up when we're out there at these races. So I think going to 1000 foot really works for everybody."
Last season was a breakout one for Morris. In the four races he competed in last season in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series, the "Problem Child" driver advanced to two final rounds and finished third in the final championship standings for the second consecutive year.
But the highlight of Morris's year by far was capturing his first career national event win at the season-ending California Hot Rod Reunion from Famoso Dragstrip, recording a stout 5.589 at over 251 miles per hour in the final to seal the deal.
The success obtained last season has led to even higher expectations for Morris as he competes for a championship in the Nostalgia Funny Car class in 2023.
However, Morris started the year off slowly in 2023, struggling at the season-opening race in Bakersfield for the 65th annual Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet in Bakersfield, California, as Morris got beat in the opening round.
Nevertheless, the struggles in Bakersfield have only motivated Morris, his crew chief Eddie Knox, and the entire team to bounce back and come out swinging even harder in Pomona.
"I think we found the issue that we were facing over there (In Bakersfield)," Morris said. "We're looking forward to Pomona to really show everybody that this car can run, and we're one of the heavy hitters as well. So really looking forward to this one and getting the car back on the right track.
"We're trying to make those guys' lives a little bit difficult and really be one of the guys they have to look out for, so we'll see how it goes. You really never know, but we're loaded for bear, and we're coming to get that wally."
The Legends Nitro Funny Car series kicks off with two qualifying sessions on Friday afternoon at Pomona at 1:00 and 4:30 pm, followed by final qualifying on Saturday at 1:45 pm, with the first round of eliminations slated for 4:30 Saturday afternoon. The final two rounds of competition will be run on Sunday.