The official start of the NASCAR season is the Daytona 500 on February 26. The IndyCar series and its Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg doesn’t get under way until March 25.

But for motorsport race fans, there is some joy in Mudville, as the 52nd Annual NHRA Winternationals takes to the track this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Pomona, Calif., to open the 23-race 2012 season.

Team Mopar® NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson is healthy once again after undergoing off-season surgery to repair his right bicep. Johnson says can’t wait to start the season.

“It’s going to be exciting,” he says. “We have such a strong team in place and a great car in our Mopar Dodge Avenger. It’s time to go and I am certainly ready. We look to start the season on a very strong note at Pomona.”

Johnson wrapped up 2011 as one of the most consistent drivers in the Pro Stock class. The native of Greeneville, Tenn., reached the final round in two of the final three races of the season, en route to finishing a career-best fourth in the standings. Johnson’s team recently recorded the fastest unofficial pass in Pro Stock history during pre-season testing in Florida, with a run of 6.466-seconds. Richie Stevens was piloting the Mopar Dodge Avenger during the test, as Johnson was still recuperating from his surgery at that time.

The 2012 campaign marks the 17th consecutive season that Johnson has been behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks. He has earned top-10 finishes in the standings in each of the last six years, including a career-best fourth last season.

Joining Johnson in the Pro Stock ranks will be four-time class champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., who will return to competition after a one-year hiatus. Jeg Jr., the only driver in NHRA history to win a national event in six different classes, will debut his new Mopar/ Dodge Avenger this weekend.

In the Funny Car class, defending champion Matt Hagan will once again take the reins of his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T as he begins his title defense at Pomona. The Don Schumacher Racing driver will carry special Mopar graphics on his Dodge Charger R/T at five events this season, including the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Hagan will also welcome Mopar’s aftermarket partner, Magneti Marelli, as an associate sponsor on his car.

Two hours of qualifying coverage will air on Saturday, Feb. 11 beginning at 11 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD. Three and a half hours of eliminations coverage will air on Sunday, Feb. 12, beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.