Talk about a warm welcome home.

After more than two years away from drag racing to focus on his highly successful roofing business, Rodger Brogdon was welcomed back to the sport with open arms on Saturday with his second career No. 1 qualifier - and first since 2011 - at the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

And he has a brand new partnership to thank for it.

With the announcement of a shorter NHRA Pro Stock season, combined with an open invitation to join Elite Motorsports and its lineup of championship-winning drivers, Brogdon couldn’t pass up what he called the perfect opportunity. And that decision has certainly paid off for him so far.

“I’ve got a great team behind me. This Elite bunch has got a lot of championships and I am just happy to have this opportunity,” Brogdon said. “We tested last week and everything went really well, but I never thought about being number one. I thought I could be top three if we made it through the run, but to do this right away, I feel really good.”

Brogdon made incremental gains throughout the first two days of the NHRA season opener, eventually overtaking new teammate Erica Enders in session three on Saturday and remaining there for his second career No. 1 and first in almost a decade. Brogdon took the top spot with a 6.522-second pass at 212.03 mph in the RBR Machine Chevrolet Camaro.

Enders qualified second with a 6.528 at 212.09 mph, with KB Racing’s Bo Butner just behind in third with a 6.530 at 213.10 mph. Deric Kramer (6.546) and Jason Line (6.547) rounded out the top five.

But the big story remained Brogdon and his brand new partnership with Elite Motorsports.

Driven away from the sport in 2015 due to the grind of a 24-race schedule, with the reduction in the number of races run for Pro Stock in 2019 combined with the ease of driving for a large team, it made for an easy decision to return to the driver’s seat.

“I just wish I was offered this years ago,” Brogdon said. “It is just so convenient. You don’t have to worry about the logistics of hiring people and getting all of the equipment up and down the road. I work a lot at home and the Elite guys really put together a good program that helps out a guy like me. I’m sure there are a few other guys out there that wish they had taken advantage of this and thank goodness I did before anyone else. Thursday morning I head to the airport, fly to the track knowing I have the best equipment there, race all weekend and fly home on Sunday.

“Of course, cutting back the races helped a little bit as well. I think most of the competitors are like me and have businesses to run at home and, while (reducing the schedule) six races doesn’t sound like that many, it saves us a lot of time. It’s good for people who actually work for a living.”

A three-time winner in the class already, Brogdon hasn’t visited an NHRA winner’s circle in Pro Stock since 2015, but with the fast start and a partnership with three championship-level drivers and an army of crew chiefs, it is not too far fetched to believe that anything is possible come Sunday. Brogdon will be matched up with Val Smeland in round one.

“I’ve been racing since I was 15 years old, so I’ve been doing this a long time and we are all friends out here. Any questions I have they will help me, but it is no pressure at all, honestly,” Brogdon said. “If you love doing this, it is no pressure.”