NHRA Full Throttle coverage is presented by Sonny's Racing Engines.

 

November 10-13, 2011

(#'s courtesy NHRA and DRC)

Auto Club NHRA Finals
November 10 - 13, 2011

Thursday qualifying

WE'RE DEFINITELY NOT IN BAKERSFIELD ANY LONGER! (by Robert Wilson)


As we put day one of the Auto Club NHRA Finals into the books, the overriding feeling was that the weather had really changed. Instead of wondering how hot it was going to get (ala Bakersfield or Las Vegas), it was more a question of how cold it was going to get. And instead of wondering when it last rained, the feelings were more like "when is it
going to start raining?" Today was a fine, warm day in the Los Angeles area but it cooled off overnight, dawned sunny but still cool, then got progressively cloudier as the day wore on, to the point that header flames were clearly visible on the Top Fuel cars during their 1:45 - 2:45 qualifying session.

The race began on schedule and as the Pro Stock cars and bikes prepared for their first session, was even a little ahead of schedule. With a fairly low (a little over 2000 feet) corrected altitude the naturally aspirated engines in the pro cars and bikes were enjoying the good air to the point that 17 of them dipped into the 6-second zone, led by Andrew Hines at a very strong 6.82 - 197.54 mph pass. The cutoff for the top 12 was a tough 6.95, and only one of the 25 motorcycles that made the first session carded a less than competitive elapsed time.

PSM

1. Andrew Hines Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines 6.820 197.54
2. Hector Arana Jr Lucas Oil Buell 6.832 194.04
3. Eddie Krawiec Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines 6.853 195.99
4. Hector Arana Lucas Oil Buell 6.885 175.48
5. Matt Smith Matt Smith Racing Buell 6.896 193.46
6. Michael Ray Star Racing Buell 6.900 192.63
7. Steve Johnson Steve Johnson Racing Suzuki 6.905 192.22
8. Shawn Gann Gann Speed Buell 6.911 191.43
9. Jim Underdahl Suzuki Extended Protection Suz 6.922 193.07
10. LE Tonglet Nitro Fish Suzuki 6.936 191.08
11. Jerry Savoie White Alligator Racing Suzuki 6.953 190.62
12. Chip Ellis Kuryakyn/Lartigue Racing Buell 6.954 189.42
--------- Not Qualified ---------
13. Angie Smith Matt Smith Racing Buell 6.955 190.70
14. Justin Finley Next Level Racing Suzuki 6.960 194.97
15. Michael Phillips The Edge Suzuki 6.961 194.13
16. Mike Berry MB Precision/LAT Racing Oil Bu 6.975 191.48
17. Bailey Whitaker Rum Bum Buell 6.983 192.55
18. Karen Stoffer GEICO Powersports Suzuki 7.036 189.02
19. Fredrik Fredlund Sullivan Driving Inc Suzuki 7.038 188.46
20. Katie Sullivan K&N/Girls For A Change Suzuki 7.070 187.76
21. Freddie Camarena All Access Rentals/NEC/SPEED S 7.135 188.52
22. Matt Guidera Rum Bum Buell 7.154 186.23
23. James Surber Kosman Specialties Buell 7.262 184.80
24. Redell Harris Harris Racing Buell 7.268 185.89
25. Wesley Wells Kendall Suzuki 7.505 157.14

Pro Stock got even better as the 20 cars established a provisional bump spot of 6.601, just keeping sensational rookie story Mark Wolfe out of that elite club, as he carded a 6.601 at 210.21, missing the magic mark by the difference in mile per hour between himself and Erica Enders (210.87). Even the 17th racer on the list, Buddy Perkinson, put down a
6.62 e.t. If the air holds and the "r" stuff holds off, then even more track records could be established this weekend.
Track records? Mike Edwards did the deed at a very strong 6.520, to hold off the Anderson - Line tag team from Summit, who held down the #2 and #3 spots with nearly identical 6.53's.

PS

1. Mike Edwards Penhall/Interstate Batteries G 6.520@ 210.93
2. Greg Anderson Summit Racing GXP 6.537 211.46
3. Jason Line Summit Racing GXP 6.538 211.20
4. Larry Morgan Lucas Oil Mustang 6.554 210.97
5. Kurt Johnson Johnson Racing GXP 6.560 211.06
6. Vincent Nobile Mountain View Tire Avenger 6.561 211.20
7. Rodger Brogdon The Edge GXP 6.563 210.57
8. Ronnie Humphrey Genuine Hot Rod Hardware GXP 6.570 211.13
9. Shane Gray Service Central GXP 6.572 211.03
10. Greg Stanfield Safety Sentry GXP 6.578 209.75
11. Warren Johnson Johnson Racing GXP 6.595 210.44
12. Erica Enders ZaZa Energy Cobalt 6.601 210.87
--------- Not Qualified ---------
13. Mark Wolfe Wolfe Racing Mustang 6.601 210.21
14. Steve Kent The Pistonator GXP 6.609 209.14
15. Grace Howell GCPay.com Mustang 6.615 208.97
16. Allen Johnson Team Mopar/J&J Racing Avenger 6.620 197.77
17. Buddy Perkinson Wealth Mgt Strategies/AXA Must 6.628 208.75
18. V. Gaines Kendall Oil Avenger 6.750 178.83
19. Gordie Rivera Gordies Speed Center GXP 6.766 206.07
20. Ron Krisher Valvoline GXP 9.742 89.92

The good times appeared to stop abruptly as the nitro Funny Cars came out, with the first five cars having real trouble getting down the track. Especially problematic appeared to be the right lane as nearly every car that tried to negotiate it ran into severe tire shake. A few racers seemed to figure it out, including a surprisingly strong Jon (not Ron) Capps,
who took the early pole with a decent 4.15 - 298 clocking. That run wasn't bettered until Tim Wilkerson, the 15th car to run in the session, eclipsed it with an only slightly better 4.125 - 301.87 pass.

That run seemed to open the performance floodgates - but in all honesty, it was the top ten cars running near the end of the round - and they were expected to run better than the earlier cars. Bob Tasca and Ron (not Jon) Capps joined Wilky in the 4-teens, while Force Racing teammates Mike Neff and Robert Hight showed they meant business with excellent 4.08 runs, both at more than 312 mph. The final pair of the round, the almost co-points leaders, Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan were almost anticlimactic as Hagan ran a decent 4.13, that was only good enough for the #5 spot, while Beckman spun the tires early and shut off.

Funny Car

1. Robert Hight Auto Club Mustang 4.084 312.13
2. Mike Neff Castrol GTX Mustang 4.087 313.44
3. Ron Capps NAPA Auto Parts Charger 4.124 301.94
4. Tim Wilkerson Levi Ray & Shoup Mustang 4.125 301.87
5. Matt Hagan DieHard Charger 4.137 304.32
6. Bob Tasca III Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang 4.138 306.33
7. Jon Capps Chuck Worsham Charger 4.165 298.01
8. Paul Lee Rislone/Bars Leaks Impala SS 4.254 300.20
9. Bob Bode Alard Machine Solara 4.257 295.79
10. Jeff Arend DHL Solara 4.261 241.71
11. Tony Pedregon Pedregon Racing Impala SS 4.471 270.81
12. John Force Castrol GTX High Mileage Musta 4.585 260.06
--------- Not Qualified ---------
13. Gary Densham Densham Motorsports Charger 4.993 164.81
14. Melanie Troxel In-N-Out Solara 5.488 222.73
15. Cory Lee Fuel Saver Group MPG3 Monte Ca 5.661 126.28
16. Jack Beckman Aaron's/Valvoline Charger 6.613 96.95
17. Jim Head Head Racing Solara 6.701 102.77
18. Jeff Diehl Rimz One Monte Carlo 7.547 95.52
19. Alexis DeJoria Tequila Patron Solara 8.264 77.45
20. Peter Russo Russo Racing Monte Carlo 8.632 76.80
21. Terry Haddock Acme Refining Solara 8.886 85.81
22. Johnny Gray Service Central Charger 8.957 75.35
23. Cruz Pedregon Snap-on Tools Solara 9.157 73.41

Of note was the complete lack of breakage - at least of the visible sort - in the round and no time lost due to oil downs or other troubles. Then came Top Fuel and that bubble burst rather quickly as Aussie rookie Damien Harris blew up with a big fireball at 300 feet and laid down a trail of oil and parts well into the shutdown area. Amazingly, the Safety Safari
had the mess cleaned up in less than 10 minutes.... just in time for Todd Paton to light it up early and late on a very troubled run.

Oh for two. But again, a miracle as the track was ready to go in barely five minutes. As the lower ranked cars continued to run, no really good numbers came up on the scoreboards, other than Mike Ashley's first competition pass in Top Fuel (alongside Harris in the first pairing) at 3.97 - 305.91. It was finally bested by Cory Mac at 3.89 - 312.93, then really dropped down the charts when the Kalitta team (Doug and David Grubnic) put down side by side 3.85's to move into the #2 and #3 spots behind Morgan Lucas and his 3.83 - 317.87 clocking.

In fact, seven of the last eight cars down the track in the session ran in the 3.80's, only spoiled by Antron Brown's tire smoking pass, and led by Tony Schumacher's 3.827 at a top speed of more than 321 mph. Even though the round started slow and slippery, it kept getting better and by the end had established an initial 12-car bubble of 3.965. After that point though, things trailed off fairly quickly and there's got to be quite a few racers in the pits looking for some serious redemption tomorrow after a bad start today.

Top Fuel

1. Tony Schumacher U.S. Army Dragster 3.827 321.19
2. Del Worsham Al-Anabi Racing Dragster 3.830 314.61
3. Spencer Massey Prestone/FRAM Dragster 3.837 319.14
4. Morgan Lucas GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil Dr 3.838 317.87
5. Doug Kalitta Kalitta Air Dragster 3.851 319.22
6. David Grubnic Rocky Boots/Candlewood Suites 3.854 315.49
7. Brandon Bernstein Copart Dragster 3.859 315.19
8. Larry Dixon Al-Anabi Racing Dragster 3.870 315.34
9. Bob Vandergriff C&J Energy Services Dragster 3.897 319.98
10. Cory McClenathan Rapisarda Racing Dragster 3.898 312.93
11. Troy Buff BME/Okuma Dragster 3.940 303.37
12. Terry McMillen Amalie Oil/Wolverine Dragster 3.965 313.88
--------- Not Qualified ---------
13. Mike Ashley Tuttle Motorsports Dragster 3.978 305.91
14. Chris Karamesines Strange Engineering/Chizler Dr 4.004 295.21
15. Todd Paton Tim Horton's Dragster 4.278 214.42
16. Antron Brown Matco Tools Dragster 4.380 183.47
17. Steven Chrisman Nitro Fish Dragster 4.381 271.68
18. Dom Lagana Service Central Dragster 4.500 179.18
19. Pat Dakin Commercial Metal Fabrications 4.566 171.99
20. Mike Salinas Scrappers Racing Dragster 4.999 190.16
21. Damien Harris Rapisarda Racing/VPLift Dragst 5.849 112.15
22. Shawn Langdon Lucas Oil/Speedco Dragster 6.721 100.16
23. Keith Murf MURTCO Inc. / LA Kings Dragste 7.187 80.58
24. Thomas Nataas Andersen Racing Dragster 9.735 77.16
25. T.J. Zizzo Peak Performance Dragster 9.896 74.86
26. Clay Millican Parts Plus/MPE Dragster NT

When the last pair of Top Fuel cars cleared the traps the grandstands, which had been only moderately sprinkled with spectators all day began to empty quickly. After an initial surge though, the remaining 1000 or so fans sat back to enjoy some pretty good Top Alcohol Funny Car and Dragster runs. For every out of shape, shaky, blower banging, cylinder dropping lap, there was an equally good run to offset it. Despite the pre-entry numbers, a total of 18 funny cars and just 15 dragsters made an appearance.

The first big hit in the flopper round was fired by Paul Gill as he laid down a strong 5.56 at a career best speed of just under 262 mph. A number of racers came relatively close to that mark but had to settle for 5.60's, highlighted by a side by side 5.6-second battle between John Lombardo Jr. and Jay Payne, a couple of longtime west coast rivals. But the best was saved for last as Roger Bateman, in presumably his last race for the YNot team, nearly matched wheels with Tony Bartone, just falling short as T-Bone carded a #1 pass of 5.55 to relegate Bateman's 5.59 to the #3 spot behind Gill. Still, it was quite an end to the session.

TAFC

1. Tony Bartone Centre Pointe Collision Mustan 5.559 260.56
2. Paul Gill Moduline Mustang 5.561 261.93
3. Roger Bateman YNot Racing Mustang 5.596 257.43
4. John Lombardo Jr. NAPA/Pro Series/Lucas Oil Mont 5.628 258.76
5. Jay Payne FireIce Mustang 5.642 260.56
6. Shane Westerfield CP Pistons Monte Carlo 5.677 256.21
7. Doug Gordon Morro Bay Cabinets Racing Mont 5.699 260.71
8. Kris Hool Gripper Monte Carlo 5.829 238.93
9. Clint Thompson Cascade Chevrolet Monte Carlo 5.857 241.58
10. Sean Bellemeur MasterCam/Lucas Oil Camaro 6.170 180.14
11. Bernie Harrington Harrington Motorsport/CRTFD II 7.587 115.44
12. Steve Gasparrelli Gasparrelli Racing Monte Carlo 7.805 91.93
13. Keeter Ray Keeter Ray Racing Mustang 7.865 124.57
14. Sean O'Bannon Forest River RV Monte Carlo 8.915 99.85
15. Jeff Ashwell Mustang 8.968 99.37
16. Jordan Pawlick Monte Carlo 10.467 83.16
--------- Not Qualified ---------
17. Fred Tigges Tigges Racing Avenger 20.170 76.22
18. Brian Smith Crainco/Lusac Oil Camaro DQ

It took the third pair (actually a single and two pairs) of cars down the track before a representative TAD run was made, and it came double as McKernan and Taliaferro put on a pretty good match. Mark's very fast 275 mph speed was coupled with a 5.34 e.t., but he came in second to Megan's career best e.t. and speed of 5.330 at a hair under 270 mph (269.94).

This was followed by a pair of runs by blown cars (Perkins and Martin) that went nowhere, then the Texas A/Fuel gang started to assert their dominance, with Chase Copeland in Gene Snow's car putting down a strong 5.32 at more than 278 mph, only to be outclassed by Aaron Tatum's 5.253 - 271.68 pass. The next pairing was two of the best blown alky cars in the country and they didn't disappoint as Jim Whiteley aced out Chris Demke's 5.34 at a very good 5.33.

The matchup that everyone had been waiting for closed the round and this time it was really a bit of a letdown as Duane Shields dropped a cylinder early and labored to a 5.36 pass while Joey Severance stumbled to a troubled 5.74 at just 246 mph. Not a great start to a pivotal weekend in his career, but he has two more chances to get it sorted out tomorrow before eliminations begin on Saturday afternoon.

TAD

1. Aaron Tatum Tatum Motorsports 5.253 271.68
2. Chase Copeland Snowman Racing A/FD 5.326 278.29
3. Megan McKernan Truck-Lite A/FD 5.330 269.94
4. Jim Whiteley J&A Service/Rator 5.337 270.05
5. Chris Demke Peen-Rite-Abrasive Finishing B 5.343 267.53
6. Mark Taliaferro MarkcoMachineWorks A/FD 5.348 275.22
7. Duane Shields Shortline Express A/FD 5.367 265.01
8. Blake Alexander Exide/Miersch A/FD 5.521 261.37
9. Michael Manners The Shredder A/FD 5.534 266.64
10. John Finke Bobcat Express 5.534 247.43
11. Joey Severance Severance Racing 5.747 246.48
12. Cody Perkins 801 Racing B/AD 5.934 181.96
13. Brooks Brown Mesa Hose A/FD 11.592 115.47
14. Johnny Ahten Clean Boost/Island Renovation 14.043 65.83
15. Ray Martin Impatience Racing 20.520 50.61

And that ended, for all intents and purposes, the first day of the AAA Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway. As we left the track the clouds seemed more threatening but the latest weather forecast is still predicting only possible showers tomorrow evening and a small chance of rain on Saturday. It may be a long, and somewhat difficult weekend weather-wise, but it's surely going to be interesting if today is any indication. Buckle up and hang on!

Comp Eliminator

1. John Mihovetz BB/AT 7.27 6.083 -1.187
2. Brian Browell D/D 7.79 7.119 -0.671
3. Scott Hedlund A/SM 8.36 7.698 -0.662
4. Brandon Huhtala C/A 7.93 7.271 -0.659
5. Bo Butner E/SMA 8.98 8.332 -0.648
6. Doug Lambeck D/SMA 8.97 8.325 -0.645
7. Scott Parks A/ND 7.42 6.776 -0.644
8. Tom Mettler PSTA 8.22 7.588 -0.632
9. Justin Lamb F/SMA 9.17 8.542 -0.628
10. Lou Ficco Jr. B/AP 7.74 7.115 -0.625
11. Sal Biondo C/AA 7.96 7.338 -0.622
12. Terry A. Smith D/DA 7.92 7.309 -0.611
13. Ed Sigmon C/SR 9.04 8.434 -0.606
14. Dan Fletcher B/EA 8.32 7.720 -0.600
15. Steve Graham C/A 7.93 7.331 -0.599
16. Ray Vierheller D/DA 7.92 7.323 -0.597
17. Alan Ellis A/AA 7.11 6.514 -0.596
18. Jeff Lane B/SMA 8.62 8.030 -0.590
19. Brian Fitzpatrick H/D 6.97 6.383 -0.587
20. Ross Wilson B/SM 8.64 8.061 -0.579
21. Scott McClay C/ED 7.86 7.283 -0.577
22. Clint Neff K/A 8.36 7.786 -0.574
23. Adam Bowdish B/SMA 8.62 8.062 -0.558
24. Joshua Lee H/EA 9.62 9.096 -0.524
25. Kurt Hugger PST 7.95 7.454 -0.496
26. Peter Adams C/A 7.93 7.445 -0.485
27. Tyler Hogan C/DA 7.56 7.081 -0.479
28. Bob Marshall B/AA 7.57 7.101 -0.469
29. Ron Weems A/A 7.06 6.671 -0.389
30. Joe Roubicek A/AA 7.11 6.866 -0.244
31. Chip Rumis A/AA 7.11 6.872 -0.238
32. Gary Ross A/AA 7.11 6.924 -0.186
--------- Not Qualified ---------
33. Paul Gladden A/AA 7.11 7.145 0.035
34. Tom Rhoda H/EA 9.62 9.773 0.153
35. Chuck Moore AA/AM 7.01 7.589 0.579
36. Randy Jones C/TA 9.07 10.077 1.007


 

Pit notes and a Vegas wrap up is here.

Preview is at the bottom of the page

POMONA, Calif. - 47th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA.

Today's activities feature the initial rounds of qualifying for all Professional and Sportsman classes. The first round of qualifying for the Professional categories is planned for noon today, followed by Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car at 2:00p.m.


Weather prediction for today :

Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High 77F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Stronger winds in and below canyons and passes.

Thursday's Planned Run Schedule



8:15 a.m. Stock Q-1
Super Comp T-1
Super Stock Q-1
Super Gas T-1
11 a.m. Competition Q-1
12:00p.m. Pro Stock Motorcycle Q-1
Pro Stock Q-1
1 p.m. Funny Car Q-1
Top Fuel Q-1
2 p.m. Top Alcohol Funny Car Q-1
Top Alcohol Dragster Q-1
3:30p.m. Competition Q-2
Stock Q-2
Super Gas T-2
Super Stock Q-2
Super Comp T-2
5:30p.m. Secure


Event Preview


ALL ROADS LEAD TO POMONA
(Story by Robert Wilson)

We're definitely in the last lengths of the home stretch now, as the 22-race NHRA Full Throttle Series has finished it's long journey back and forth across the USA, ending fittingly enough where the 2011 drag racing season began at Pomona's Auto Club Raceway some eight and a half months ago. Millions of dollars have been spent competing, thousands of miles driven attending, and countless hours of sweat and toil expended chasing the dream that drives all the competitors from the top of the ladder - Top Fuel and Funny Car - down to the trenches of the Super Gas and Super Comp categories.

During this week's final event of the season, the Auto Club NHRA Finals, all but one of the season champions will be crowned in the pro eliminators, the lone exception being Pro Stock where Jason Line was annointed the victor two weeks ago during eliminations at the Big O Tire Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Get Screened America Pro Mod championship was also decided at Las Vegas, with Khalid Al-Balooshi declared the points champion in his nitrous-equipped '68 Camaro, outlasting Danny Rowe's supercharged combo for the title.

While the competitor entry numbers are down somewhat on the amazing totals from Las Vegas, due to restrictions NHRA puts on entry acceptance (ie, season point totals and grade points) the lists do contain some surprising numbers and names. With names like Karamesines, Kalitta Doug, not Connie) and Garlits (yes, Big Daddy... in a Stocker) on the list it's sure to be quite an event. As befits a season-ending race, an international flavour is in evidence, with Damien Harris and Peter Russo (Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively) in from Australia, Thomas Nataas from Norway, Todd Paton (TF) and Todd Lesenko (FC) from Canada, plus a scattering of Canucks (14 in all) in other categories.

As this race will determine not only event winners but World Champions also, it's difficult to separate the two factors so we'll just take a look at it from both viewpoints and try to meld our perspective on the favourites from both columns. Even though one pro category has already crowned a champion, Pro Stock, there's still a race to be run and the battle for the 2nd through 6th place finishes in that class is sure to be very tight. Pro Stock Motorcycle is down to just two competitors for the season championship, and that battle could be over almost as soon as eliminations begin.


TOP FUEL

Working our way through the list, let's start with Top Fuel. In the points battle, it's as much a fight between two very competitive teams, Al-Anabi Racing (Worsham and Dixon) and Don Schumacher Racing (Massey and Brown), as it is between the individual competitors. Did you notice that I left out one of the DSR racers? While there is an infitisemally small mathematical chance that Tony Schumacher could take the title, it's really beyond the realm of possibility so we've discounted him already. That leaves the title fight down to four racers, any of whom could take the big prize.

On experience alone, Worsham and Dixon, both of whom grew up around fuel racing and have competed in Top Fuel and Funny Car for a long time, could be considered the favourites. Their opponents, Massey and Brown don't have nearly the experience at the top end of the sport, but they've proved to be quick learners and both possess very quick reaction times. And this weekend it's going to be so close that every little bit is going to count. Reaction times, 60 foot times, top end speeds, qualifying points, it's all going to be a factor and the final margin may be so close that one or two points here or there could make the difference. Even the 20 bonus points available for setting a new national e.t.
record could come into play, and if the weather cooperates, we could see that happen.

What other factors could come into play? The tuning battle between Alan Johnson, Jason McCulloch and Brian Husen (Al-Anbabi) versus the DSR braintrust of Mike Green, Mark Oswald, Brian Corradi, Phil Shuler, and Todd Okuhara will be huge. Truly a fight with all the money, brains and talent possible on both sides. With the top three in the points standings (Massey, Worsham and Brown) separated by less than 15 points, and Dixon just 44 points from the top, qualifying position points and first round matchups will be absolutely critical.

At this point I'm not going to pick anyone to win, but the odds definitely favour the top three and Dixon will need a good ladder position (i.e., having the opportunity to defeat the DSR cars early) to have any chance at the championship. But even if he can't be a factor in the title fight, Dixon will be focused on running as well as he can, winning as many rounds as he can and letting the points work themselves out. That will probably be the goal of all four of the contenders: run well first and foremost and worry about strategy second.

Of note is the sheer number of entries in Top Fuel for this race, with the 27 cars that showed at Vegas being topped here, as 28 drivers appeared on the pre-entry list. The only changes from the last event are Todd Paton in for Ike Maier in the Paton family owned car, Damien Harris in a second entry for Rapisarda Racing, and Mike Ashley (former Pro Mod and Funny Car racer) coming out of nowhere in a a Dexter Tuttle digger. Ron August is not on the list but Mike Strasburg is and brings the final tally to the aforementioned 28. Should be quite a show in qualifying alone.


FUNNY CAR

The chase for the Funny Car championship is even tougher to predict as no less than eight racers still have a chance to take the crown. However, the last name on that list, Jeff Arend, is even further back than Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel, and the only way he can take the top spot is by having the top two (Hagan and Beckman) fail to appear (not terribly likely) and the next two (Cruz Pedregon and Neff) fail to qualify. Again, not too likely. So, let's look at the realistic title contenders, starting from the bottom (Capps and Hight) and working our way to the top.

Similar to the team vs. team theme of Top Fuel, the funny car championship chase features a trio of DSR racers (Hagan, Beckman and Capps) against a pair of John Force Racing competitors (Neff and Hight), plus one lone independent, and a real darkhorse in this fight, Cruz Pedregon. Trailing the leaders significantly, Hight and Capps could have their title hopes extinguished as early as the first round, even though Capps is on a bit of a hot streak, coming off his event win at Las Vegas.

The two racers in the middle of the "pack", Pedregon and Neff are less than two rounds of racing behind the leaders, but need to keep pace with them and find a way around them before the final round to have any hope of the title. Then we've got the leaders: Hagan in front of Beckman by the grand total of ONE point. No gap at all, no margin, no lead. By the time the first round of eliminations rolls around on Sunday morning, the picture could be a bit clearer, or even cloudier than it already is, depending on the distribution of qualifying points.

It's very difficult to pick favourites right now, as all six racers have had good runs and good stretches of runs since the countdown to the championship began after the US Nationals. And all have had their share of early round losses and bad laps. The two racers that have the experience of winning a championship, Hight and Pedregon might be given a small edge, but the sheer number of DSR cars in the chase (three) would seemingly favour them. But that number of racers may well work against the team, with one taking out the other, depending on how they place on the eliminations ladder.

This race is simply too close to call and I'm going to stay out of the fray at this point, other than to suggest (again, like before the last event) that my darkhorse pick to take all the marbles is Cruz Pedregon. He's the low man on the money totem pole, has got the smallest crew, the least stature with the media, but he's got the smarts, the will to win and most of all, he's been there with his own team many times over the years and stood up against the best-funded, best-tuned, best-crewed cars.... and won as often as not.

Two extra entries (over the Vegas race) at this event bring the total pre-entered to an even two dozen (24) cars and drivers. New/old faces on the list are Brian Thiel and Cory Lee, joining everyone else who appeared at Las Vegas. Again, the qualifying should be a show in itself, with Terry Haddock and Tony Pedregon, among others having one last chance to set the world on fire (or at least part of it...) in 2011.


PRO STOCK

As was stated in the opening to this piece, Jason Line was crowned the 2011 Full Throttle Pro Stock champion at Vegas and the points battle now is over the 2nd through 6th positions. While it appeared just a few weeks ago that Line's Summit teammate Greg Anderson, was certain to finish second for the season, a late charge by Mike Edwards has definitely thrown that idea into disarray. Going into Pomona, Edwards holds a 31-point lead over Anderson and seems almost certain to hang onto that lead for 2nd place with his strong showings in the last three races.

Assuming that situation holds true, then Anderson is very well positioned to stay in third place, being nearly 50 points in front of the 4th place racer (Vincent Nobile). But 4th through 6th (Nobile, Allen Johnson, and Erica Enders) are all within just a few points of each other and they could rearrange their standings several times through the course of the weekend. While none have a chance to catch Edwards for second place or even threaten Anderson for the 3rd position unless a miracle happens, they can still shuffle the points deck substantially.

For the event title, the conventional wisdom is that Edwards, Line, and possibly Anderson have to be considered the favourites. Unlike fuel racing, where a tuneup can go sideways very quickly, once a Pro Stock car hits on a good combination, they seem able to hold on to it and make it work for a while. That said, my money is on Edwards to hold his current advantage and take home another pewter wally to finish out the year.

Only one addition to the field here as Gary Gregory (Seminole, FL) is appended to the list. Newcomer to the class Mark Wolfe, who debuted in fine fashion at Vegas; qualified and matched wheels with Mike Edwards to the 1000 ft mark in a close 1st round loss, is back for more and looking to improve on his first effort. Erica Enders is still looking for that first win and it's going to come one of these days. Maybe this Sunday?


PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the season champion is almost certain to be Eddie Krawiec, as he holds a 69-point edge over 2nd place Hector Arana Jr. It would take an early, like 1st round, loss for Krawiec or failing to qualify to open the door for Arana Jr. to have a chance to overtake him. Neither scenario is likely and as with Mike Edwards in Pro Stock car, Krawiec is on a hot streak lately and not likely to lose his edge with the title on the line.


TOP ALCOHOL

The two Top Alcohol titles are pretty much cut and dried also, with many-time (honestly, I've lost track - it's at least 15 times though) world champion Frank Manzo taking the honours in Top Alcohol Funny Car already. There could be some minor shuffling in the Top Ten, with current 3rd place racer, Calgary's Roger Bateman, at risk of being muscled out of that spot by Jay Payne. To do that, Payne would have to win the event though; anything less and the best he could finish is 4th.

In Top Alcohol Dragster, there's only one racer with a chance to unseat current points leader Duane Shields, and after falling short at Las Vegas in a first-round loss, Joey Severance has to win Pomona to take the title. Not just make the final round, but win the entire event to take the championship. A simple, but very difficult proposition. Jim Whiteley just dropped (as I was writing this) Severance to 4th place in the standings after taking a narrow come-fromn-behind victory over Joey in the weather-delayed final round at the Las Vegas Lucas Series race this morning.

Whiteley can't move any further up in the standings however as he's run the maximum number of points-earning events for the season and 2nd place (and 2010 champion) Bill Reichert is similarly done for the year. Now it's all up to Severance, who can move into a tie for 2nd with a semi-final finish at Pomona or take the title with a victory at the Finals.


SPORTSMAN ELIMINATORS

Since I don't follow these categories as closely as editor Dean Murdoch does, I'll leave it to him to give you the details on who's a player and which racers have the best chances for event and world championship wins at this race.

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