The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series rolled into southern California for the final race of the year and the 50th running of the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. During qualifying Friday and Saturday, one champion was crowned in one of the four professional categories. In the other three categories the teams competing for the championships were working extra hard to earn every bonus point possible during qualifying, as every point makes a huge difference when it comes to winning the Mello Yello Championship.
In Top Fuel, the pace was rapid as 21 cars attempted to qualify for the 16 car show ending with a pole position of 3.711 seconds and the sixteenth at 3.834 seconds. Richie Crampton, driver of the Geico, Lucas oil dragster set the pace on Saturday with a stellar 3.711 et at 316 mph to earn the top spot. The Matco tools dragster driven by 2012 champion Antron Brown powered his way to the number two position with at 3.720 et at 319 mph. Morgan Lucas teammate and car owner of Richie Crampton took the third spot with a 3.738 et at 323 mph. Doug Kalitta and the Mac tools squad, who held the top spot for three of the four qualifying rounds, would end up fourth with a 3.745 et at 328 mph. Perhaps the biggest story in top fuel qualifying was ‘The Sarge’ Tony Schumacher, attempting to secure his eighth Top Fuel Season Series Championship. Schumacher’s US Army Dragster qualified in the ninth position. Schumacher stood at the finish line and waited for the results of teammate Spencer Massey. If Massey could move his qualifying position above the number three position, Schumacher would have to wait until Sunday to clinch his title. Massey’s dragster left the starting line good but lost traction around 300 feet down track and the celebration began for Schumacher.
In the Nitro Funny Car qualifying, all eyes were on 16-time champion John Force and Matt Hagan. Force entered 21 points behind Hagan. Force was able to gain two points on Hagan during Friday qualifying which put him 19 points back which is less than one round of racing. But that was Friday and everyone watched as Hagan ran the quickest run of the final qualifying session with a 4.016 et at 319 mph. This earned him the number six position but most importantly it earned him 3 bonus points and that made him 22 points ahead of Force. Force in his final race for long time sponsor Castrol and Ford took the fifth spot with his run on Friday night which was a 4.015 et at 316 mph. Two-time funny car champion Cruz Pedregon qualified fourth with a 4.011 et at 311 mph. The NAPA Dodge driven by Ron Capps thundered his way to the third position with a 4.005 et at 317 mph. Tommy Johnson Jr and his Make-a-Wish team earned the number two spot with a 4.003 et at 317 mph. During the final session of funny car qualifying Alexis Dejoria treated the fans with the only funny car in the 3 second range when she lit up the scoreboard with a 3.998 et at 311 mph.
As the season winds down in pro stock the points race is a close one. Two time pro stock champion Jason Line trailed Erica Enders-Stevens by just 17 points as they entered the final race. By the end of qualifying they were separated by 20 points, exactly one round of racing. Line qualified on the pole with a 6.517 et at 212 mph. Enders-Stevens took the number two position with a 6.522 et at 211 mph. Enders-Steven is vying to be the first woman to ever win the Pro Stock Championship in NHRA’s 61 year history as she is also the first and only woman to ever win a race in Pro Stock.
Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying was led by Hector Arana Jr with a 6.832 et at 197 mph. Number two in the points Eddie Krawiec would take the number two spot with a 6.834 et at 195 mph. Championship points leader Andrew Hines will hold the third spot with his run of 6.842 et at 195 mph. Hines had a comfortable lead going into Sunday eliminations as he entered the race with a 92 point lead over teammate Krawiec. Krawiec was able to cut it to 90 points as they entered eliminations on Sunday.