The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rolled into Pomona California for the 49th Annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Auto Club Raceway. The NHRA starts the season in Pomona in February and finishes it there every year in November. The final race of the 24 race season is also the final race of the countdown to the championship. The countdown is a six race playoff where the top ten teams in each of the four professional categories (top fuel, funny car, pro stock and pro stock motorcycle) have their points reset to within 10 of one another with the exception of the points leader, who will have a 30-point advantage over second place for the final six playoff races.
Top Fuel saw some quick elapse times and big speeds. Brandon Bernstein and his Mavtv top fuel dragster set pace with a 3.748 second pass to take top qualifying honors in top fuel. Although Bernstein took the pole all eyes were on championship contenders Shawn Langdon and last year’s top fuel champion Antron Brown. Locked in a points battle that closed in qualifying on Saturday. Shawn Langdon ran a 3.75 second pass to qualify second which earned him enough points to capture his first top fuel world championship. Antron Brown qualified in the fifth spot with a respectable 3.775 elapse time.
Shawn Langdon won the season opening Winternationals in Pomona in February and he was not going to be denied as he marched through the elimination ladder to claim the season’s finale. Langdon eased through first round by defeating Steven Torrance and the CAPCO Contractor team with a 3.781 at 322 mph run. Second round of eliminations featured Langdon vs. David Grubnic and the Optima Batteries team. Langdon left first and never looked back with a 3.779 at326 mph to a 3.802 at 319 mph for Grubnic, moving Langdon to the semifinal round against Clay Millican. Millican and the Parts plus team were no match for Langdon who ran the quickest run of elimination 3.756 at 326.87 mph to a tire smoking 4.155 at 199 mph. Langdon would face Doug Kalitta and the Mac tools dragster. Langdon left the starting line first and never looked back running a 3.784 at 323.58 mph to Kalitta’s 3.808 at 323.04 mph to claim his 16th career win.
Fuel funny car saw a new track record in qualifying set by the king of funny car class and newly crowned 16 time funny car world champion John Force. Force and his Castrol GTX Mustang ran 3.995 second pass to take the pole for Sunday’s race. Second in the points Matt Hagen qualified second with a 4.014. Courtney Force and her Traaxes Mustang qualified third with a 4.016 at 319mph run.
Force was going for his fourth straight race win. He won 15 straight rounds of racing but would fall short of 16 to Matt Hagen in the final round on Sunday. Hagen ran a 4.018 at 320.66 mph to Force’s 4.057 at 317.94 mph run. Although Force came up short of a victory at the season finale his fans gave him a receptive ovation for returning to his dominance and reclaiming the funny car world championship.
The Pro stock championship would be decided in an unconventional turn of events during the second round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin leading the points, controlled his own destiny. All Coughlin needed to do was make it to the semifinal round and he would be crowned champion over Jason Line. Coughlin red lighted which is automatic disqualification to his teammate and reigning pro stock champion Allen Johnson. All Jason Line needed to do now was win the race and he would be champion. Line would be paired up against his teammate Buddy Perkinson. Line was second to leave the starting line and around 300 feet the car shook; the tires costing him not only the race win but handed the season championship to Jeg Coughlin. The race was not over, though, it would have an emotional first time winner in Rickie Jones. Jones is a part time racer on the circuit and had been runner up four times before.
Eddie Krawic defeated Scotty Pollacheck in the final round of pro stock motorcycle to win his third Automobile Club of southern California Finals race. Matt Smith locked up the championship two weekends ago in Las Vegas to claim his second championship.
Local Funny Car racer Josh Crawford of Oakdale and his Pacific truck, Central Valley Recycling, and Daniel O Davis demolition Charger made a career best run 4.243 at 2.51.91 mph. Even with a career best run Crawford and his team would fall short of making the 16 car field. The team is making progress every trip down the race track. The team is made up of some of the late Eric Medlen’s childhood and racing buddies. Crawford and Nostalgia Funny Car racer Richard Townsend went to school with the late Eric Medlen. Kevin Poynter crew chief for Crawford was Eric’s co crew chief alongside Eric’s father John Medlen. Crawford and the team are excited about their progress this season and hope to continue making improvements before the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season.