Coming into the 57th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA finals, the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle season titles were up for grabs. In Pro Stock, Erica Enders had previously clinched the season championship in Las Vegas.
In Top Fuel, the battle came down to Brittany Force, Justin Ashley, Antron Brown and Steve Torrence. But the 2022 Top Fuel class was so strong, that every racer was a threat to win any round and any event, meaning that there were a lot of racers that could affect the final outcome of the championship. On race day, Force was leading Justin Ashley by less than a round of eliminations and Antron Brown and Steve Torrence needed Force and Ashley to go out in the opening round. With Force and Ashley qualifying on opposite sides of the elimination ladder, on paper they would meet up in the final round, if Ashley could defeat both Brown and Torrence to get there. But they don’t race on paper and on the track, racing often upsets the paper projections and upsets came. Torrence had a strong car and he faced off against a part-time racer, Ron August in the opening round. The four-time champ got away first, but lost traction and could only watch his hopes go away as August sped on to the win. Mike Salinas, though not in contention for the championship, was one of those drivers who could make a difference in the championship battle. He was upset by young Krista Baldwin, as he also lost traction. Force then took out her opening round opponent, Steve Chrisman and anxiously waited for the key matchup between Justin Ashley and Antron Brown. Less than four seconds later, Force would be crowned the 2022 NHRA Camping World Top Fuel champion, as Brown defeated a tire smoking Ashley with a 3.704 at 333.82 mph to 4.070 at 290.01 mph performance. After four years of coming up short, chasing Steve Torrence, Force finally capped off her second title; her first was in 2017. Her team owns all the class speed and elapse time records and now has two titles. But the event was not over. Austin Prock, Force’s teammate then beat her in the semifinals, 3.642 at 335.48 mph to 3.676 at 337.58 mph, advancing to the final round. In the final, it was Antron Brown vs. Austin Prock, where Prock took out Brown, 3.641 at 336.23 mph to 3.701 at 320.74 mph, and showcased his popular wing walker winner’s celebration. This was Prock’s third career victory.
In Funny Car, the championship battle came down to Robert Hight, Ron Capps and Matt Hagan. Once again, upsets came into play, as part-time racer Steve Densham took out the tire smoking Matt Hagan, 4.170 at 269.94 mph to 6.075 at 124.87 mph, to end Hagan’s season. That left the battle between Hight and Capps. The second round was not a good one for the Team Force Funny Cars, as John Force exploded an engine, blowing the body off his car, while losing to Cruz Pedregon. Then Robert Hight lost traction at 300 feet and lost to Bob Tasca, 4.262 at 224.96 mph to 6.292 at 110.92 mph. Ron Capps’ day was better, as he marched into the final round and into the history books as the 2022 NHRA Camping World Funny Car champion, the third of his career. In the final round, Cruz Pedregon defeated Capps for the event win with a 3.839 at 335.65 mph to 3.850 at 333.16 mph performance.
In Pro Stock, the main subject matters consisted of whether or not Erica Enders would cap her amazing championship season with a win at the finals. Then, there was Greg Anderson trying capture his first win of the season and 101st of his career, along with the fact that his 20-year team owner, Ken Black, was retiring. Both drivers battled their way into the final round. In the final, Anderson took a rare starting line advantage and held on for his 101st career event win with a 6.516 at 210.31 mph to (quicker) 6.516 at 210.31 mph performance.
Matt Smith closed out his sixth career Pro Stock Motorcycle championship with a 6.754 at 202.24 mph to 6.792 at 199.08 mph second round win over Jerry Savoie. He was then defeated by Joey Gladstone in the semifinals. Matt Smith’s wife, Angie, had great day, as she advanced to the final round to match up against Joey Gladstone. She made the most of it, capping off her season with a hole shot 6.759 at 199.55 mph to 6.739 at 199.67 mph victory. It was her third career event win.