Shawn Cowie and John Lombardo Jr. finished second in the season points battle in their respective Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car classes, but each driver ended the season on a winning note with victories at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Cowie finished the season with eight wins in Top Alcohol Dragster, and Lombardo won his ninth race of the season in his NAPA Auto Parts Camaro Funny Car. Cowie and Lombardo were joined in the Pomona winner’s circle by Dan Fletcher (Comp), Robert Cruzen (Super Stock), Austin Williams (Stock), Bobby Dye Jr. (Super Comp), and Steve Parsons (Super Gas).
Cowie had his hands full in one of the most competitive Top Alcohol Dragster fields of the year. After qualifying No. 3, he defeated Ashley Sanford, Garrett Bateman, and Randy Eakins with a string of 5.2-second runs before meeting low qualifier Julie Naatas in the final round. Norwegian-based Naatas, who had earlier made the third-quickest run in the history of the class with a 5.115, dropped a cylinder in the final and slowed to a 5.481, allowing Cowie to score career win No. 10 with a 5.272, 274.72. [Watch video]
The Top Alcohol Funny Car final featured the top two qualifiers with low qualifier Lombardo scoring a 5.420 to 5.417 holeshot victory over Annie Whiteley. Lombardo ran nothing slower than a 5.446 on his way to the final with wins against Sean Belleumer, Brian Hough, and newly crowned national champion Shane Westerfield. Lombardo set low elapsed time of the event at 5.409, and Whiteley set top speed at 273.27 mph. [Watch video]
Although he celebrated his milestone 100th national event win in Chicago last July, Fletcher has not had the sort of 2017 season he has come to expect. Fletcher reeled off win No. 102 after driving partner Rick Braun’s C/EA Chevy Cobalt to the Comp title in Pomona. Fletcher made his way to the final round with wins over former champ Alan Ellis, Jeff Lane, and Brian Hyerstay and managed to lose just six-hundredths to Competition Index Control penalties in the process. Final-round opponent Tom Mettler wasn’t as fortunate because his index was whacked by .16-hundredths. After an even start, Fletcher was able to pace Mettler’s Pro Stock Truck to the finish line to win with a (-.538) 8.022 to a (-.511) 7.399. [Watch video]
Super Stock featured a first-time winner after Cruzen downed five-time national champ Jimmy DeFrank in the final round. Cruzen was impressive when it mattered most by combining a .007 light with a 9.344 on his 9.33 dial in the final round. DeFrank, who has practically owned the Pomona track since his debut two decades ago, left with a .046 light and couldn’t make up the difference with an 8.825 on his 8.80 dial. Cruzen’s path to the final round included wins against Mike O’Keefe, former national champ Ryan McClanahan, Mike Cotten, newly crowned champ Justin Lamb, and past Pomona winner Jeff Adkinson. [Watch video]
Williams locked up the Lucas Oil championship in Super Comp a few weeks ago, and he ended the season by turning on the win light in the Stock final. Driving the Marlow family’s F/SA Duster, the same car he drove to the 2014 Stock title, Williams picked up a .02-second lead at the start against opponent Chris Stephenson’s D/SA ’68 Firebird and sealed the win by running right on his dial with an 11.080. Williams, who now has 12 national event victories, including eight in Stock, topped Marion Stephenson in the opening round and also defeated Jody Lang, Bernie Cunningham, Adkinson, and Gregg Luneack to get to the final round. [Watch video]
Dye won the Auto Club NHRA Finals in 2013, and he returned a year later to win the Fall Las Vegas event. Now, Dye is a three-time national event winner after driving to an 8.904 to 8.884 win over Tanner Theobald in the Super Comp final round. Dye was almost perfect with a .013-second package in his round-two victory over Mike Hiatt, and he also scored wins against Gabriel Torres, McClanahan, and five-time national event winner Ryan Herem. [Watch video]
It was Parsons who was the last man standing in Super Gas on Sunday afternoon. Driving his Corvette roadster, Parsons reached the final following a close win over Robert Naber. In the semi’s, Parsons cut a .015 light and ran 9.901 to force Naber into a 9.893 breakout. Parsons also stopped Ed Langan, Karen Comstock, and Kevin Wright to reach the final round. Parsons has now won three national events, all of them at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. He won the Winternationals in 2005 and the Auto Club NHRA Finals in 2007. [Watch video]