David Rampy became just the fourth driver in NHRA’s centennial club when he earned the Comp title in Pomona, James Stevens won his first title in Top Alcohol Dragster, and former world champ Shane Westerfield claimed his 10th career victory in Top Alcohol Funny Car. The rest of the Pomona champions included Steve Wann (Super Stock), Jeff Taylor (Stock), Chad Webber (Super Comp), and Roger Kato (Super Gas).
Rampy, along with longtime crew chief Barry Davis, entered the 2018 season sitting on 96 wins and hit his stride at midseason with wins in Norwalk, Indy, and St. Louis, all of them behind the wheel of his Ray Skillman-backed A/EA ’32 Bantam roadster in Comp. In Pomona, Rampy took a nine-hundredths Competition Index Control penalty in his round-two win against Josh Lee but was able to hold on for the win. His 100th victory became official when opponent Doug Lambeck fouled in the final round. [video]
Stevens didn’t qualify for the tough Pomona Top Alcohol Dragster field but got in as an alternate and went the distance for his first national event victory. Given a second chance, he made his way past Shawn Cowie, Shane Conway, and Garrett Bateman. Steadily improving his performance throughout the event, Stevens faced Norway’s Julie Nataas in the final and won by a 5.28 to 5.40 count. Despite the loss, Nataas was able to hold on for a top-10 finish while Stevens ended the season in the No. 11 spot. [video]
Westerfield made his best run of eliminations in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final with a 5.44 to stop Ulf Leanders, who shook the tires and slowed to a 6.12. Earlier, Leanders had made one of the quickest runs in the history of the class with a 5.38. Westerfield’s path to the final round included wins against Hannes Wernhart, Brian Hough, and Doug Gordon. [video]
In Pomona, Wann moved from Stock to Super Stock and proved that his ’63 Sport Fury is an effective Super Stock car when he drove to his sixth career national event title in Super Stock. Racing in a stacked field that included eight former or current world champions, Wann took out his share of tough customers, including Jimmy DeFrank and veteran Len Schneider. Paired with Gary Emmons in the final, Wann saved his best for last with a .002 light and a 9.78 on his 9.77 dial for the win. [video]
Taylor missed out on a chance to win the world championship in Stock, but he ended his season on a high note when he drove the DeFrank family’s new Camaro to a final-round victory over Ryan Mangus, who fouled by three-thousandths. Taylor, who now has 46 national event wins to his credit, managed to overcome a near-perfect .001 light by Mike Cotten in the second round and also scored wins against Tony Mandella and Jon Irving. Taylor finished the season with three wins and two runner-up finishes, including the NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas two weeks before Pomona. [video]
The Super Comp class featured not only a first-time winner in Webber but also a thrilling end to the championship points battle between eventual champ Steve Williams and challenger Mark Grame. Williams took over the lead after his runner-up finish a week earlier in Las Vegas. Coming into Pomona, Grame was the only driver with the ability to catch him, and he had to reach the final round. Grame managed to reach the fifth round, and with a bye run looming in the semi’s, he had to get past opponent Tony Helms to win the title, but Helms prevailed thanks to a nearly unbeatable .006 light and an 8.918, making Williams the champion. Helms missed the Tree in the final and the win went to Webber, 8.91 to 8.94. A round earlier, Webber used a perfect 8.900 run to take out Steve Collier. [video]
Kato made it to his first national event final in Super Gas in 1985 and his second in 2010, and at the end of the 2018 season, he finally got to celebrate his first victory following a final-round win over former Pomona champ Greg Ventura, who fouled by .003-second. Kato was the top qualifier in the Super Gas class with a 9.901 in the opening round, and later in eliminations, he nailed the index perfectly with a 9.900 pass to defeat Marco Perivolaris. Ventura got to the final round following a semifinal win against Matt Blodgett, who entered the event on a hot streak after winning the NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas. [video]