Looking to end the season on a winning note at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, NHRA National Dragster magazine's own Tricky Tipster has chosen to ride the wave and once again pick newly-crowned Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence as the favorite. Other Pomona favorites include championship contenders J.R. Todd, Tanner Gray, and Matt Smith.
So now that the drama of the championship is gone the Capco team will roll into Pomona with a different, more relaxed attitude. Not hardly. Torrence can make history by sweeping all six races during the Countdown; and that will be his primary motivation as his amazing 2018 season winds down. There is history to be made and he intends to make it.
Hard to think about Schumacher and Pomona without recalling his dramatic 2005 championship drive. There will be no Pomona miracle this year as far as a championship run, but it would be more than fitting to conclude the U.S. Army partnership with one more trip to the winner’s circle.
It was a classic case of too-little, too late in regard to the championship, but the Monster car has looked much better in recent weeks. A victory here would be a fitting way to end a tumultuous season for the reigning Top Fuel champion.
Parts Plus/Great Clips
There’s a lot happening in the Stringer camp right now and this team will have a much different look next season with the addition of Mike Kloeber as crew chief. They’ve had an amazing season and it’s not over yet. The Parts Plus car has been the qualifying leader all season and its more than capable of going the distance on race day.
Speaking of cars that have shown dramatic improvement lately, this is another one of them. Their Sunday results are not an indication of their potential. It also helps to note the Mac team left Auto Club Raceway Pomona with the Wally in February.
Had a bracket car in Las Vegas with a string of low 3.7s en route to her fifth final of the season. Interesting that she’s also one of the few pro drivers without a first round loss in the Countdown.
This has not been the season anyone expected for the Matco team, to put it mildly, but they’ve got one shot remaining to help make it right. He’s been to five final rounds in Pomona in Top Fuel and has two wins. He also opened the season with a semifinal at the Winternationals which should also provide a confidence boost.
A lot of good things have happened to the Scrappers team this year including its first No. 1 qualifying spot and first final round. All that’s really left is its first win and if it doesn’t come here, expect it early next season.
Todd's Vegas win is the leading candidate for clutch performance of the year and now the Mello Yello title is basically his to lose. That being said, he's likely going to have to win a couple of rounds to secure the first-place check, but that should not be a problem for a team that sports a 20-3 record since the U.S. Nationals.
Auto Club Chevy
After the Vegas disaster, he’s going to need a Tony Schumacher-style hail Mary in order to defend his 2017 Funny Car championship. In as much as the Auto Club team can only controls its own destiny, it needs to hog as many qualifying points as it can get and then hope Todd slips up early. It’s possible, but the stars must align correctly.
Mopar Express Lane Dodge
Got a bit of momentum following a solid runner-up finish in Las Vegas and he’s got a great record in Pomona with six total wins since 2011. It’s been a while (Epping) but it’s good to remember the Mopar team has three wins this season.
There’s no more need to count points but there is one more race to be won and the NAPA crew is as likely to do it as anyone else. For a team that has been to six finals this year and turned on the win light three times it's shocking they also have eight first round losses. That's modern Funny Car racing for you.
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Forget about the Las Vegas red-light for a minute and remember this car qualified No. 1 at the last three races and hasn’t been worse than fourth since Indy. The performance is definitely there, they just need a bit of luck to go with it. Last chance to avoid his first winless season since returning to Funny Car full-time.
Advance Auto Parts Chevy
There’s probably no team in the sport that wants a “do over” on the Countdown as much as the Advance crew. Their dream season that includes four wins in six finals and an amazing 11 low qualifier awards has turned ugly with just two round wins in the last five races. Ending the season with a fifth win would be a huge morale booster.
Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft Quick Lane Ford
Had perhaps the best car he’s had all year in Las Vegas and then lost a heartbreaker to Matt Hagan in the semifinals. Every aspect of this team has improved this season and its just a matter of time before they go the distance.
The 16-time champion also happens to have 16 wins at Auto Club Raceway Pomona between the Winternationals and Finals. Who else thinks it would be fitting for him to earn career win No. 150 here?
Gray Manufacturing Technologies Camaro
With a 140-point lead he doesn’t need to do much more than qualify to lock up the Mello Yello title in his second (and perhaps final) season in NHRA competition. He’s almost certain to win the title but there will be a hint of disappointment if he doesn’t win the race especially after losing the final round last season to Bo Butner.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
As disappointing as it is to not win the title, there’s a lot to be said about his 2018 season. For a guy who started the season with a four-year drought, he’s done okay for himself with five finals and three wins. If NHRA had a comeback driver of the year award he’d be a shoe-in.
Her performance in Las Vegas was vintage EE except for the final but hey, those things happen from time to time. Not sure what to make of just one win in seven final rounds this year but two wins in eight would surely be a better way to head into the not-so-long winter break.
Butner Auto Camaro
Normally, he wouldn’t be ranked this high, even as the reigning champ but his performance in Las Vegas (both car and driver) merits a nice bump. Don’t forget, he’s also won the last two times he’s raced in Pomona. If this is indeed his last Pro Stock race for a while, no better way to go out than with another victory.
Mountain View Camaro
Put the Mountain View team in the same category as Jeg Coughlin Jr. with a terrific bounce-back season that so far includes three wins in four finals and a probable top five finish. This is the home base for Team Mountain View so a strong showing in Pomona is always welcomed.
Skillman Auto Camaro
About to put the wraps on his Pro Stock career, at least for now, and his stats are impressive with seven wins, 15 finals in just 93-career races. He’s winless so far this season, so there is extra motivation to chalk up another victory to close out the season.
Summit Racing Equipment Camaro
This car is definitely better now than at any other time this season but with the exception of his Charlotte win, results have been a bit disappointing. He’s a five-time Pomona winner in 11 final rounds so the blue Summit Chevy seems to enjoy racing in SoCal.
Total Seal Racing Camaro
Two weeks ago in Las Vegas, he had his best showing since the breakthrough win in Houston when he qualified third and went to the semifinals. Pomona is a bit different than Las Vegas as far as tuning goes but if they can make the necessary adjustments, they can expect a similar result at the Fairplex.
Smith Racing EBR
He really doesn’t need to count points because the math is easy to figure: win the race and he’s the champ for the third time in his career. Given that there are still four legit contenders for the title, it might just take a victory to get the job done. He’s got two wins and a runner-up here, for the record.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
He’s been to nine final rounds and has four wins at Auto Club Raceway in the last 11 years. That's fantastic but he’s probably going to have to find a way to win another one if he wants to defend his 2017 Mello Yello championship. Would a Krawiec vs. Matt Smith winner-take-all final round be too much to ask for?
Hector Arana Jr.
Lucas Oil EBR
Just when you though his shot at the title was over, Jr. went out and dominated in Las Vegas to get back in the thick of the battle. The key will be getting enough qualifying points to reduce the deficit to Smith and Krawiec from three rounds to two. That’s a distinct possibility given the way this bike has been running.
Nitro Fish Suzuki
He’s 61-points back, which isn't a lot to make up in one event with the points-and-a-half format in Pomona. That being said, he rarely folds under pressure so just look for him to put forth an honest effort to win the race and then see how the championship battle sorts itself out.
White Alligator Suzuki
Although he’s mathematically in the running for the championships, its an enormous longshot. So, perhaps it’s best if the White Alligator team looks at ways it can help teammate Tonglet stays in the fight. Then again, it’s not their style to play the ladder game. So, just look for an honest effort to have an all-WAR final round.
Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson
We’ve belabored this point all season, but it bears repeating; he’s won at least one race for each of the last 14 seasons and he’s got one final chance to extend that streak to 15 years. Got to think that’s almost as much pressure as racing for the championship.
Liberty Racing Buell
Three-time Pomona winner is looking to get back on track after a tough Las Vegas outing. This team has shown flashes of brilliance this season and she’s moved up three spots since the start of the Countdown. She’s definitely got the ability to crush the dreams of any one of the championship contenders.
Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson
Blocker. Test rider. Teammate. It doesn’t matter what you want to call this deal. The fact is that he’s a very accomplished rider who now has a chance to ride the best equipment available so he’s definitely looking to make the most of it.