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Auto Club NHRA Finals Friday Preview

Championships in all four NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Professional categories remain up for grabs at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona.
12 Nov 2021
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Auto Club NHRA Finals

This much we know for sure: There will be triumph, and there will be heartbreak this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona as the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Season draws to a close.  

Season championships in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle remain up for grabs, and based on recent history, it’s reasonable to expect a few twists and turns before the champions are officially crowned on Sunday evening.

In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence is attempting to win his fourth straight title, and with a robust 108 point lead, the Capco Contractors driver has an excellent chance of doing just that.

Torrence has won 10 times this year, including the most recent NHRA event in Las Vegas, and perhaps more importantly, he’s lost in the first round just once, which is essentially what needs to happen in order for second-place Brittany Force to have any chance of overtaking him in the points battle.

It’s interesting to note that while Torrence has dominated with 10 wins in 18 events, there is parity in the class as seven other drivers have won races this season, including rookie Josh Hart, who has won two.

It’s also worth noting that the last time the NHRA Camping World tour was in Pomona, just four short months ago, Leah Pruett won the title, defeating Justin Ashley in the final round.

Mike Salinas is also playing a hot hand as he returns to Pomona following a win in Bristol and runner-up finishes in St. Louis and Las Vegas.

The Funny Car points battle is far more competitive with just 58 points between leader Ron Capps and defending champion Matt Hagan, and former two-time champion Cruz Pedregon is still in the running, 83 points back.

Capps won in Pomona in July during the delayed Winternationals, and he’s been remarkably consistent this season with two wins, three runner-up finishes, and six semifinals in his NAPA Dodge. The Auto Club NHRA Finals awards points-and-a-half for Pro racers, which means that Capps is currently just two rounds ahead of Hagan and three rounds clear of Pedregon. Unless things change in qualifying, a semifinal finish would be enough for Capps to claim his second career championship.

Speaking of parity, the Funny Car class is full of it as nine different drivers have won races this year. Hagan and John Force lead the way with three wins, and Capps, Robert Hight, Pedregon, Bob Tasca III, and Tim Wilkerson each have two wins while Alexis DeJoria and J.R. Todd have won each.

It isn’t much of an exaggeration to suggest that the most heated championship battle lies in Pro Stock, where rivals Greg Anderson and Erica Enders are separated by just 32 points. Both drivers are chasing their fifth championship and their teams are willing to stop at almost nothing in order to get it.

Two weeks ago in Las Vegas, the Elite team intentionally send three of its drivers; Troy Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield, and Cristian Cuadra to the rear of the field in an effort to race Anderson in round one. It worked to perfection as Coughlin not only raced Anderson but beat him to open the door for Enders, who went to the final round.

It’s reasonable to expect some of the same gamesmanship this week in Pomona, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the KB team employ a similar strategy with drivers Kyle Koretsky, Dallas Glenn, or Deric Kramer in order to force a match-up against Enders.

Outside of the title fight, the driver to watch is Glenn, who won his third race of the season in Las Vegas and is the favorite to win the NHRA Rookie of the Year award.

The battle for the Pro Stock Motorcycle title is also wide open especially after Steve Johnson won in Las Vegas two weeks ago. Currently, reigning champ Matt Smith is the leader, and Johnson is just 20 points behind while Bristol winner Angelle Sampey is 30 points back, the equivalent of a single round.

In July, Smith defeated Sampey in the final, and he might need a similar performance on his Denso Buell in order to claim a fifth title. Sampey is also in search of her fourth championship and first since 2002, and Johnson has never won a title, despite being active in the class since 1987.

The Auto Club NHRA Finals also features a full roster of classes in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, including Super Comp and Super Gas, where championships have yet to be decided.

You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.

You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 3 p.m. PT on Friday, Nov. 12, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations start Sunday, Nov. 14 at 10:00 a.m.

Qualifying: Sunday, Nov. 14, 2-4 p.m. Eastern, FS1
Eliminations: Sunday, Nov. 14, 4-7 p.m. Eastern, FS1