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Auto Club NHRA FINALS - Thursday Top Alcohol Qualifying highlights

After three days of angst, anger, and frustration, we're finally back online with the first - of many - postings from the final event on the Camping World Drag Racing Series calendar, the 57th annual running of the Auto Club NHRA Finals from fabled Auto Club Raceway Pomona. On hand to capture all the action with his clutch of Nikon cameras in hand is our hard working photograher, "BIG" Bob Snyder. Here's his first installment from the Top Alcohol Funny Car and Dragster qualifying session late yesterday afternoon.

At the end of a decidedly less than scintillating qualifying session, which saw one lane departure (Don Hudson crossed the centerline), a big engine explosion on the burnout (Mike Doushgounian), a bigger "bang" near the finish line (Chris Marshall) and a "large plume of smoke" crossing the finish line (Brian Hough), the fans finally got to see two cars make great side-by-side passes to the 1320' mark. Three cars made very good passes earlier, with Shane Westerfield leading the way at 5.498 - 267.80, followed closely by Terry Ruckman at 5.514 - 267.80 and Brian Hough a little further back with a 5.543 - 259.16 clocking.

Sean Bellemeur - 'Hussey Performance' - TA/FC --- Doug Gordon - 'BETA Motorcycles' - TA/FC


However, as so often happens, the best was saved for last, as newly crowned national champion Sean Bellemeur (LEFT photo) got to the stripe first with low e.t. and top speed of the session, 5.474 - 269.89, to edge out the outgoing champion, Doug Gordon, (RIGHT photo), who trailed by less than a car length with an excellent 5.493 - 267.48 pass for the second spot on the ladder.

Julie Nataas - 'OTG' - A/FD

With 17 cars entered in the dragster field, qualifying wasn't guaranteed to be a "knock down - drag out" affair, but the first baker's dozen of cars down the track laid down some good runs, with Canada's Dan Mercier leading the way with one of his best passes of the season, a 5.260 - 272.17. Just a few thousandths behind at 5.268 - 273.88 was the blown car of James Stevens. As the final two pairs prepared to run, the #3 car on the ladder was rookie Eric Chesleigh, making his first national event start and clocking a respectable 5.406 - 254.81 in his maiden voyage.

In an all-female pairing, running opposite Jasmine Salinas was the #4 driver in the national points standings, Julie Nataas (above), and she topped everyone with low e.t. of the round at 5.232 - 274.72 in her first appearance at Pomona in the Meyer Racing A/Fuel car.

Jackie Fricke - 'Finke Equipment' - A/FD --- Shawn Cowie - 'Mundie's Towing' - B/AD

The final pair had good conditions in which to attempt to wrest the top qualifying spot from Nataas, but Jackie Fricke (LEFT) fell just short with a second best effort of 5.245 - 277.94 (top speed of the round), to outrun Canada's Shawn Cowie (RIGHT) to the finish line as he stopped the clocks with a fourth best of the session 5.261 - 277.89 to close out qualifying on the first day of the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Check out the scoreboard shot below to see the numbers.


NOTE:   While filling in the details on this post, I realized that I've been writing Greg Bellemeur, instead of his correct name Sean. I don't know how long or how many times I've made that mistake, but it showed up at least half a dozen times over the past two weeks, and possibly more often and further back than that. Frankly, I don't how our proofreader missed those errors, but they are corrected now. At least the ones I've found so far. Any further corrections are invited. PS: Greg Bellemeur is Sean's father, and has a very long and illustrious career in drag racing, driving an assortment of nitro burning hot rods in Southern California and beyond.



They've just finished running the second qualifying session for the Top Alcohol Funny Cars and Dragsters at Pomona. There were some definite improvements in both classes, but it's still been a tough track for some of the teams to overcome. However, the first three pairs of funny cars carded side-by-side 5-second runs to improve the look of the 12-car field to show that it was possible to make very good runs. Although the atmospheric conditions were worse than Thursday, with air temp up from 83 to 89 (F) and an extra 200 feet of corrected altitude, only Brian Hough failed to improve on his day first day clocking. The only downside in the group was another engine explosion and oildown from Mike Doushgounian, which held things up for 15 minutes of cleanup.

In contrast, only two cars out of the final three pairs made it to the finish line under power, with Ulf Leanders running just .001 slower than his Thursday effort, and Sean Bellemeur putting out some serious engine smoke on the top end as he shut off early to a 5.566 - 243.85 to close out the session.

On the dragster side, the 17-car field necessitated a bye run to start the round, and that saw Trevor Larkin get on the board after his failed attempt on Thursday, with a decent, but labouring 5.611 - 247.75 pass. Yesterday's bump spot holder, Johnny Ahten, knocked six seconds off his Thursday e.t. but the scoreboard showed only an 8.327 which left him #14 on the ladder. Starting from the #17 spot going into the final qualifying session tomorrow will be Taylor Vetter as she had another troubled pass, smoking the tires hard and early for a near duplication of her first run of the weekend.

The first big shot fired in the session came from the Jerry Darien-tuned car of Casey Grisel, as he jumped all the way from the bump spot to the #6 position with a very good 5.307 - 274.66, running alongside Eric Chesleigh, who backed up his earlier 5.406 with a consistent 5.429 pass. In the next pair, Kim Parker got off the new bump spot with a decent 5.462 - 255.05, despite a dropped cylinder on the top end. Then things started getting quicker and faster, as Madison Payne vaulted all the way from #15 to the second spot in the field with an excellent 5.237 - 278.12 that also notched a new top speed for the class.

The final two pairs saw, as expected, the best runs of the round, starting with Jackie Fricke going a little quicker (5.218 following her 5.245 on Thursday), but was only second best in that pairing, as Rich McPhillips Jr. broke into the 5-teens, with a new #1 pass of 5.184 - 266.69 to move from #12 to the top spot. In the final pair, yesterday's low qualifier, Julie Nataas, tried to take back the #1 position, but fell just short with a 5.195 - 273.05 that moved her past Fricke into the #2 position. In the other lane, Shawn Cowie, in the quickest blown car in the field, improved by a fraction, with a 5.252 - 277.49 that moved him up one spot to the #5 rung on the ladder heading into Saturday's final qualifying session.


The first qualifying session for the PRO classes is now in the books at Pomona. The first class out of the lanes, the Pro Stock Motorcycles, saw only 12 bikes, of the 14 pre-entered, come out for their session. And of those 12 bikes, only eight riders made it into the 6's, with just two in the 6.70's, led by defending world champion Matt Smith at 6.779 - 210.19, while Karen Stoffer was close behind at 6.785 - 197.97. The two closest pursuers to Smith in the Countdown, Steve Johnson, in the #2 spot, and Angelle Sampey (#3), laid down competitive runs, with Johnson holding the third spot in the field, courtesy of a 6.811 - 197.39, while Sampey sat one position lower with a 6.819 - 196.76.

Pro Stock (cars) saw all 17 entries make an attempt in their qualifying session, with one car, that of Mike Callahan, not getting a timeslip due to a SB3A (start before three ambers - or, in other words, leaving before the tree was activated). Despite some good early results, it was fully halfway through before the first 6.50's started popping up on the scoreboards, with Deric Kramer and Matt Hartford clocking side-by-side 6.594's, both at 208 mph, to take the early lead in the field. Their lead didn't last long, as the next car down the track, Mason McGaha ran a little quicker at 6.589 to take the top spot.

Greg Anderson - 'Hendrick Cars

That held for one pair, until Kyle Koretsky and Dallas Glenn one-upped them by one hundredth of a second at 6.584, both at 208 mph to take over the top spots on the ladder. Koretsky took the #1 position by .12 of a mph over Glenn's #2, pushing Hartford back to #3 and Kramer down to #4. But - and (don't) stop me if you've read this before - the best was saved for last as the top two in the Countdown standings met in the final pair. Greg Anderson covered everyone with a very strong 6.566 - 210.21 for the top spot, while Erica Enders could "only" manage a 6.589 - 209.04 for the #4 position after the first session.

As the sun set over the Pomona hills, the really fast cars started coming out of the lanes, with Funny Car leading off. Of the 20 cars in the pits, 19 made it to the starting line, with the Jason Rupert team still thrashing to get their replacement bodied entry into racing shape, under the direction of Rahn Tobler and Johnny West. The first pair down the track turned into a single as Gary Densham - in what may or may not be his 500th NHRA national event - didn't move when the lights came down and he shut off at the line. The first actual pair saw very good side-by-side runs by hard core privateers, with Jeff Diehl making his best pass of the season at 4.031 - 314.24 to take the #2 spot, behind Tony Jurado, who kept his 3-second barrage continuing, with an opening 3.988 - 316.08, good for the top spot. That was just .002 off his career best, rung up at the previous event on the tour in Las Vegas.

Robert Hight - 'Auto Club' - FC

That early 3-second run by Jurado held onto the #1 spot through the next three pairs, until the first side-by-side 3-second times rang up on the scoreboards, with Robert Hight (pictured above) dropping into the 3.80's with an excellent 3.894 - 330.55 to leave Alexis DeJoria nearly a tenth back at 3.954 - 318.92 in the second spot. The next pair challenged Hight but didn't displace him as Bob Tasca III (3.975) and John Force (3.939) muscled into the top four, in the #2 and #3 spots. The final four cars were the only ones with a real chance for the championship and they had varying results. Cruz Pedregon made his mark with a solid 3.939 - 321.96, which ended up in the #4 spot, while the final pair matched up the top two cars in the standings. Second place Matt Hagan shook the tires before the 330' mark and shut off to a 4.483, while Ron Capps ran strong into the #2 spot on the ladder at 3.908 - 329.83 as he increased his lead over Hagan to 61 points after the first session.

Finishing off the day were the Top Fuel cars as the track was now in almost full darkness with header flames rising high into the night as the session began. It began with two single passes, as Steve Chrisman (driving the Worsham family car) remained in the pits, saving parts and money. In the second bye run, Cameron Ferre put the Paton family car (from Canada) into the 3.80's with a career best 3.880, despite an early shutoff at 299.66 mph. The first pairing saw two 3.75 runs, with Tripp Tatum laying down a 3.752 - 306.67, while Alex Laughlin (in the Scott Palmer car) turned career bests of 3.759 - 324.83 to put a temporary hold on the #2 spot on the charts.

Those numbers held up for just one more pair until Kalitta teammates Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta put on a impressive display with a great side-by-side race. Langdon came out on top, and temporarily led the field with a 3.747 - 324.05, while Kalitta was just a little slower at 3.759 - 321.65 for the #4 position. That fourth spot very quickly became #6 for Kalitta, as the next pairing saw Clay Millican ease into #4 with a 3.756 - 321.12, while in the other lane, Antron Brown jumped into the top spot with a super strong 3.719 - 329.26 timeslip. But that top qualifying run was erased in the very next pair, as Billy Torrence nipped Brown with a 3.713 - 330.47 to put a hold on low e.t. and top speed.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' - TF

As the session wound down to a conclusion, the three championship contenders, and one "pretender" (no offense, but Justin Ashley's only got a super-slim chance to win the crown, came out to try for the top qualifying spots and the all-important bonus points that go with the top four spots. Mike Salinas (pictured above), who's been on a bit of a tear recently and fought his way into contention with final appearances, including one win in the last two races, blasted out a booming 3.694 - 328.78 to stake his claim for the #1 qualifier.

Then it was down to the top two in the standings, in what has become an almost certain top qualifying battle, between leader Steve Torrence and challenger Brittany Force. It didn't quite go to plan as Force lost traction before the 600' mark, while Torrence had his own problems, with the engine going sour on the top end, limiting him to a close, but not close enough, 3.698 - 317.05 for the second spot on the ladder.



The tuner for Mike Salinas' "Scrappers Racing" team (Alan Johnson), for the past two seasons is moving to the Connie Kalitta conglomerate in 2022, heading up the Top Fuel and (presumably) the Funny Car teams of Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd. Big changes in the Kalitta operation have been rumoured for some time, mainly due to the poor performances they've had this season, but last night the announcement was made and it's official. It could be just one of many "game changers" coming for the sport next season. Stay tuned for more news of changes as they happen.

At the close of qualifying today, the championship chase(s) in the four PRO categories came into sharper focus. Coming into the final race of the 2021 season, three drivers had at least a mathematical chance of taking the championship, but that was quickly reduced to two, defending champion Steve Torrence and former (2017) champion Brittany Force, after Friday's first qualifying session.

It's almost a foregone conclusion that Torrence will end the battle in the first round, as he faces nitro newbie Brandon Welch in the first round. In contrast, Force has a big mountian to climb due to her uncharacteristically poor qualifying position (#13), and she has to race Billy Torrence in the first round. And that's never an easy race against a very tough opponent.

Despite a valiant late-season charge, Mike Salinas was dropped from contention, but has a chance to finish second in the standings if Force goes out early in today's eliminations, as he's only 48 points behind her before racing gets underway this morning. Here's the chart showing the respective points totals for all of the Top Ten Countdown racer.

Top Fuel Countdown Points November 13, 2021

While the Top Fuel battle is all but over, there are some seriously dramatic scenarios playing out in the other three classes, starting with Funny Car.

Funny Car Countdown Points November 13, 2021

Pro Stock Countdown Points November 13, 2021

Pro Stock Motorcycle Countdown Points November 13, 



Toyota Supra GR Funny Car --- Toyota Supra GR Funny Car

To promote the new look 2022 Toyota Supra GR Funny Cars that will be adorning the chassis of J.R. Todd's car next year, there was a parade past the grandstands before eliminations began.

Pre-race ceremonies --- Pre-race ceremonies

Teams and officials standing silent during the invocation.

Pre-race ceremonies --- Pre-race ceremonies

The invocation (right) and singing of the national anthem (left).


Doug Kalitta (near lane) vs Josh Hart 
(far lane) --- Doug Kalitta (near lane) vs Josh Hart 
(far lane)

The first pair came out of the middle of the field, as Doug Kalitta (near lane) was looking for a good, or at least better, finish to what was otherwise a fairly miserable season for the veteran MAC Tools driver. Facing him was Rookie of The Year candidate, Josh Hart (far lane), who won his first race in Top Fuel, the Gatornationals, in March, and followed up that initial success with another win (Charlotte) and four semi-final appearances in a shortened 13-race schedule.

After so many disappointing passes, Kalitta put it all together with his quickest and fastest times of the season, a very strong 3.709 - 327.66 to take an easy win as Hart ran into trouble early and shut off to a 4.391 - 181.03 to close out his season on a rather down note as he finished with three straight first round losses.

Alex Laughlin --- Alex Laughlin (near lane) vs Clay Millican 
(far lane)

(LEFT) A real surprise this year was Alex Laughlin, who jumped into the seat of Scott Palmer's car at Denver, qualifying in his first race after licensing just four days earlier. He managed to turn that one-race deal into seven races and notch a pair of round wins, with the first coming at the U.S. Nationals. Alex showed some real marketing moxie, putting together some creative deals, including the "500 Fans Club" that sponsored his Auto Club Finals appearance.

(RIGHT) Laughlin (near lane) gave Clay Millican (far lane) a real battle in the first round, nearly matching his career best numbers (3.759 - 321.04), set in qualifying, with an almost as good 3.764 - 321.04 clocking. However, Millican left first by four hundredths, and ran just a little quicker at 3.736 - 324.67 to take the winlight by little more than a car length.

Justin Ashley --- Justin Ashley (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane)

(RIGHT) The next pair put on an even closer race, with Justin Ashley (near lane) looked to rebound from qualifying in the #12 position, despite a very good 3.765 - 320.67 effort.

(RIGHT) Ashley has some serious reaction time credentials, but his opponent, Antron Brown (far lane), left first by a hundredth or so and put down an excellent 3.717 - 328.94 to hold off Ashley's hard charging, and quicker, 3.713 - 329.42 effort. The margin at the finish line was barely a quarter car length as Brown rebounded from three consecutive first round losses to advance to the second round.

Steve Chrisman ---  Del Worsham and crew

(LEFT) After spending the 2020 season on the sidelines, SoCal veteran Steve Chrisman made his third appearance of the season in the Worsham Racing (Chuck & Del) car and slid into the field on the bump with an early shutoff 4.106 - 257.83 pass.

(RIGHT Wearing his "Rokit" shirt (Alexis DeJoria sponsor), Del Worsham made final adjustments to Steve Chrisman's car before staging. It appears that most of the Rokit crew were assisting him in running the Chuck & Del Worsham car.

Steve Chrisman (near lane) vs Mike Salinas 
(far lane)

Chrisman earned a first round date with the #1 qualifier, Mike Salinas (far lane), in the "Scrappers Racing" entry. They left nearly together, but Salinas steadily opened the gap on Chrisman and turned on the winlight with a 3.745 - 327.98 that train-lengthed Chrisman's creditable 4.125 - 272.94 time.

Cameron Ferre --- Cameron Ferre (near lane) vs Leah Pruett 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Coming out of the waterbox with the tires spinning hard, Cameron Ferre came into the first round with some real confidence in his car. The Paton family team, based in Canada, was finally able to cross the border a month ago and made their season debut at Bristol with Ferre behind the wheel. Their next event, Las Vegas, saw Ferre clock three straight career bests during qualifying, ringing up a 3.85, 3.82, and 3.81 in succession before smoking the tires in the first round of eliminations. Their performances here in qualifying followed a similar pattern as Ferre opened qualifying with a 3.880 before finishing with another career best e.t. of 3.803 at 312.28 mph.

(RIGHT) Having to face a tough customer in Leah Pruett, (far lane) in the opening round, Ferre left first by a smidgen and ran yet another career best, breaking into the 3.70's with a 3.796 - 319.75 to send Pruett packing. She faded early to a losing 5.053 - 189.71 to end her season on a sour note after qualifying in the #3 position.

Brandon Welch --- Steve Torrence

(LEFT) Another one of the many success stories coming out of this event saw Brandon Welch rebound nicely from a frustrating race at the previous event in Las Vegas, where he ran a very decent 3.94, but was bumped out of the field in the last qualifying session. Here, he picked up the pace a little and ran a new season best and broke his personal 300-mph barrier with a 3.919 - 308.28 that left him in the #15 qualifying spot.

(RIGHT) Facing him was the three time defending Top Fuel champion, on the brink of a "four-peat", as Steve Torrence came into Pomona with an almost insurmountable lead in the points standings, and only needed a first round win over Welch to clinch the title.

Brandon Welch (near lane) vs Steve Torrence 
(far lane)

As expected, the championship went to Steve Torrence (far lane) as he pounded out a solid 3.769 - 326.00 to take the big trophy back to Texas yet again. It didn't come that easy though, as Brandon Welch put up a solid fight, leaving just a tick behind Torrence, then chasing him to the finish line with another season best e.t. and career best speed at 3.877 - 309.13 to close out his season on a high note.

Tripp Tatum --- Tripp Tatum (near lane) vs Shawn Langdon 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Getting a late start on the season, with his first race at the U.S. Nationals, Tripp Tatum got up to speed, so to speak, quickly with a 3.87 best at Indy, followed with an excellent 3.714 - 333.16 at St. Louis. His next event, at Las Vegas, saw the 3.70's - 330's continue with bests of 3.711 - 331.61 and another round win after his first at St. Louis. He started a little slower here in Pomona, landing in the #9 qualifying spot with a 3.750 best.

(RIGHT) Despite giving Shawn Langdon an early advantage on reaction times (.040 to .091), Tatum was able to quickly take control of the race, clocking a new career best elapsed time (a recurring theme in this report) at 3.704 - 327.51 to get past the first round for the third event in a row. He also earned lane choice over low qualifier Mike Salinas with the very quick e.t.

Brittany Force --- Brittany Force (near lane) vs 
Billy Torrence (far lane)

(LEFT) Although the championship was now officially out of her reach, Brittany Force still had a chance to win the final Camping World Drag Racing Series event of the year. Despite her lowly (#13) qualifying position, the worst for her in more than two years, she still had a chance to win her second event of the season.

(RIGHT) Facing her in the far lane, Billy Torrence came close to matching his qualifying time with a 3.730 - 328.30 for a runaway win. As can be clearly seen in the photo, Force was already smoking the tires before she passed the Christmas tree.

Brittany Force - Tiresmoke --- Brittany Force - Tiresmoke --- Brittany Force - Tiresmoke

Here's a trio of shots showing just how quickly and comprehensively Brittany Force smoked the tires enroute to her last run of the 2021 season. And that was a wrap for the first round of Top Fuel eliminations. Next up: Funny Car eliminator.


Paul Lee --- Jeff Diehl

Warming up the tires prior to their first round matchup were Paul Lee (LEFT) and Jeff "The Surfer" Diehl (LEFT) as the first pair of Funny Cars down the track on Sunday morning.

Leeza Diehl backing up Jeff Diehl --- Leeza Diehl backing up Jeff Diehl

Two views of Leeza Diehl giving reverse gear instructions to husband Jeff Diehl as he prepares to face Paul Lee.

Leeza Diehl assisting Jeff Diehl --- Leeza Diehl assisting Jeff Diehl

Two more views of Leeza Diehl as she makes final adjustments to the fuel system, and encourages him to run well against Lee.

Jeff Diehl (near lane) vs Paul Lee 
(far lane) --- Jeff Diehl (near lane) vs Paul Lee 
(far lane)

When the lights flashed, Diehl (near lane) left first by a few hundredths on Lee (far lane), but started smoking the tires almost immediately and shut off to a 9-second clocking, while Lee sped to the finish line with his best run of the weekend at 3.908 - 327.98.

Robert Hight --- Jim Campbell

In the second pairing, low qualifier Robert Hight (LEFT) (bannering the event and track sponsor Auto Club), faced off against the bubble qualifier Jim Campbell (RIGHT) in the retro-inspired MOONeyes sponsored Jim Dunn Racing car.

Jim Dunn preparing to make final fuel system 
adjustments on MoonEyes Funny Car

It's "Big" Jim Dunn approaching the car as he prepares to make the final fuel system adjustments on "MOONeyes" Funny Car.

Jim Campbell (near lane) vs Robert Hight 
(far lane) --- Jim Campbell (near lane) vs Robert Hight 
(far lane)

Both drivers left together (.100 to .101 lights), but Hight (far lane) ran into immediate trouble, (note the tire smoke in the right photo), and had to pedal to a 6.043 - 253.56 clocking. But it wasn't all clear sailing for the underdog Campbell, as his car ran out of power early and was only able to muster a 5.403 - 184.57 that was just enough to turn on the winlight. A BIG upset win for the hard working So-Cal team.

Bobby Bode --- Alexis DeJoria

(LEFT) Burning out before his first round race was Bobby Bode in the bright red AR-BEE car, while on the (RIGHT) the Bandero Tequila entry of Alexis DeJoria did her pre-race tire prep.

Bobby Bode (near lane) vs Alexis DeJoria 
(far lane)

Launching first in the near lane, Bode took a slight reaction time advantage but shook the tires before the 330' mark, and slowed to a 5-second pass, while Dejoria (far lane) kept the pedal down all the way to a strong 3.936 - 327.66 time.

Terry Haddock --- Terry Haddock

The ultimate underdog Terry Haddock gets top billing in this pair of photos as he prepares to face one of the championship contenders.

Media #145 in action

We're not sure how this person received a Media Credential for the event, but he's allegedly a relative of one of the racers. Not sure where his coverage will appear, if it does at all.

Ron Capps --- Terry Haddock (near lane) vs Ron Capps 
(far lane)

(LEFT) That "contender" was none other than points leader Ron Capps in the NAPA Dodge in a crucial first round race that he needed to win if he wanted to take the 2021 Camping World NHRA Funny Car Championship.

(RIGHT) The suspense was over quickly as Haddock, (near lane) was late, by a .159 to .093 margin, then fell further behind as he was forced to pedal his way out of tire smoke while Capps (far lane) had clear sailing to the finish line, exactly matching his qualifying e.t. with a 3.908 - 325.06 coming up on the scoreboards.

Chad Green --- Chad Green (near lane) vs John Force 
(far lane)

(LEFT) In the Wilkerson "team" car, Chad Green prepared to meet a formidable opponent (John Force), but he wasn't too far behind in performance during qualifying and with a good light and a solid run could be trouble for the 16 time champion.

(RIGHT) Leaving first was Force (far lane) by just two hundredths, and he had plenty of oomph on the top end with a strong 3.938 - 329.75 pass to hold off the valiant try by Green, who trailed with a very respectable 3.986 - 319.37 timeslip.

Tony Jurado --- Matt Hagan

(LEFT) Coming a long way in a hurry since making his "Big Show" debut at Sonoma in July, California's Tony Jurado looked to follow up on his great showing at Las Vegas where he ran a 3.98 off (out of) the trailer, and carded three more low 4.0 passes. Here he qualified strongly with another 3.98 to show that he was ready to race with the big dogs.

(RIGHT) Facing what was shaping up to be a tough opponent, and needing to win to keep his championship hopes alive, Matt Hagan warmed the tires as he prepared to face Jurado.

Tony Jurado (near lane) vs Matt Hagan 
(far lane)

Doing what he had to, Hagan (far lane) left on Jurado (near lane) by a slim one hundredth of a second margin, then put down enough power to take a one-car length win. Jurado gave it a great shot, clocking in at 3.973 - 322.34 (both career bests) but fell short of Hagan's winning 3.935 - 323.04 effort.

Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane) --- Richard Hartman making final adjustments on 
the fuel system

(LEFT) Looking like something out of the past, it was side-by-side burnouts for Tim Wilkerson (near lane) and Cruz Pedregon in the far lane. The only thing lacking was the copious amounts of tire smoke as was so common in the past.

(RIGHT) Making final adjustments to the fuel system on the car, crew chief Richard Hartman readied Wilkerson's car for the run.

Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane)

Knowing that he was already eliminated from the Funny Car championship chase due to Ron Capps' first round win, Pedregon could only hope for a good showing in eliminations and a #3 finish in the points standings. Even better would be a third event win to close the 2021 season in his best position of the last ten years.

Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane) --- Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane)

Leaving first by a small margin (.050 to .073) Wilkerson (near lane) steadily pulled away from Pedregon (far lane) as the Snap-On driver had the tires break loose before the 660' mark, slowing to a 4.808 - 170.58 clocking, while Wilkerson powered to the finish line with the third quickest clocking of the round at 3.922 - 325.30 for the win. Wilkerson became the second bottom-half qualifier to advance after Campbell's earl iershocker over Hight.

Bob Tasca III --- Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs J.R. Todd 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Wanting to finish the season on a high note, Bob Tasca III looked to put the Motorcraft Mustang into the winners circle for the third time in 2021 and improve on his previous best of a #5 finish in the points standings. He qualified decently in the #9 spot, but lane choice was in the hands of his opponent, the #8 qualifier, J.R. Todd.

(RIGHT) Leaving first by a smidgen, Tasca (near lane) was closely pursued by Todd (far lane) for a few hundred feet before giving up the chase past the 660' lights, and lifting to a 4.095 - 251.67 clocking, while Tasca put down a solid 3.955 - 321.65 to advance to the second round with lane choice over Jim "Lucky Man" Campbell.


Deric Kramer --- Deric Kramer (near lane) vs Kenny Delco 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Getting the tires hot first was Deric Kramer in the "Get Bio-Fuel" Camaro. With only two round wins since Indy, Kramer was looking to do better at Pomona, but starting from the #8 position, meaning that he would almost certainly face the #1 qualifier in the second round, looked to be a daunting task.

(RIGHT) As can clearly be seen in the photo, Kramer (near lane) left on opponent Kenny Delco (by half a tenth), then outran him to the finish line with a solid 6.596 - 208.52 to hold off Delco's almost as quick 6.619 - 209.30 effort.

Aaron Stanfield --- Aaron Stanfield (near lane) vs Cristian Cuadra 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Young Aaron Stanfield, in only his second full season in Pro Stock, entered the Countdown to the Championship in the third position, but some inconsistent results had dropped him out of contention and pushed him down to #6 coming into the final race of the season. He qualifed decently in the #7 position, but was matched up with the #10 qualifier and only outqualified him by two hundredths.

(RIGHT) In the far lane, Cristian Cuadra in the bright orange Corral Boots entry, cut a very sharp .015 light that gave him a slight lead over Stanfield (near lane). Cuadra's lead didn't last past the Christmas tree as he encountered serious tire shake, forcing him to lift and coast to a 13-second clocking. Meanwhile, Stanfield made his best pass of the weekend with a strong 6.588 - 208.33 to advance to the second round.

Mason McGaha --- Mason McGaha (near lane) vs Chris McGaha 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Even newer than Stanfield to Pro Stock competition, second generation driver Mason McGaha overtook his father Chris in the standings, and was hoping for a strong finish to his season. He burned out here before facing his father in an all-McGaha match in the first round, holding lane choice with his #6 qualifying spot, versus Chris' #11 position.

(RIGHT) The "old man" Chris McGaha (far lane) left first on his son, but the lead was short lived as he quickly became a victim of tire shake, slowing to a 16-second pass. Improving on his qualifying effort was young Mason, as he put down the quickest e.t. of the round to this point, ringing up a 6.586 - 208.39 on the fairgrounds scoreboard.

Erica Enders --- Erica Enders (near lane) vs Steve Graham 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Knowing that she faced a very tall mountain to climb, Eric Enders burned out in the "Melling Performance" Camaro, before her first round race. Coming into eliminations sitting 47 points behind Greg Anderson, she had to keep turning on winlights to stay in contention. If she could advance to the semifinal round, where if all the cards played as expected, she would be facing Anderson, BUT would have to not only beat him, but win the final round too. Tall task indeed!

(RIGHT) Knowing that he nothing to lose as he was at a performance disadvantage, Steve Graham, rolled the dice on the starting line and came up bust, as his -.001 redlight automatically eliminated him. Enders didn't spare the horses as she pounded out a very quick 6.576 - 209.10 to give her a good chance at lane choice in the second round.

Matt Hartford --- Matt Hartford (near lane) vs Bob Butner 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Facing Enders in the next round would be the winner of this next race. Burning out first in the "Total Seal" car, Matt Hartford hoped to finish the season on a strong note, as he had slipped from the #6 spot at the start of the countdown to the #9 position coming into this race. Qualifying in the #4 position put him in a good position going into eliminations.

(RIGHT) Leaving first by a smidgen, Hartford (near lane) left Bob Butner (far lane) quickly behind as tire shake claimed another victim. Hartford exactly matched his qualifying e.t. with a 6.587 - 209.59 timeslip. In the far lane, Butner limped across the stripe at 22.094 - 37.60 to close out his weekend.

Kyle Koretsky --- Kyle Koretsky (near lane) vs Troy Coughlin Jr. 
(far lane)

(LEFT) After scoring his first national even win in Charlotte, young Kyle Koretsky had only notched a first round win in St. Louis, then dropped to consecutive first round losses, eliminating him from the points chase before arriving in Pomona. He rebounded here though with a #2 qualifying pass to earn a decided advantage over his first round opponent.

(RIGHT) Barely visible in the far lane, in a similarly-hued pink car, Troy Coughlin Jr. had been going in the opposite direction to Koretsky, notching back-to-back semifinal finishes at the two previous races, but a #14 qualifying position put him in deep trouble going into the first round. He left almost together with Korestky, but couldn't keep pace going down track and crossed the finish line second with a 6.603 - 207.91, trailing Koretsky's winning - and low e.t. of the round to this point - 6.566 - 208.71 pass.

Greg Anderson --- Greg Anderson (near lane) vs John Callahan 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Going into eliminations with a 47-point lead over closest challenger Erica Enders, all Greg Anderson had to do was keep turning on the winlight, or see Enders fall before meeting him in the semifinal round. The championship was by no means wrapped up, but Anderson was sitting in the driver's seat, literally and figuratively.

(RIGHT) Looking like he was laying a gigantic holeshot on Anderson, John Callahan (far lane) was instead turning on a blatant redlight with an -.232 reaction time against Anderson's safe .071 launch. Callahan shut off early, seeing the winlight glowing in Anderson's lane, and slowed to an 11-second time. Anderson didn't take it easy as he cranked out a new low e.t. of the meet at 6.549 - 208.68 to serve notice that he wasn't taking any prisoners in his quest for a fifth world championship.

Dallas Glenn --- Dallas Glenn (near lane) vs Alan Prusiensky 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Closing out the round was the odds-on consensus for Rookie of The Year, Dallas Glenn. Taking his third win of the season at the previous event of the season in Las Vegas, Glenn was still mathematically in the points until Anderson's first round win eliminated him, but only needed a first round win to clinch third place in the standings. He was in a strong position, qualifying #3 and holding at least a tenth of a second advantage over his opponent.

(RIGHT) That opponent, Alan Prusiensky (far lane) did leave first, but left a redlight on the tree, cutting it just a little too close with an -.020 reaction time, while Glenn was solid on the lights with an .018 leave. Glenn improved slightly on his qualifying time with a very good 6.572 - 207.85 to earn lane choice over Mason McGaha in the second round, while Prusiensky clocked his best of the weekend with a 6.628 - 207.37 losing effort.


Scotty Pollacheck (near lane) vs Andrew HInes 
(far lane) --- Angie Smith (near lane) vs Angelle Sampey 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Pro Stock bike opened eliminations with two middle of the pack runners, the #6 qualifying Scotty Pollacheck (near lane) matching up against the #7 qualifier Andrew Hines (far lane). They left nearly together but Hines slowed near the top end and was off the throttle early to a 7.014 - 173.52, while Pollacheck ran strongly to a 6.857 - 197.80 time as he advanced to the second round.

(RIGHT) With only 12 bikes in the field, Angelle Sampey (far lane) met up with #8 qualifier Angie Smith in the opening stanza. While Smith was well out of contention, Sampey only trailed points leader Matt Smith by 41-points and had to advance to keep her title hopes alive. It was all over before Sampey left the line as Smith redlighted (-.028), handing her the automatic win. Smith ran it through to a 6.927 - 193.74, while Sampey powered to a great 6.812 - 183.22, despite shutting off a little early.

Steve Johnson (near lane) vs Freddy Camerena 
(far lane) --- Eddie Krawiec (near lane) vs Chris Bostick 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Another championship contender, Steve Johnson (near lane), sitting just 45-points behind the leader Smith, came into the first round from the #4 qualifying position and easily dispatched Freddie Camarena (far lane) with an excellent 6.801 - 197.86 to easily cover Camarena's leaving first (.038 to .074), finishing second 6.969 - 195.39 pass.

(RIGHT) With nothing at stake other than a possible event win, former champion (last time in 2012) Eddie Krawiec (near lane) qualified well in the #3 spot, and took an easy win Chris Bostick (far lane) redlighted. Bostick keep on the gas to the finish, clocking a 6.915 - 196.44, while Krawiec notched a much better 6.843 - 199.64 to move into the next round.

Matt Smith (near lane) vs Ryan Oehler 
(far lane) --- Karen Stoffer (near lane) vs Kelly Clontz 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Needing to keep winning rounds, or see his pursuers fall early, Matt Smith (near lane) held a big advantage going into eliminations. Holding top speed of the meet along with his #2 qualifying 6.778 - 201.25 effort, nearly matched the e.t., and exceeded the mph with a tremendous 6.779 - 201.85 pass to obliterate Ryan Oehler's (far lane) distant 7.030 - 94.07. Smith's win gave him the matchup he wanted in the second round, facing Angelle Sampey, and only needing to defeat her to take his fifth World Championship.

(RIGHT) The final race of the round featured two female competitors, with low qualifier Karen Stoffer (near lane) facing Kelly Clontz (far lane). Everything went in Stoffer's favour, as she left first, ran low e.t. of the meet (6.741) at 200.26 mph for a statement win. Clontz ran out of power early and coasted to a 9-second loss to finish her season. Stoffer advanced with lane choice and a very good chance to earn her third consecutive final round berth and possibly, her second win of the season.


James Stevens (near lane) vs Jackie Fricke 
(far lane) --- Julie Nataas (near lane) vs Mitch Myers 
(far lane)

(LEFT) In the far lane, Jackie Fricke (far lane) picked up the pace from her first round effort, dipping back into the 5-teens with a very strong 5.190 - 278.92 to put the blown alcohol car of James Stevens (near lane) in the trailer. Stevens gave it a good try with a solid 5.298 - 271.95 but was well back of Fricke at the finish line.

(RIGHT There was just one Meyer Racing car in attendance as Rachel Meyer had already maxed out her points earning capability, and clinched the 2021 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series with her win in the final round at the previous event in Las Vegas. Her team-mate, Julie Nataas (near lane), was set up to face the second place finisher in the standings, Jackie Fricke, by qualifying on the same side of the ladder. She had to advance to the semifinals to do so, and did it easily over Mitch Myers (far lane), as he went into instant tire shake, and shut off to an 8-second pass. Despite slowing more than a tenth from her first round 5.175, Nataas lit up the scoreboard with a 5.295 - 273.32 for the win.

Shawn Cowie --- Jasmine Salinas (near lane) vs Shawn Cowie 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Coming into the round with lane choice and consistent low 5.20's on his scorecard, Shawn Cowie burned out as he prepared to face another injected nitro car as his side of the ladder had only one other blown car, that of Chris Demke, who was eliminated in the first round.

(RIGHT Leaving first on the green was Jasmine Salinas in the near lane, and she took the win with a slightly off-pace 5.388 - 268.44 as Cowie saw his season end in a blaze of tire smoke as he coasted to a losing 18-second pass. That was it for the blown alky cars as the three that qualified were all gone before the second round ended.

Casey Grisel --- Casey Grisel (near lane) vs Rich McPhillips Jr. 
(far lane)

A solid burnout by Casey Grisel in the Jerry Darien-tuned car preceded his matchup with another green car. By the way, whatever happened to the "green cars are bad luck" mantra of the old days? Grisel qualified decently with a 5.30, but slowed to a 5.36 in the first round, and slowed even further to a 5.484 - 263.56 in a losing effor in this round. Casey left first on opponent Rich McPhillips Jr. (near lane) by nearly a tenth, but even a career best wouldn't have been close to McPhillips' nuclear pass of 5.101 - 282.42.

To put those numbers in perspective, Grisel's career best was a 5.247, turned in 2019, while McPhillips' previous best was a low 5-teen from earlier this season, and the best the car had run this year was a 5.123 with Matt Cummings at the wheel. In the "modern" era of A/Fuel Dragster racing (running on 95% nitro), there's only been two runs quicker than McPhillips' 5.101, both clocked last September at the U.S. Nationals by Megan Meyer, a 5.090, backed up by a 5.097 for the quickest runs in A/FD history.


Terry Ruckman --- Terry Ruckman (near lane) vs Shane Westerfield 
(far lane)

Following a strong burnout, Terry Ruckman prepared to face Shane Westerfield in the Rick Jackson Motorsports entry. The two cars qualfied close together, with Westerfield #3 and Ruckman #4, with Westerfield's 5.498 edging out Ruckman's 5.506 on the final qualifying sheet. In this match, Ruckman left first by .011, but it was Westerfield (far lane) first to the finish line with a very good 5.531 - 268.06, to take a half car length victory over Ruckman's solid 5.654 - 261.47 in a losing cause.

Doug Gordon --- Doug Gordon (near lane) vs Ulf Leanders 
(far lane)

Outgoing class champion Doug Gordon burned out first as he prepared to meet Sweden's Ulf Leanders (far lane), who was making his first national event appearance since the 2020 Winternationals. Despite matching his qualifying numbers (5.493 - 267.48) in the first round with a 5.493 - 267.16, Gordon barely earned lane choice honours for this match as Leanders showed no rust on his tuning and driving skills with an almost-as-good 5.509 - 263.87 first round win. In this race, Leanders launched first by half a tenth, but his slightly off-pace 5.674 - 263.62 was no match for Gordon's back-breaking and consistent 5.494 - 267.96 as he advanced to the semifinals.

Doug Gordon's crew celebrating

With another winlight glowing on the scoreboard, the Doug Gordon - BETA Motorcycles crew prepared to head back to the pits to get ready for the next round.

Brian Hough --- Brian Hough (near lane) vs Sean Bellemeur 
(far lane)

With his championship hopes long gone, Oregon's Brian Hough (left photo) has been in "testing" mode for the past few races, with tuning consultant, and former two-time national champion Jonnie Lindberg, trying out some new ideas in preparation for an all-out assault in 2022. However, his more immediate task was figuring out how to get past the incoming (and former) champion Sean Bellemeur (far lane in the right photo) and his all-conquering team of "Killer B's".

Hough did all he could with a stellar light (.014), and his best run of the weekend, an excellent 5.511 - 267.69, but it wasn't even close at the finish line against Bellemeur's almost as quick launch (.022 light), and low e.t. of the meet at 5.442 - 268.71 to advance to the final round. With the short 12-car field, Bellemeur earned the semifinal bye by virtue of his #1 qualifying position.


Billy Torrence --- Billy Torrence (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane)

With the championship decided in the first round, the focus switched to the event win, and with the CAPCO Teammates on opposite sides of the ladder, the possibility of an all-CAPCO final was looming. However, Billy Torrence (burning out in left photo) had to get past Antron Brown (far lane in right photo). Torrence was a tad late off the line, .090 to .056 reaction, but clocked the quicker e.t. at 3.730 - 328.46 to give Brown a real battle. But it wasn't enough, as Brown's very good 3.747 - 327.35 turned on the winlight by just seventeen thousandths of a second.

Steve Torrence --- Steve Torrence (near lane) vs Doug Kalitta 
(far lane)

The other CAPCO car, driven by now four-time world champion Steve Torrence, (left photo) faced Doug Kalitta, (far lane in right photo), without lane choice. That advantage literally went up in smoke as Kalitta smoked the tires early and shut off to a losing 5.456 - 121.55 pass. Torrence had his own problems as he lost traction further down track, and coasted across the finish line with a 4.253 - 200.89 for the win.

Cameron Ferre --- Cameron Ferre (near lane) vs Clay Millican 
(far lane)

The biggest surprise of qualifying, and the first round, was Cameron Ferre (left photo) in the Canadian-based Paton Family car. He ran two career bests in qualifying, and upped the ante even further in the first round, but he came into this match against veteran Clay Millican (far lane in right photo) as an underdog. The drivers left the line almost together but the race was over quickly as Millican smoked the tires, and Ferre cruised to a slowing 3.889 - 304.19 win as he advanced to the semifinals.

The icing on the proverbial cake was earning lane choice over Steve Torrence. Regular NHRA fans may well remember a confrontation they had at the finals in Pomona two years ago. It got heated to the point where Torrence shoved/punched Ferre and the two had to be separated by their crewmen, and a large ($25,000) fine was issued to Torrence by the NHRA. I seriously doubt that their next meeting on the return road after their upcoming semifinal race will devolve into a similar incident.

Cameron Ferre crew celebrating --- Mike Salinas (near lane) vs Tripp Tatum 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Heading down the return road, the Paton Racing crew was in a celebratory mood as they went down to pick up their winning driver, Cameron Ferre in the vintage "EMPI" pickup van.

(RIGHT) The final pairing of the second round brought the two black cars to the line, with Mike Salinas in the near lane, and Tripp Tatum in the far lane. Tatum got off the line first by a small margin, but things went sideways, literally, soon after. Both cars smoked the tires, but Salinas ran into far more trouble than Tatum as can be seen in the following photo sequence, courtesy of NHRA.tv and the Sunoco Vision big screen at the track. For the record, Tatum took the win with a coasting 5.980 - 188.31, while Salinas didn't receive a timeslip, for obvious reasons.

Mike Salinas's wild ride --- Mike Salinas's wild ride --- Mike Salinas's wild ride

Unfortunately, none of these pictures are in sharp focus, but they do tell the tale of one of the wildest rides seen in a Top Fuel car in a very long time. While Mike Salinas has driven into - and thankfully out of - trouble more than once in his career, this episode certainly tops the list.


Bob Tasca III --- Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs Jim Campbell 
(far lane)

Despite being eliminated from championship contention when Ron Capps won his first round match, Bob Tasca III (left photo) forged ahead towards the event win by dispatching Jim Campbell (far lane in right photo) in the MOON Equipment car of Jim Dunn. Tasca and Campbell left the line together but Campbell was forced to lift early enroute to a 4.792 - 184.30 clocking that was no match for Tasca's best of the weekend 3.946 - 323.50 pass.

John Force --- John Force (near lane) vs Paul Lee 
(far lane)

Another racer that dropped out of the countdown chase at the close of qualifying, John Force (left photo), moved ahead with a convincing win over Paul Lee (far lane in right photo), who fell off his from his earlier passes. Force left second by two hundredths but kept the slicks hooked up to a decent 4.038 - 313.37 time to easily cover Lee's tire-smoking 6-second effort. With the 4.038 elapsed time, Force gave up lane choice to Bob Tasca III in the semifinal round.

Matt Hagan --- Matt Hagan (near lane) vs Ron Capps 
(far lane)

Next up was the BIG one: defending champion Matt Hagan (left photo) versus the points leader Ron Capps (far lane in the right photo). A win for Hagan would keep him in the hunt for the BIG trophy, but a loss to Capps would hand the NAPA driver his second world championship. Capps left first (.043 to .074), but Hagan had the superior car as his 3.948 - 322.24 took the win - by less than half a car length - over Capps' very close 3.995 - 319.45 effort. Now all Hagan had to do was turn on the winlight two more times to take his fourth world championship.

Alexis DeJoria --- Alexis DeJoria (near lane) vs Tim Wilkerson 
(far lane)

The round closed with Alexis DeJoria (left photo) facing off against Tim Wilkerson (far lane in right photo), in a race to determine Matt Hagan's semifinal round opponent. Wilkerson left first by a touch, but DeJoria powered on to another 3-second pass, stopping the clocks with a 3.988 - 318.92 to hold off Wilkerson's fading 4.268 - 227.42 timeslip. Unfortunately, DeJoria's e.t. wasn't enough to gain her choice of lanes in the all-important third round matchup.

Alexis DeJoria crew watching her stage

While the Alexis DeJoria - ROKIT crew watch her stage up against Tim Wilkerson, there's an unidentified member of the media contingent, with a photographer vest no less, shooting the action with his cellphone. Hmm....


Julie Nataas (near lane) vs Jackie Fricke 
(far lane)

Even with a tenth of a second e.t. disadvantage, based on the previous round's results, Julie Nataas (near lane), improved a little to a 5.283 - 274.78 to end Jackie Fricke's (far lane) season. Fricke slowed by more than a tenth with a losing 5.315 - 276.01 pass to fall half a car length short at the finish line as Nataas earned her third final round berth of the season.

Jasmine Salinas --- Jasmine Salinas (near lane) vs Rich McPhillips Jr. 
(far lane)

Burning out with the least amount of tire smoke as possible seems to be the norm for the A/Fuel cars, as Jasmine Salinas (left photo) gets ready to face the McPhillips family juggernaut. Salinas rebounded from a somewhat sub-par second round 5.388 to a much better 5.275 - 280.31, while Rich McPhillips Jr. slowed from his other-worldly 5.101 in the previous round, but still stayed in the 5-teens, with a winning 5.172 - 274.33 timeslip. Even though both cars are tuned by Rich McPhillips (Sr.), there's no "team orders" and it's always an honest heads-up race when they meet.


Shane Westerfield --- Doug Gordon

Prepping the tires for their semi-final round match, Shane Westerfield (left photo) and Doug Gordon (right photo) readied their mounts for the battle to come.

Doug Gordon (near lane) vs Shane Westerfield 
(far lane) --- Greg Bellemeur

(LEFT) Seeing who would get a chance to play giant killer, Doug Gordon (near lane) met Shane Westerfield (far lane) in what promised to be a good race. It certainly was as Westerfield left quickly with a great .031 light, then ran hard to the finish line with an excellent 5.516 - 267.22 that should have or could have been the winning numbers... but it wasn't. Gordon left quicker with an .010 light (in an alky Funny Car? are you kidding?) and lit up the scoreboard with another 5-forty, this time a 5.495 - 267.11 to show how consistent they can be on a good track.

(RIGHT With no one in the other lane to block their path to the final round, the "Killer B's decided to test the track to see what it could hold. Driver Sean Bellemeur quickly found out they'd gone a little (or a lot?) "over center" as the car went into instant tire shake, forcing him to shut off and coast to a 9-second pass and a ticket to the final round.


Cameron Ferre --- Steve Torrence

(LEFT) Coming into the round on the biggest roll of his career, Cameron Ferre had some real confidence in the car underneath him on the strength of a string of 3.70-3.80 passes, and even had lane choice over the four-time world champion.

(RIGHT With the pressure of defending his championship long passed, Steve Torrence was free to concentrate on winning the event to cap a very successful season. Even though he'd run into some trouble in the previous round, and had lost lane choice, he knew that he had the most consistent winning combination in the class to back him up.

Cameron Ferre (near lane) vs Steve Torrence 
(far lane)

In the near lane, Cameron Ferre left first by 12 thousandths, but it didn't last long as Steve Torrence (far lane) pulled into a solid lead before the 330' mark. He continued to build on that until just past half track, when the engine went south and he was forced to coast across the finish line at 3.813 - 283.07, just six thousandths ahead of a rapidly closing challenger, as Ferre fell short with his 3.831 - 313.37. It was nearly a photo finish and was oh-so-close to putting Ferre in the final round instead of Torrence.

Antron Brown --- Tripp Tatum

Not quite side-by-side burnouts, but Antron Brown (left photo) and Tripp Tatum (right photo) lit up the tires before they decided who would be Torrence's final round opponent. While Brown had 125 previous final round appearances (mostly in Top Fuel), Tatum had never gone this far in Top Fuel eliminations before.

Tripp Tatum (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane)

With a less than one hundredth lead on reaction times, Antron Brown (far lane) saw his lead evaporate quickly as Tripp Tatum (near lane) outran him at all the early interval points. At the 660' mark, Tatum was still nearly two hundredths in front, but his engine started giving up at that point and he faded to a decent, but losing, 3.915 - 246.57 while Brown powered on to the win at 3.794 - 324.98 to go into the final with lane choice. Both semifinal races were close but there wasn't going to be a cinderella-style finish to the day in Top Fuel.


Alexis DeJoria --- Matt Hagan

In sharp contrast to Top Fuel, the drama level in the Funny Car semifinal was the highest of the season as Matt Hagan (right photo) had to win the event to snatch the championship out of Ron Capps hands. With Capps already eliminated (in the previous round), all he could do is hope that Alexis DeJoria (left photo) could stop Hagan.

Matt Hagan (near lane) vs Alexis DeJoria 
(far lane)

Launching first by an (.054 to .081) margin, Matt Hagan (near lane) did his best to win but couldn't pull away from Alexis DeJoria (far lane) and could only get close as she tripped the winlight by a miniscule margin of eight thousandths of a second. The verdict: Hagan 3.975 - 317.79 for the loss, while DeJoria took the win with her 3.940 - 321.04 effort.

Ron Capps on the SunocoVision screen --- Rhonda McCole watching Capps on the big screen

(LEFT) Immediately after the race between DeJoria and Hagan, newly crowned Funny Car World Champion Ron Capps was interviewed on the SunocoVision big screen.

(RIGHT) Watching the interview on the big screen with tears starting to form in her eyes, was one of the Auto Imagery photographers, Rhonda McCole.

Bob Tasca III --- John Force

The other semifinal featured two of the Top Five cars in the class, as Bob Tasca III (left photo) prepared to meet John Force for the 35th time in eliminations. While both drivers were already eliminated from championship contention, they were still battling for the #3 spot in the final points standings.

Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs John Force 
(far lane)

Think the first pair of the semis put on a close race? It just got better in the second, as John Force (far lane) left first by nearly three hundredths, and held that lead until the 660' mark. Then Bob Tasca III (near lane) edged in front and held it to the finish line, stopping the timers first with a 3.950 - 322.58 to take the win by just four thousandths over Force's valiant try of 3.982 - 323.58. A great way to wrap up a great round of racing.


Kyle Koretsky --- Kyle Koretsky (near lane) vs Dallas Glenn 
(far lane)

With both racers in the first pairing locked into the #3 and #4 positions in the final points standings, the only unknown for Kyle Koretsky (left photo) and Dallas Glenn (far lane in right photo) would be who would advance to the final round. As he's done so often in a brilliant rookie season, Glenn had the quicker reaction time, an .027 light - his slowest of eliminations, after an other-worldly .001 and merely great .017 in previous rounds.

Koretsky wasn't far behind with an .043 light, but took the lead very quickly as Glenn ran into major tire shake and shut off to a 20-second clocking. Koretsky lit up the scoreboard with a 6.601 - 208.71 to move into the final round against what promised to be a very tough opponent, no matter who won in the next pairing.

Greg Anderson --- Greg Anderson (near lane) vs Erica Enders 
(far lane)

Burning out before his most important round of racing in 2021, Greg Anderson (left photo), prepared to meet arch-rival Erica Enders (far lane in right photo) in the race that could decide the World Championship. If Anderson won, then the championship would be his. If Enders won, then she would have to defeat Kyle Koretsky in the final round to take the title. Even higher drama than the Funny Car semifinal as this would be a head-to-head match between the two championship contenders.

Enders left first - by a bunch in Pro Stock terms - and gave herself an immediate .041 lead on the launch. But she shook the tires early, pedaled and couldn't recover enough to catch Anderson's winning 6.578 - 208.23 pass, as he stayed in the 6.50's all weekend. Enders' final numbers were 6.742 - 206.92 in a losing cause.

Greg Anderson & Erica Enders crew at starting 

With Greg Anderson's crew celebrating their World Cahmpionship while FOX Sports and National Dragster photographers swarmed around them, the losing team of Erica Enders was caught up in the mob scene at the starting line.


John Richardson (near lane) vs Parker Theobald 
(far lane) --- John Richardson

(LEFT) Moving to the Top Dragster class, we've got John Richardson (near lane) taking on Parker Theobald (far lane) in their semifinal match.

(RIGHT) Richardson left just two thousandths of a second before the green, and coasted to an 8-second loss, while Theobald took the easy win with a safe 7.480 - 181.13 clocking.

Summer Richardson (near lane) vs Jennifer Wiens 
(far lane)

In the other pairing of the semis, Jennifer Wiens (far lane) took a slight lead on the starting line and held on for the win over Summer Richardson (near lane) in a double breakout race. Wiens broke out by two hundredths less, making her 6.190 - 220.94 a winning time over Richardson's 6.430 - 211.39 effort.


Ryan Priddy --- Ryan Priddy (near lane) vs Florentino Martin 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Burning out in the familiar (remember the Pro Stock car they used to run?) "Mountain View Tire" colours, Ryan Priddy prepared to meet his semifinal round opponent in Top Sportsman eliminations.

(RIGHT) Facing him would be Florentino Martin (far lane) and after nearly identical reaction times, Priddy took the win by virtue of a smaller breakout (.003) to Martin's (.011) infraction. Priddy's winning time was a quick 6.617 - 209.33 while Martin's losing times were quicker and faster at 6.409 - 224.62.

Jeff Gillette (near lane) vs Jimmy Lewis 
(far lane)

The other semifinal match saw veteran Jeff Gillette (near lane) take an even closer race as he ran dead-on his 6.95 dial-in with a 6.950 -199.61 for the win. Despite reacting almost as quickly as Gillette (.031 to .030), Jimmy Leeds (far lane) couldn't quite hit his dial with a very close, but losing, 6.410 - 206.48 effort.


Angelo DeCarlo - SS/HA

Coming from the #1 qualifying spot in the 57-car field with a great 9.621 e.t. in his '66 Corvette split-window, Angelo DeCarlo, went all the way to the final round before dropping a close decision to event winner Jimmy DeFrank. He's shown here wheelstanding his way to a win in the semifinal round with another 9.60 pass.


Scott McClay - C/ED

We've even got a Comp(licated) Eliminator photo, that of Scott McClay as he launches his C/ED enroute to a loss in the final round of Comp. His opponent Ryan Warter in his H/A (not shown) ran -.481 under the index to defeat McClay's -.441 run, started with a sterling .006 light. The margin at the finish line was less than two hundredths of a second.


Doug Gordon --- Doug Gordon (near lane) vs Sean Bellemeur 
(far lane)

How could the final round of alky funny car not feature the two dominant players in the class? We've got Doug Gordon (left photo and near lane in right photo) and Sean Bellemeur (far lane in the right photo) going for the gold in a classic matchup. Coming into the final, they'd both been stuck in the 5.40's, with the exception of Bellemeur's tire shaking moonshot attempt on his semifinal bye run.

The race started as it almost always does with Bellemeur launching first (.023 to .043) and fractionally increasing the margin all the way to the finish line. The winlight came on in Bellemeur's lane with an excellent 5.465 - 266.32 as he crossed the stripe less than a car length ahead of Gordon's very close 5.483 - 268.33 time for his sixth national event win of his championship winning season. A tremendous finish to a season of great racing between the two best Top Alcohol Funny Car racers and crews in the business.

Doug Gordon & Sean Bellemeur crews

It's the Doug Gordon (in red) & Sean Bellemeur (in black) crews walking away from the starting line after the final round.


Julie Nataas (near lane) vs Rich McPhillips Jr. 
(far lane)

There was just one more race before the PRO finalists came out and it featured the quickest and fastest (Pro) Sportsman class, the Top Alcohol Dragsters. This season, more than any in memory has seen the A/Fuel Dragsters take over and dominate the category. True to form, the two quickest injected nitro cars met in the final. Note that of the 17 entries in the field, just four were burning methanol (alcohol), only three of them qualified, and only two made it to the second round of eliminations.

After an earth-shaking 5.101 pass in the second round, Rich McPhillips Jr. (far lane) had to be the heavy favourite against the Randy Meyer Racing team car of Julie Nataas (near lane). Ms. Nataas qualified #3 in the show with a very good 5.195, then improved to a 5.175 in her first round win before dropping into the high 5.20's in the next two rounds. On the other side of the track, McPhillips had qualified on top with a 5.155, then stayed in the 5-teens throughout eliminations, with only one run not in the teens going into the final.

When the ambers flashed, Nataas left first by .021 and held the lead until McPhillips passed her at half track, running only one mph faster, but leading by .005 second. It stayed close all the way to the 1320, where McPhillips tripped the timers first with his 5.138 - 278.81 taking the win over Nataas' very close 5.173 - 276.58. The gap at the finish line was barely a quarter car length between the two hard running cars.


Karen Stoffer (near lane) vs Matt Smith 
(far lane) --- Pro Stock Motorcycle scoreboards

(LEFT) Down to the final four races of the season, the Pro Stock Motorcycles came out first, with Matt Smith (far lane), already crowned the season champion for the fourth time, not holding lane choice over opponent Karen Stoffer (near lane). Stoffer qualified #1 with a 6.751 and had been locked into the 6.70's throughout eliminations to be the definite favourite in the final. However, as can be seen clearly in the photo, Smith launched first by a large (.011 to .101) margin and had the power to hold on for the holeshot win by a 6.817 - 200.74 to 6.766 - 198.47 margin. The win was Smith's sixth of the 2021 season, and 32nd of his career.

(RIGHT) Here's the verdict displayed on the finish line scoreboards, with Matt Smith's winning time on the left and Karen Stoffer's losing numbers on the right.


Greg Anderson --- Kyle Koretsky

(LEFT) With the season championship already in hand and the BIG trophy in the trailer, Greg Anderson looked to finish the race with another event win and move one step closer to his goal of 100 NHRA national event wins. He held a strong hand going into the final, having qualified #1, holding low e.t. and top speed of the meet, and running the quickest e.t. of every elimination round.

(RIGHT) Facing Anderson was young Kyle "Kid Chaos" Koretsky who had the second strongest car all weekend, qualifying #2 and staying in the 6.50 zone for the most part, but knowing that he faced a formidable task in getting past Anderson in the final. His only advantage was in reaction times as in previous three rounds he'd averaged an .025 light compared to Anderson's .062 average.

Greg Anderson (near lane) vs Kyle Koretsky 
(far lane)

Turning the tables on the reaction times, Anderson (near lane) left first (.027 to .047), and held on for the holeshot win over Koretsky (far lane). Korestky put down his second quickest run and best speed of the weekend at 6.567 - 209.56 but fell just a few feet short of Anderson's winning 5.574 - 208.23 at the finish line. A great way to wrap up the season for both racers and expect to see more of the same from both of them in 2022.


Bob Tasca III --- Alexis DeJoria

(LEFT) Coming into the final round with momentum on his side, and third place in the final points standings wrapped up, Bob Tasca III burned out before his fifth final round of the year, and hoping to notch his third victory to finish the season on a high note.

(RIGHT) After a string of sub 4-second runs (well, five out of six anyway), Alexis DeJoria came into the final round with lane choice and a chance to notch her second victory of the year.

Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs Alexis DeJoria 
(far lane) Bob Tasca crew celebrating his victory

(LEFT) When the ambers flashed, it was Tasca away first, by just .025 seconds and he increased the margin at every incremental point downtrack until tripping the winlight with a 3.955 - 321.65 to take a slightly more than a car-length victory over the hard-charging 3.974 - 322.58 runnerup effort of DeJoria. Another great final round in the books and a more than fitting way to end a season of very competitive Fuel Coupe racing.

(RIGHT) Here's the Bob Tasca - MotorCraft crew celebrating a well-deserved victory as he wrapped up his most successful season to date with a third place finish in the points standings.


Steve Torrence --- Antron Brown

(LEFT) The new four-time Top Fuel World Champion, Steve Torrence had dodged some serious roadblocks, and received a couple of lucky breaks enroute to his fourteenth final round of the season. After a suprisingly close first round win over Brandon Welch, he won a pedaling contest over Doug Kalitta, then eked out an ever-so-close .006 victory over Cameron Ferre in the semifinals to gain entry to the final.

(RIGHT) Coming into his second final of the season and holding lane choice, Antron Brown was feeling confident, rebounding from five first round losses in the previous six races to reach the final here in Pomona. Qualifying solidly in the #5 position, he put down a string of 3.70's in eliminations coming into this round.

Steve Torrence (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane) --- Steve Torrence - CAPCO Contractors crew 

(LEFT) And then there was one.... final round that is before the season wrapped up. With the sun sinking low in the L.A. county sky, the two finalists moved into the staging beams and prepared to make their final runs of 2021. Steve Torrence (near lane) had the championship won by the end of the first round, but he wanted to go out on a high note, with an event win too. In the far lane, Antron Brown was looking for his second win of the season as he made the transition in team ownership for next season. Brown left first by a small margin and held the slim lead until half track before falling back and losing by half a car length. Brown put up a great fight with a very good 3.803 - 312.21 as the engine faded just before the finish line, while Torrence kept the pipes lit a little longer with a 3.759 - 317.12 to trip the timers first.

(RIGHT) With nothing left to do but celebrate both a fourth consecutive World Championship and yet another event victory, the Steve Torrence - CAPCO Contractors crew was able to bask in the all-encompassing glow of another brilliant season for one of the most dominating teams in Top Fuel history.

And that was it for the NHRA Camping World drag racing season. Bring on 2022!