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57th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals

NOTE: Click on the thumbnails to display the full-size images


Auto Club NHRA Finals - Top Alcohol Qualifying

Thursday was devoted to the Sportsman and Pro Sportsman racers, with the Top Alcohol classes taking center stage. Conditions were very good for the racers, with corrected altitudes dipping below 1500 ft and air temps in the mid to low 60's (F), almost perfect for the blown and unblown cars. Both the Funny Cars and Dragsters ran well, with the TAD bump spot sitting at 5.384 going into today's final qualifying session. Leading the way was second-year (and third generation) driver, Madison Payne with career best numbers of 5.177 - 281.19. She's been on a hot streak of late, with her first national event win at the Nevada Nationals two weeks ago, following her first career final round at the Texas FallNationals last month.

In the championship battle, leader Joey Severance had a tough start to his weekend, with his first qualifying pass leaving him on the bubble with a pedalling 5.585 - 271.08 timeslip. His second effort was much better until the 1000' mark when he shut off to a 5.376 - 216.20, leaving him in a precarious #15 position going into the final qualifying session today. His pursurers, Matt Cummings and Jasmine Salinas fared better, with Cummings sitting #3 with a 5.201 - 276.41, and Salinas in the #6 spot with a 5.251 - 278.63 pass. Interestingly, both cars are tuned by the McPhillips family, and Cummings' car is owned by Rich Sr. It must be quite a balancing act being fair to both drivers and trying to see both succeed.

Madison Payne

Leaving with the front tires skimming the surface, young Madison Payne in the Duane Shields-owned, Dana Hopewell-tuned "Muscle Milk" entry cranks out a very good 5.275 - 278.35 to take the #4 position in the first qualifying session. Her second run was even better, with a low qualifying 5.177 - 281.19 showing up on the Pomona scoreboards.

On the Funny Car side, points leader Doug Gordon stamped his mark on the field with a low qualifying effort of 5.430 - 270.70 in the first session, then improved his e.t. to a 5.423 in the second session to hold on to the top spot. There's only 14 cars in the field, but they are all quality teams, capable of running 5.50's, 5.40's, and under the right conditions, 5.30's. Challenging Gordon for the season championship is Shane Westerfield, and he rebounded nicely in the second round of qualifying, after a so-so 5.548 e.t. in the first session. His second pass resulted in a #3 qualifying 5.454 - 267.85, placing him in a good spot going into the final qualifier today.

The championship battle could be over early IF Doug Gordon can hang on to the #1 qualifying spot going into eliminations. With the odd-sized field, if he can get past the #14 qualifier in the opening round of eliminations, he would earn the automatic bye into the semifinal round. If that happens, Westerfield would need to win the event, AND Gordon would have to lose in the semifinals, or earlier. It will be interesting to see how all that plays out, with today's final qualifying session, and Saturday's first two rounds of eliminations. If both Gordon and Westerfield are in the final four on Sunday, then the pressure will be immense. NOTE: They are currently on opposite sides of the ladder and can't meet until the final round.

Doug Gordon

Launching on his way to a very good opening pass of 5.430 - 270.70 to take the early pole position, Doug Gordon put the family owned "BETA Motorcycles" entry at the top of the list. He ran even better in the late afternoon session, with a 5.423 - 269.29 hanging on to the #1 spot and solidifying his hold on the field.

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session #1

Clint Thompson --- Clint Thompson

Making his first appearance at an NHRA national event in six years, Oregon's Clint Thompson in the "Charpilloy & Hoyland" entry made a decent opening run of 5.693 - 222.03, despite a fairly early shutoff.

Ray Martin --- Ulf Leanders

(LEFT) Making the long trek down from Anchorage, AK, Ray Martin made a good first pass of 5.595 - 259.76 in his unlettered black Camaro. He only runs the west coast (Pomona & Vegas) races but he's fairly competitive when he does appear.

(RIGHT) The real winner of the long distance award - in the TAFC class - is Ulf Leanders, all the way from Sweden, with a brutally quick and fast car. He lit up the scoreboards with the first ".40" of the weekend, a 5.451 - 264.49 to temporarily take the top spot on the ladder.

Chris Marshall --- Jake Guadagnolo

(LEFT) The "Disturbed" team has only made one foray east of the Rockies this year, (Indy for the U.S. Nationals), but Chris Marshall has been on a bit of a hot streak in the waning weeks of the season. A semifinal finish at the Nevada Nationals and a runnerup at last week's Vegas regional had him primed for a good finish to his season and he started strongly with a 5.502 - 265.95 timeslip in this first session.

(RIGHT) Running alongside Marshall, was the Miner Brothers-tuned entry of Jake Guadagnolo, and he was quicker to the 300' mark before falling back slightly to a 5.579 - 262.33 pass. That put him in the #6 spot in the 14-car field, with three pairs waiting to run.

Brian Hough --- Brian Hough

It's been an up and down season for Brian Hough with just one final round appearance on the national event trail, and four, including one win, in regional competition. He hasn't run in the 5.40's yet in 2022, and his first pass here resulted in a DQ for wiping out the 660' e.t. and speed timing blocks. Even though the scoreboards read 6.234 - 160.77, the run was thrown out.

Matt Gill --- Shane Westerfield

(LEFT) Making their first appearance out west, Matt Gill and father-tuner Paul, made the long tow to Las Vegas for the national and regional events, and continued on to the season finale at Pomona. Even though they had no chance to move up from their #5 position in the championship standings, they wanted to compete against the top runners in the class. Their Auto Club Finals debut pass ended with an early shutoff and a 7.608 - 172.83 timeslip.

(RIGHT) Facing a huge mountain to climb to regain the points lead and garner his second world championship in TAFC, Shane Westerfield needed some big performances - with NO redlights - to have a chance. His opening salvo was a 5.548 - 266.74 that left the Rick Jackson-owned team in the #7 spot on the ladder.

Sean Bellemeur --- Sean Bellemeur

The outgoing champion, Sean Bellemeur, who was mathematically eliminated from championship contention at Las Vegas, laid down a great 5.494 - 265.74 to take the #2 spot, but with two top runners (Westerfield and Gordon) waiting to run in the final pair of the round, it was probably not going to hold up. However, it showed, once again, that there is no quit in the "Killer B's" team.

Doug Gordon --- Doug Gordon

Closing out the first session was Doug Gordon, the points leader, and he blitzed the timers with an excellent 5.430 - 270.70 to take low e.t. and top speed honours for the first qualifying session. It really gave the "comeback team of the year" a leg up on closing out the championship chase. If they could hang on to the top spot through qualifying, they would be matched with the slowest car in the field in round one, AND get a bye run in the second round. That would virtually lock up the championship.

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Qualifying Session #1

Mike Austin --- Mike Austin

He's been trying to get back to the competitive status he had a decade ago, but Mike Austin is not a racer ready to give up on trying to make a blown alcohol car work in today's drag racing environment. His opening pass of 5.414 - 266.32 showed lots of power but not quite quick enough in the first 330 feet.

Trevor Larkin --- Chris Demke

(LEFT) This car is owned by Oregonian Gregg Lawrence and driven by second generation California driver Trevor Larkin, son of the late "Little" Tommy Larkin, a former Top Gas & Top Fuel driver in the 1960's and 70's. The partnership hasn't made much noise in the TAD ranks, but they appeared to be headed in the right direction with a career best for Larkin of 5.431 - 260.41 coming up in the first session.

(RIGHT) Former two-time world champion in the class (2010 & 2014), Chris Demke is still competing with the Jerry Maddern-owned "Peen-Rite" car. They haven't raced much in recent years, but semi-final finishes at both Las Vegas events this season showed that they can still step up and run with the faster cars. His first pass here resulted in a decent e.t., 5.365, coupled with a big speed of 271.90 mph, to place him #8 in the field.

Travis Shumake --- Travis Shumake

Another second generation racer, Travis Shumake, son of the late Funny Car racer, Tripp Shumake, has had a successful rookie season driving one of the Randy Meyer Racing entries. His season best was a 5.213 at Charlotte's fall race, but his opening pass here was a little slower at 5.376 - 271.30. The wrap on the car was a tribute to one of his father's last race cars.

Kim Parker --- Kim Parker

Following a great qualifying performance at Las Vegas, where she took #1 spot with a 5.198 pass, Kim Parker did a strong burnout before her first qualifier (left photo), before lighting up the tires on the launch (right photo) and idling down the track to an 11-second pass to sit near the bottom of the field.

Ron Anderson --- Garrett Bateman

(LEFT) The Dr.Lip Bang-sponsored car of Ron Anderson left hard and pounded out a solid 5.377 - 272.78 to take a temporary hold on the #4 spot in the order, and the top speed of the first four pairs.

(RIGHT) Driving for team owner Rick Henkelman, Oregon's Garrett Bateman made a faster, but not quicker run than Anderson, and put a 5.391 - 273.94 up on the scoreboards. The early low e.t. at this point, a 5.335 by SoCal racer Eric Chesleigh was looking better all the time.

Johnny Ahten --- Johnny Ahten

Long-time A/Fuel runner, and full-time fireman, Johnny Ahten ran into early trouble with misfiring cylinders and shut off to a 10-second clocking.

Tom Fox Jr. --- Tom Fox Jr.

The first supercharged car to run, East Coaster Tom Fox Jr. left decently, but lost a cylinder early in the run and could only muster a 5.607 - 255.43 to slot into the bottom half of the field. However, with four pairs of very quick cars remaining in the lanes, Fox's 5.60 might not even be in the field by the end of the session.

Madison Payne --- Madison Payne

With less than two years in the class, Madison Payne in the Duane Shields-owned A/Fuel car came into this event with her national event win under her belt. That happened at the previous race on the tour, at Las Vegas, as she defeated Tony Stewart in a thrilling final round. She continued to impress with her first pass here, jumping to the top of the field with a great 5.275 - 278.35 pass.

Jackie Fricke --- Jackie Fricke

These photos look like a repeat of the Kim Parker shots, as "Jersey Girl" Jackie Fricke smoked the tires hard on the burnout, and almost as hard on the launch enroute to the slowest run of the 20 cars that appeared in the first session. Her 11.597 - 71.00 was nothing to work with going into the last two qualifiers.

Matt Cummings

Coming into the event with a chance to win the championship, Matt Cummings, driving the McPhillips Family car, dropped a bomb on the field with the quickest run of the round, a very quick 5.201 - 276.51 effort. The chutes were out late, but Cummings got the car stopped before hitting the beach at the end of the braking area.

Joey Severance --- Joey Severance

Leading in the points standings, and aiming for his fifth world championship, Joey Severance put down the quickest 60' time of the round, with a .910, but went into heavy tire shake immediately afterwards. He pedaled the car and salvaged the run, stopping the clocks with a 5.585 - 271.08 to grab the bump spot going into the next session.


Friday qualifying for Pro and Pro Sportsman racers

As I write this report, the first round of eliminations in Top Alcohol are starting. First out of the lanes are the dragsters, and the first pairing features Jasmine Salinas against Jackie Fricke in a do-or-die situation for Jasmine's championship hopes. If she loses, her chances to win the title are over, as well as her season. Her opponent, Fricke, faced a similarly dramatic situation last season when the TAD title battle went down to the final round at Las Vegas. A race that went in favour of last year's champion, Rachel Meyer, in the Randy Meyer-tuned and owned car.

Turning her best e.t. of the weekend (so far), Salinas took out Fricke with a 5.224 - 278.23to keep her chance for the championship alive. Two pairs later, points leader Joey Severance eliminated Casey Grisel with his best of the weekend 5.211 - 275.45, that exactly matched his #6 qualifying e.t. at a slightly better speed. That winlight for Severance eliminated Matt Cummings from contention, and made the calculations much simpler for the Severance team. All they need now is to get past Cummings in their second round match to clinch the championship. However, with Salinas and Cummings both being tuned by Rich McPhillips Sr. & Jr., they will in all likelihood, pull out all the stops on the Cummings car in the next round.

Almost before the smoke from the final burnouts in the dragster round had cleared, the Funny Cars started running, and the first pair out provided some high drama. With their backs literally against the wall, the Rick Jackson Motorsports team, with Shane Westerfield driving needed to win the entire event to have any chance of overtaking points leader Doug Gordon. Westerfield managed to keep his reaction time on the right side, with a conservative (for him) .056 light, and took out Jim Whiteley in a close race. That was one down, and three more to go.

Two pairs later, Doug Gordon took a nearly uncontested win over Clint Thompson, who shook the chutes out on the launch and came to a quick stop. Gordon pounded out low e.t. of the meet at 5.394 - 270.70 to take the win and earn the second round bye directly into the semifinals. As long as they can get the car to the starting line under its own power in the next round, they will face the winner of the Westerfield - (Annie) Whiteley second round match in the semis. If it's Westerfield, it could be the deciding round for the championship, but if it's Whiteley, that means the title has already gone to Gordon. It's going to be interesting.

The second round of eliminations for the Top Alcohol cars is scheduled at 2:15 pm and we will be able to update the situation shortly after that. Next on the agenda is to look at the first day of qualifying for the PRO cars from yesterday. We've just got pics of the #1 cars in Top Fuel and Funny Car so far, and that will be our focus for today.

Brittany Force

There's all sorts of cliches that could describe Brittany Force's run late on Friday afternoon. She dropped a literal BOMB on the field with a very quick 3.641 e.t. But that was only part of the story, as her 338.94 mph speed was only the fastest run in the history of drag racing. To describe it as a "monster" run (in the MONSTER Energy car would be a very bad pun... but that's the only kind we have. All kidding aside, it showed that the Force team, with David Grubnic and Mac Savage calling the shots, is going to be difficult to overtake for the championship. At this point, Brittany is in control of her destiny, but eliminations tomorrow will be a seriously pressure-packed affair.

With two rounds of qualifying completed, the Top Fuel field is very tightly bunched, with less than a tenth of a second separating the top ten racers. This part of the report is being written as the third round of Top Fuel qualifying is underway, and we've already seen the bump spot lowered to a 3.894, as Steve Chrisman in the Worsham Family car, cranked out a career best to get into the field going into the final session later today. That last qualifier may play a critical role in determining the outcome of the event and the championship, as first round matchups will be critical for the racers. Stay tuned for that!

Cruz Pedregon

It's been a difficult season for Cruz Pedregon and his Snap-On team. It started well with a solid performance at the season opening Lucas Oil Winternationals, with a #4 qualifying spot and a semifinal round finish. From there on, things went downhill with a string of second round losses, and one first round loss in the next nine races. Then it got even worse, with just one round win in the stretch between Denver and Indy. At the beginning of the countdown, where he started in the #8 position, he had a round win at the first race (Reading), then just one more in the next four races coming into the season finale at Pomona. The car wasn't running badly, getting down the track cleanly almost every run, but just not getting very many winlights.

However, it seems that Pomona is Pedregon's favourite track as he lit up the scoreboards yesterday with the quickest e.t. of the first round (and his career), by half a tenth, at 3.840 - 322.58 to show that they were ready to contend this weekend. He backed that up with an almost as quick, and faster, 3.849 - 327.03, in the second season to hold on to the top spot on the qualifying list. Only Matt Hagan was able to outrun him - by just .005 - in that session. Going into today's final two rounds of qualifying, Pedregon is looking to possibly improve on the two best runs of his entire career.

NEWS FLASH: Cruz Pedregon just notched his third consecutive 3.84 pass, as his 3.847 - 323.43 kept him on top of the heap in the FC class, and the news that they were running a six-disc clutch shows that they may have some much better results in 2023. Stay tuned for more from qualifying later this afternoon.


We're back with the second round of Top Alcohol eliminations completed. The round started with a tension-filled matchup between Jasmine Salinas and Madison Payne. It was a great race, with Salinas leaving first by .005, and Payne taking the winlight by a cumulative margin of just .008 second. Tremendous racing, with Payne's 5.284 just edging out Salinas' 5.297. That loss eliminated Salinas from the championship chase and gave a very deserving Joey Severance his FIFTH world championship, and first since the 2018 season. It was quite a battle but in the end the blown alky car of the Severance family took the title.

Next out of the lanes was the champion, and he kept the winning pace going, easily defeating Matt Cummings with a solid 5.233 pass over Cummings 11-second shutoff effort. The other two dragsters to advance to the semis were Taylor Vetter and Garrett Bateman (who downed Shawn Cowie) with a great low e.t. of the round 5.199 pass. In the semifinal, it will be Bateman with lane choice over Severance, and Vetter over Payne. With two blown and two injected cars meeting, we could have the first all-blown alky final round at a national event in quite some time.

Interestingly, we may be seeing the last Top Alcohol Funny Car race where the blown alcohol combination dominates the field, as it remains the sole option available until next season's introduction of the A/Fuel Funny Car combination. The world championship for 2022 in TAFC was decided quickly as the last racer with a chance of catching Doug Gordon did what he's been so very prone to do in the last two months, and redlighted away what would have been a winning pass. Shane Westerfield threw away a 5.442, making Annie Whiteley's very good 5.476 e.t. a winning one and advancing her to the semifinals.

Two more very good races followed, with Matt Gill running 5.482, and outgoing champion Greg Bellemeur cranking out low e.t. of the round at 5.432 to both advance to the semis. The round closed with the new - and returning (he won in 2020) - champion Doug Gordon, and he didn't take it easy, laying down a consistent 5.447 to earn lane choice over Whiteley in tomorrow's semifinal. The other pairing in that round will see Bellemeur choosing his lane over Gill.

Next up is the final qualifying session for the PRO competitors, which will set up what could be some very interesting pairings for tomorrow's eliminations. Stay tuned!


The final qualifying session for Top Fuel has just started, and the first two cars down the track, Maurice "Wicked Mo" DuPont (driving Scott Palmer's car), and Cameron Ferre (driving Terry Haddock's car), both ran into fuel system problems and failed to get into the field. That set the bump spot at Steve Chrisman's third session 3.894 - 311.07 pass. With the field set, the next pair in line, Chrisman and Ron August Jr., both elected to not run and return to the pits. Joining them was another safely qualified car, Krista Baldwin, as they all decided to save parts and fuel for the first round of eliminations tomorrow.


Friday qualifying for Pro and Pro Sportsman racers

Leading off our Saturday coverage is the third qualifying session for Top Fuel. Friday's two rounds saw all 18 cars on the property make at least one qualifying attempt, but the bump spot going into the final two sessions was a somewhat mediocre 4.422 e.t. However, the top ten cars were in at 3.718, or better, and even the #13 car was in the 3.70's. The non-qualifiers at this point were the "usual suspects" with Cameron Ferre (in the Terry Haddock car), and Steve Chrisman (in the Worsham Family car), sitting on the outside.

TOP FUEL - Qualifying Session #3

Maurice DuPont --- Ron August Jr.

(LEFT) Leading off the session was the bubble holder, Maurice "Wicked Mo" DuPont, who was making his return to Top Fuel after a 30-year absence. With some serious backing from ex-Middleweight Boxing Champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., the "Money Team" was looking to make a statement this weekend. There was some good, and some bad for Maurice as he improved slightly to a 4.199 - 231.75, that saw the engine expire with a flash of flames just before the finish line.

(RIGHT) On the other hand, everything worked well for Ron August Jr. as he picked up nearly a quarter second from Friday's best of 4.113 - 269.56. The numbers this time, 3.886 - 315.71, were a career best elapsed time. However, that still left him in the #15 position on the ladder. With roving crew chief Tony Shortall tuning the car, it looks like they're creeping up on a competitive tune-up.

Steve Chrisman --- Alex Laughlin

(LEFT) After a year-long layoff, Steve Chrisman shut off very early to a 7-second time on his first pass yesterday, then laid down a career best e.t. and speed run at 3.894 - 311.70. Making it happen for Chrisman were the Worsham Family, with Chuck calling the shots along with lots of help from Del and what appeared to be half the crew from Alexis DeJoria's team.

(RIGHT) Hoping to improve on his early shutoff 3.79 pass on Friday, Alex Laughlin lost traction early in one of the Scott Palmer cars and shut off to a 9-second pass to stay in the #13 spot on the qualifying list.

Josh Hart --- Shawn Langdon

(LEFT) Improving his e.t. by four thousandths from Friday, Josh Hart picked up two spots on the ladder, to #8, with a great 3.714 - 330.63 effort. Interestingly, his speed dropped from his first session 335.07 number that had to be nearly a career best.

(RIGHT) Following his Friday best of 3.751, Shawn Langdon lost the grip early and clicked it off to a 6-second pass. That dropped him one spot to #12 on the ladder.

Tony Schumacher --- Tony Schumacher

With a new ARMY-look camouflage wrap, bannering "A Solider's Child Foundation", driver Tony Schumacher jumped up the list six spots (from #12 to #6) with a great 3.701 - 331.77 effort. It was nearly his quickest pass of the entire season.

Antron Brown --- Krista Baldwin

(LEFT) Improving just a thousandth from Friday, Antron Brown, was able to move up one spot to #9 with an excellent 3.705-331.04 pass.

(RIGHT) Sporting a "retro" paint scheme commemorating her late father, Bobby Baldwin, third-generation TF racer Krista Baldwin didn't quite match her Friday best with a good 3.874 - 293.92 pass as she shut off a little early/

Doug Kalitta --- Clay Millican

(LEFT) After his best run of the season in Friday's second qualifier, Doug Kalitta hazed the tires early and shut down to a 4.541 - 164.37 time. That left him in the #5 spot, courtesy of his Friday 3.699 - 328.94 effort.

(RIGHT) Trying to move into the fast half of the field, Clay Millican laid down a very good 3.705 - 331.04 to move into the #8 spot. It was only a one hundredth of a second improvement but it moved him up three notches on the ladder. Tight qualifying show, eh?

Mike Salinas --- Steve Torrence

(LEFT) Showing that conditions were definitely good enough to run quickly, Mike Salinas ran low e.t. (so far) of the round with a strong 3.673 - 333.91 that slightly improved on his Friday clocking of 3.679. It didn't move him up on the charts, but solidified his hold on the #4 rung on the ladder.

(RIGHT) The four-time defending TF champion, Steve Torrence was still mathematically in the hunt and sitting #2 on the ladder coming into the session, but slipped back a little in performance with a "merely" great 3.704 - 331.61 run.

Brittany Force

After running the fastest speed ever recorded in Top Fuel history, Brittany Force was certainly going to have trouble topping that performance, but she gave it a very good shot, lighting up the scoreboards with the quickest and fastest run of the session at 3.664 - 336.99 to show her competitors that the "Monster Energy" team was going all out for the championship.

FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session #3

Steven Densham --- Jeff Arend

(LEFT) After two forgettable efforts yesterday, Steven Densham pushed the family hot rod into the 3-second zone for the first time this season, and moved from outside the qualified field to the #13 spot with a solid 3.993 - 287.05 pass. Despite shutting off a little early, the e.t. was a season best for the father and son team.

(RIGHT) The ultimate long-distance partnership is featured here, as Canadian Jeff Arend is driving for the Australian duo of Peter & Helen Russo, in a car that's based in the U.S.A. They've only run at three events this year coming into Pomona, but they've been working on a low 4-second tuneup and turned their best numbers of the season yesterday at 4.067 - 306.40 to stake a spot in the field and ran even better in this session with a 4.057 - 313.44, but fell back a spot to #14 on the ladder.

Terry Haddock --- Paul Lee

(LEFT) With some much-needed help from the "Sierra Group" (auto dealerships), and a sharp new look, Terry Haddock came out for his second qualifying attempt of the weekend. His one pass on Friday resulted in a "no time recorded" as opponent Steven Densham wiped out the timing blocks and negated Haddock's tire-smoking effort.

(RIGHT) With tire smoke trailing him all the way back to the waterbox, this must be Paul Lee's burnout. The run that followed looked almost identical, with the tires blazing instantly on the launch. The resulting 12-second e.t. didn't compare well to Friday's solid 3.991 - 318.92 #12 qualifying effort.

Blake Alexander --- Ron Capps

(LEFT) Coming into the session sitting #9 in the field, Blake Alexander wanted to pick up a little e.t. and move into the fast half of the field. The Jim Head-tuned entry looked good for a few hundred feet before starting to spin the tires, forcing Blake to shut off to a 4.186 - 238.43 clocking.

(RIGHT) After a terrible Friday, with a "best" of 4.897 that left him in the #17 spot, and not qualified, Ron Capps jumped up in a big way, moving all the way up the charts to the #4 spot with a strong 3.864 - 334.15. Still hoping to catch points leader Robert Hight, that run was critical to his team's chances to overtake Hight for the championship.

Tim Wilkerson --- Alexis DeJoria

(LEFT) Following a great pair of Friday performances (3.894 and 3.882), Tim Wilkerson looked to maintain his hold on the seventh spot on the ladder, and came close with a very consistent 3.892 - 331.36 set of numbers. Three straight runs in the 3.80's, and over 330 mph was a great start to his weekend.

(RIGHT) Running alongside Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria didn't fare quite as well as Wilk, despite being ahead at the 660' mark, as she "slowed" to a 3.913 at "only" 300.20 mph. She managed to hang on to the #8 spot on the list going into the last session.

Jason Rupert --- Bob Tasca III

(LEFT) It's Jason Rupert's burnout shot, but trying to sneak into the frame is his opponent in this round, Robert Hight. Rupert was trying to improve on the 4.159 - 246.84 that he ran on Friday, but the tires started smoking early and he was off the throttle and coasting to a 9-second pass. That left him on the bump spot going into the final qualifying session.

(RIGHT) Coming on strong after back-to-back semifinal finishes at Dallas and Las Vegas, Bob Tasca III ran just a few hundredths slower than his Friday best of 3.856, but still clocked an excellent 3.875 - 325.85 to hold on to the #4 spot on the list.

Cruz Pedregon --- John Force

(LEFT) Laying down a career best in his first run on Friday (3.840), and backing it up with a 3.849, Cruz Pedregon was really enjoying the performance boost that he credits to the installation of a six-disc clutch. He kept up the pace on this run, with a 3.847 - 323.43 ringing up on the scoreboards as he firmly put his stamp on the top qualifying spot.

(RIGHT) The G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) Funny Car racer, John Force is still a "force" (sorry for the very bad pun) in the sport as he can run with the quickest cars in the class, and came into Pomona fourth in the points standings. On this run he was on pace to nearly equal his Friday best of 3.864, but he started heading for the centerline on the top end, forcing him to click it early to a pass.

Matt Hagan --- Christina Gordon

(LEFT) Running alongside Force in the last pair of the session, Matt "Hulk" Hagan was still in contention for the world championship, and sitting in a good spot (#2) in the field. He ran a little slower (3.867) and a little faster (326.56) than Friday, but the consistency was encouraging to the team.

(RIGHT) NOTE: We've inserted a photo from the 2nd round of eliminations in Top Alcohol Funny Car. A euphoric Christina Gordon is celebrating her team's second World Championship in Top Alcohol Funny Car after seeing challenger Shane Westerfield redlight away his chance to catch Doug Gordon in the championship chase.

PRO STOCK - Qualifying Session #4 (FINAL)

Going into the final qualifying session, there were just two cars on the outside of the very tightly bunched field. In fact, 15 of the 16 cars in the field were in the 6.50's, ranging from Troy Coughlin Jr.'s leading 6.508, down to Chris McGaha's #15 6.573 e.t. That was a spread of just six hundredths of a second. Holding down the bump spot was transplanted Aussie Shane Tucker with a 6.605, followed by #17 Alan Prusiensky, just a fraction behind at 6.609, and at the bottom of the list, Kenny Delco, trailing with a best of 6.653. The session opened with Prusiensky and Delco paired off, both trying to find enough horsepower to bump into the Sunday show.

Alan Prusiensky --- Alan Prusiensky

In that first pair, Alan Prusiensky tried hard, with a solid, but slower, 6.623 - 207.50, that fell less than two hundredths short of making the field. In the other lane (not shown), Kenny Delco made his best run of the weekend, but his 6.625 - 208.80 was similarly short of qualifying. This pair finalized the competitors, but it remained to be seen where everyone would end up on the ladder.

Fernando Caudra --- Fernando Caudra

Already qualified in the #14 spot, Fernando Caudra was looking to move up the ladder, but his 6.577 - 209.65 wasn't quicker than his earlier 6.565 pass. Running alongside him was Shane Tucker (not shown), who picked up four thousandths and moved the bump spot down to 6.601, making it almost an entire 6.5-second field.

Matt Hartford --- Matt Hartford

Since Pro Stock cars are easily affected by atmospheric changes, this final session wasn't expected to show many, if any, e.t. or mph improvments. Following that logic it wasn't surprising to see Matt Hartford run slower than his earlier best of 6.556, but his 6.580 - 209.14 wasn't far off the earlier clocking.

Chris McGaha --- Camrie Caruso

(LEFT) Running in the same pairing as Hartford, Chris McGaha was likewise two hundredths slower, but picked up some mph, as did Hartford. McGaha's final qualifying effort was 6.595 - 208.94 as he stayed in the #15 spot.

(RIGHT) The 2022 NHRA Rookie of The Year, Camrie Caruso nearly matched her #13 qualifying e.t., running just two thousandths slower, as the clocks stopped at 65.50 - 210.37 on her run.

Fernando Caudra Jr. --- Fernando Caudra Jr.

Another racer with a close, but not better pass, Fernando Caudra Jr. was unable to elevate his qualifying position from #9, after his 6.561 - 209.26 was two hundredths slower than the #8 qualifying 6.541 elapsed time.

Erica Enders --- Cristian Caudra

(LEFT) Coming into this final session, Erica Enders was sitting in a very unfamiliar qualifying position, all the way down the ladder in the #8 spot. She did manage to improve, by one thousandth on this run, to a 6.540 - 210.60, but her position wasn't safe, with a few lower qualified cars waiting in the lanes.

(RIGHT) There was no improvment for the #11 qualifier, Cristian Caudra as his 6.577 - 209.85 was a few hundredths slower than his best (6.553) run in earlier qualifying.

Bo Butner III --- Bo Butner III

Firmly ensconced in the top half of the field in the #7 slot, Bo Butner III ran a little faster (210.42), but not quicker, as his 6.533 was five thousandths slower than his previous best.

Kyle Koretsky --- Aaron Stanfield

(LEFT) Another racer that stayed in his previous position (#6), Kyle Koretsky put down a solid 6.537 - 209.59 pass on his final attempt.

(RIGHT) Coming into the session in the #4 spot on the list, Aaron Stanfield stayed there despite a slower 6.551 - 210.01 time. His earlier best of 6.524 was right in the ballpark of the top cars this weekend though.

Deric Kramer --- Deric Kramer

Looking very different in his retro "Hiner & Miller" (old Pro Stock team) wrap, Deric Kramer fell off subtantially on his final qualifer, but an earlier 6.526 - 200.20 kept him in the #5 spot on the ladder.

Greg Anderson --- Greg Anderson

After a first round loss at the previous race (Las Vegas), Greg Anderson was definitely on the rebound with a 6.509 best during qualifying here. It was just .001 slower than Troy Coughlin Jr.'s top qualifying effort. On his final qualifier, Anderson launched hard but encountered some serious tire shake early and shut off to an 8-second clocking.

Troy Coughlin Jr. --- Troy Coughlin Jr.

Sitting at the top of the qualifying sheet, Troy Coughlin Jr. wasn't able to break into 6.40's, but he still had the quickest run of the final session, nearly two hundredths quicker than Mason McGaha's second-best effort. Coughlin's timelsip read 6.512 - 211.06, which was the fastest speed of the meet and nearly low e.t. as his earlier 6.508 was the quickest.

Dallas Glenn

Finishing off qualifying for Pro Stock, last year's NHRA Rookie of The Year, Dallas Glenn slowed a few hundredths but still maintained his #3 position on the ladder with a solid 6.544 - 209.95 on this pass.

TOP FUEL - Qualifying Session #4 (FINAL)

The math coming into this final session was simple: 18 cars, 16 spots. Holding down the bump spot was veteran Steve Chrisman with a career best 3.894 - 311.70. The two non-qualifed racers, Cameron Ferre, and Maurice DuPont were at the head of the staging lanes and ready to give it their best shots at breaking into what had become a fairly tough field. Interestingly, Chrisman didn't came up to defend his spot.

Cameron Ferre --- Alex Laughlin

(LEFT) Sitting at the bottom of the list with a 5.112 "best", Cameron Ferre was basically dead in the water (so to speak) when the car launched with a fuel line undone on top of the engine and he was forced to shut off with 4.409 coming up on the boards. Seeing that they were safely qualified, Ron August Jr. (#15) and Krista Baldwin (#14) pulled out of line and returned to the pits.

(RIGHT) Hoping to improve his earlier 3.796 pass, Alex Laughlin wheeled the Havoline-sponsored, Scott Palmer-owned car to his best run of the event, with a solid 3.773 - 319.14. A very good run for the team but it still left him in the #13 position. However, three out of his four qualifying passes were in the 3.70's, showing some serious consistency.

Tony Schumacher --- Antron Brown

(LEFT) Sitting in the fast half of the field (#6), Tony Schumacher wanted to stay there, but fell back one spot after spinning the tires early enroute to a 6.129 - 98.72 pass. Bumping him back was his opponent, and ex-teammate, Antron Brown.

(RIGHT) Coming into the final session well down the list in the #11 spot, despite a very good 3.714 e.t., Antron Brown stepped up big time with the first 3.60 of the round, clocking in at 3.696 - 329.26 to vault to the #5 spot and first round lane choice.

Shawn Langdon --- Doug Kalitta

(LEFT) Coming to the end of what had to be a frustrating season, Shawn Langdon hoped to elevate his qualifying position to the upper half of the list, but that would take a run under 3.70. With a best of 3.751 - 324.59 under his belt, Langdon was consistent, but not quicker, with a 3.759 - 324.83 to stay in the #12 spot going into eliminations.

(RIGHT) Another racer who has had a forgettable season, Doug Kalitta punched out his second 3.60 of the event, with his 3.693 - 329.42 elevating him one spot on the ladder to #5, and bumping Antron Brown down a rung on the ladder.

Mike Salinas --- Clay Millican

(LEFT) He came into the countdown in second place in the standings, but since then, Mike Salinas has seen his placing slide down to fifth before a slight rebound to the #3 spot after a runner-up finish at Las Vegas. Sitting in the #4 position in the field with a 3.673 best, he moved up one spot on this run with a quickest of the session - so far - 3.666 - 331.45 to keep himself in the championship chase.

(RIGHT) Running in the lane next to Salinas was Clay Millican, who wanted to join the "60" club, but fell just short with a 3.721 - 312.78 pass that ended with a head gasket failure that slowed him on the top end. That kept him in the #9 spot with his earlier 3.705 - 331.04 best.

Steve Torrence --- Brittany Force

(LEFT) Even though he wasn't quite out of the championship chase, at least mathematically, Steve Torrence and his CAPCO team weren't giving up their title hopes without a fight. They proved it here with a best of the round 3.647 - 332.10 that kept him in the #2 spot and backed up and improved on their earlier 3.656 effort.

(RIGHT) Running in the last pair of the session, as she has done so many times this year (and throughout her career) Brittany Force was expected to "swing for the fences" on this run. She didn't quite hit the proverbial home run but backed up her earlier low qualifying numbers of 3.641 - 338.94 with an excellent 3.659 - 333.91 to finish qualifying. That made a string of 3.64, 3.66 and 3.65 runs in qualifying, easily the most consistent of any Top Fuel car.

FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session #4 (FINAL)

The situation facing the Funny Car contingent was similar to that of Top Fuel. 18 cars, 16 spots, and the first pair out of the staging lanes were the two non-qualified car. Bobby Bode III and Terry Haddock were the racers under the gun to qualify. The bump spot, 4.159 was held down by Jason Rupert who was in line, ready to run, paired up with #14 Steven Densham ready to run if they had to.

Bobby Bode III --- Terry Haddock

(LEFT) Of the two cars on the outside, Bobby Bode III had the best chance to make the show on Sunday, as he had a string of 3-second times under his belt. The car left hard on his last chance run, but just before half track, lit up big-time and slowed to a 4.340 - 208.78, that left him at the bottom of the list and not qualified.

(RIGHT) Running beside Bode was perennial hard-trier Terry Haddock and he gave it a full effort, keeping the candles lit all the way to the finish line, but falling well short of the bump spot with his 4.264 - 275.79 clocking.

Jason Rupert --- Chad Green

(LEFT) There was a long wait for Jason Rupert in the staging lanes after Bode's fiery and oily pass, and while he was waiting, Steven Densham pulled out of the lanes and returned to the pits, with his position in the field safe. When the track was cleaned up and ready to run on, Rupert laid down a career best e.t. and speed at 4.030 - 313.44 to move up one spot on the ladder to the #15 position. With Johnny West helping on the tuneup, the car is making some solid progress.

(RIGHT) With the track almost fully dark, Chad Green was scheduled to run beside Jim Campbell but the lower-budget Jim Dunn elected to save the parts and fuel for tomorrow's eliminations and pulled out of line. Green wasn't able to improve on his earlier 3.95 best, but his 4.018 - 312.78 was close enough to show some consistency heading into eliminations. But he was starting from the #13 spot on Sunday and facing a really quick and fast opponent.

Paul Lee --- Paul Lee

It's been a tough season for Paul Lee, with crew chief and crew changes, and not a single round win until mid-season at Topeka's Heartland Nationals. Then another long dry spell until his second round win of the season at Dallas. Only attending 15 of 22 races on the schedule must have played a part in the team never really getting on top of the tuneup. Things turned around here with a solid 3.991 - 318.92 and a 3.942 - 328.22 in this final qualifying session. That moved them up one spot to #12 on the ladder.

Alexis DeJoria --- J.R. Todd

(LEFT) Sitting just on the outside of the top half of the field, Alexis DeJoria and her crew chief Del Worsham were looking to take advantage of the cool track and air conditions. They did just that with an excellent 3.862 - 333.00 to move up three spots to #6. Her e.t. was a career best by one thousandth and the speed was just a few hundredths of a mph short of a career best in that department.

(RIGHT) After DeJoria bumped him down one spot, J.R. Todd was under the gun to get back in the fast half, but he lit up the tires before the 330' mark, forcing him to shut off to a 6-second, 98 mph timeslip. That left him in the #9 spot and a first round matchup with Tim Wilkerson on Sunday morning.

Matt Hagan --- John Force

(LEFT) Sitting in the #2 qualifying position, and hungry for every point he can gain, Matt Hagan had the car loaded for bear in this final session. The car left hard but just before half track, the engine went BOOM and slowed him to a 4.057 - 245.32 clocking.

(RIGHT) In the other lane, John Force smoked the tires before the 330' mark and coasted through at 7.671 - 84.34, leaving him in the "lucky" #7 spot on the final qualifying list. That spot earns him a match with J.R. Todd in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.

Cruz Pedregon --- Ron Capps

(LEFT) The final pair of Funny Car qualifying featured low qualifier Cruz Pedregon and he laid down an excellent 3.841 - 330.31, just one thousandth of a second slower than his career best and his best speed of the weekend. However, it wasn't enough to hang on to the #1 qualifying position.

(RIGHT) The reason Pedregon lost the #1 spot was due to Ron Capps laying down the run of the event at 3.837, coupled with a booming top end of 337.33 to take over the top spot on the ladder. Crew chief Dickie Venables went for broke on the run and made it work.

Nitro Mike Kunz wheelstander

The day's action closed with Canadian Crazy "Nitro" Mike Kunz and his "Walking Tall" PT Cruiser wheelstander. It puts on quite a show and holds the official Guinness World Record for the longest wheelstand. Obviously, he can't break that record at Pomona with the rather limited shutdown area but he kept the crowd entertained as the show closed on Saturday evening.


Sunday's final eliminations report

Unfortunately, due to a ailing hip and knee, our photographer was unable to attend the final day of the 2022 drag racing season, so we have no photos to show of the action- packed final eliminations from Pomona. However, we can provide a brief synopsis of what happened.

TOP FUEL Eliminations

Leading off the Sunday show as they always do, the Top Fuelers were salivating at the conditions they were facing: 86 F track temp and less than 1400 ft of corrected altitude. Perfect horsepower generating weather, but so many racers failed to make the most of it. Almost every pair had at least one car smoking the tires or dropping cylinders, or both. After seven cars qualified in the 3.60's, no one was able to enter that zone in the first round. Coming closest was Brittany Force as she cranked out a winning 3.701 - 334.90 for the best numbers, eliminating two of her pursuers in the points standings. In the next two pairs, Mike Salinas and Steve Torrence lost, to Krista Baldwin and Ron August, respectively, to eliminate themselves from the chase. The round ended with the last contender, Justin Ashley losing and handing the championship to Force. That marked her second Top Fuel Championship, following her 2017 title.

With higher track temps (104 F) and altitude (1700+) in the second round, the carnage and tire smoke disappeared, and Brittany Force made it back into the 3.60's with a 3.687 - 334.24 to easily eliminate Steve Chrisman. Second best run of the round went to Austin Prock as he won the closest race of the day with a 3.704 - 329.18 to turn on the winlight over Leah Pruett's very good 3.721 - 324.20. The winning margin was less than a hundredth of a second as Prock advanced to the semifinal to face Ms. Force.

The semifinal round saw performances tighten up considerably, with Antron Brown's strong 3.725 being the slowest e.t. of the round. But it was a winning number as he moved into the final after holeshotting Josh Hart and turning on the winlight by less than one thousandth of a second. Joining him in the final would be Austin Prock as he ran low e.t. of eliminations at 3.642 - 335.48 to take out teammate Force in another close race.

It was a somewhat anticlimactic final round as Prock took the win, with his career quickest 3.641 pass, making for a car length win over Antron Brown. After all the drama and upsets of the first and second rounds, it was a tame, but entertaining way to wrap up the final Top Fuel race of the year.

FUNNY CAR Eliminations

It only took two pairs before there was an upset win for the Fuel Coupes. With his championship hopes hanging by a thread, Matt Hagan saw them disappear in a cloud of tire smoke as West Coast runner, Steven Densham lumbered down the track with a cylinder out, but had enough power to turn on the winlight with a 4.170 - 269.94 pass. However, that was it for the underdogs as the balance of the round, with all of the top half qualifiers, excepting Hagan, advancing to the second round. Best numbers of the round were carded by Ron Capps with a 3.852 - 334.98, with the rejuvenated "Snap-On" car of Cruz Pedregon right on his heels with a 3.862 - 333.74. The points leader, Robert Hight was right behind the two quickest drivers with a 3.872 win to move into the next round.

Quarter-final action began with a good effort by the Densham team, but they ran out of power at the 1000' mark as Alexis DeJoria earned her ticket to the third round. Then things got very intense... very quickly. The second pair of the round matched John Force and Cruz Pedregon for the 118th time in eliminations. Many of those races have been wild affairs, and this one proved to be one of those as Force dropped a few cylinders just past the 60' clocks. That led to some major destruction, as the engine exploded and blew the body off the car. Luckily, everything stayed within the guardwalls, Pedregon was long gone and safe, and the G.O.A.T. (Force) was able to climb out of the bare chassis unaided.

With two pairs left, and each pairing featuring one of the championship contenders, things got back to business with Ron Capps running low e.t. of the round at 3.865 as he dispatched Tim Wilkerson. The last race of the round was a shocker as points leader Robert Hight went up in smoke at 100' and could only watch Bob Tasca streak into the next round. At this point, Hight was still leading but Capps only needed one more round win to take his third world championship as a driver, and first as a team owner.

That semi-final round saw two very close races, with everyone running in the 3's, and Bob Tasca carding the slowest e.t. of the round at 3.905 in his losing effort. Low e.t. of the semis was the property of Cruz Pedregon as he piut down a 3.864 - 331.77 to take out Alexis DeJoria. The key matchup of the day, and literally, of the entire season followed, as both drivers left with identical reaction times, before Ron Capps eked out a car length victory over Bob Tasca with an oh-so-close 3.865 - 334.65. That gave Capps the points lead, BUT there was a chance, if he incurred a boundary violation in the final, leading to a points penalty, that he could hand the championship back to Hight. That scenario wasn't likely, but not out of the realm of possibility.

That final round was the best race of the day in Funny Car, with low e.t. of the event run by the winner, Cruz Pedregon as he notched a 3.839 - 335.65 to hold off the new - officially - World Champion, Ron Capps. Trailing Pedregon across the finish line by barely a fender, with his quickest run of eliminations, a 3.850 - 333.16 wasn't quite enough to take the race win along with the championship.

PRO STOCK Eliminations


The TAD final had almost as much excitement as some of the Nitro Funny Car races. For the first time in quite a while two blown alky racers competing in the final,