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The latest update as of November 8, 2022

57th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals logo

The 57th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals begins in TWO days

It's been very quiet here at Northern Thunder for the past few days, but we're back on the 'net with our latest updates. Electricity is something that we just take for granted.... until it's not there. Friday evening our island home was buffeted by a serious wind storm, not hurricane strength, but enough to take out power lines, and in some cases, poles. The result was nearly two days of darkness, living by candelight and thankfully using our gas fireplace and cooktop to prep a few basic meals and keep warm. The lights came on early Sunday and now we're back.

PRO Championship Points Standings


TF Countdown Points - October 31, 2022

This is the battle that everyone will be watching, with leader - by just SEVEN points, Brittany Force, having to fend off the hard-charging Justin Ashley at Pomona. While Force entered the countdown in the #1 position, Ashley was able to overtake her at the first stop on the countdown tour, finishing runnerup at Reading, while Force lost in the second round. From there on until the latest event, in Las Vegas, Ashley held the points lead until an untimely first round loss, coupled with Force's event victory, turned the tables and moved her into the lead for the championship.

The graphic above shows that Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta are mathematically eliminated from contention, BUT if Force fails to appear or is unable to make at least one qualifying attempt (chances of that happening are virtually ZERO), they could theoretically take the championship. Of course, the six other races ahead of them would have to make a very early exit, or not qualify, for that to happen.

Racers with a real chance to challenge for the championship are Mike Salinas, just 66 points behind Force, and Antron Brown, 78 points in arrears. Below those two, sits the four-time defending Top Fuel champion, Steve Torrence, 87 points behind and needing both an event win AND an early exit for Force and Ashley. The last two competitors in the "not quite out" category, Austin Prock (126 points behind), and Josh Hart (161 behind) will almost certainly be eliminated at the close of qualifying on Saturday.

What it all boils down to is a pressure-packed weekend for the top two protagonists, and a "hope against hope" event for the balance of the contending racers. The championship chase may even come down to the final round of eliminations on Sunday afternoon, which would be the highest stakes race of the year.


FC Countdown Points - October 31, 2022

The battle for the Funny Car crown is a little more straightforward, with season-long points leader, Robert Hight, holding a slightly more than two round win lead over the only two racers with a chance to overtake him for the title. Second in points, Ron Capps, is 61 points behind, while just a tick below him is Matt Hagan, 63 points back of Hight. All Hight needs to do is win two rounds of eliminations to clinch the championship, unless a few possibilities play out.

With the extra bonus points being offered in qualifying, which could total as many as 26 (low e.t. of each of the four qualifying sessions, and top qualifier), those "little" points could play a key role in determining the outcome of the Funny Car title. While Hight has dominated qualifying at nearly every race this year, Capps and Hagan are usually right there with him, and if they can outperform him in qualifying, the two round gap could be whittled down to just a single round win difference going into eliminations. That would make things very interesting on Sunday, and if so, the tension is sure to be immense for all three racers.


PS Countdown Points - October 31, 2022

This class was almost a foregone conclusion even before the countdown started, as four-time world champion, Erica Enders, led the points standings from the season opener in Pomona and was more than 200 points ahead of her closest challenger. Although the "great points reset" closed the gap to a mere 20 points (as shown in the graphic above), she quickly widened her lead to 90 points by winning the first event of the countdown at Reading's Maple Grove Raceway. Despite losing in the semifinals at the next race (Charlotte), she still held a 68 point lead.

Then the Elite Performance team really kicked into high gear, winning the next three races, and wrapped up her fifth world championship with a semifinal win over Kyle Koretsky. She then went on to take the event victory, her tenth win of a truly dominating season. The only drama in the class at Pomona will be who will end up in the #2 through #5 positions in the final standings. There is only a 64-point gap between those four spots so there's almost certain to be at least some shuffling at the season ender.


PSM Countdown Points - October 31, 2022

PRO SPORTSMAN Championship Points Standings


TAD Championship Points - November 6, 2022


TAFC Championship Points - November 6, 2022

The championship chase has been whittled down to two cars, as the other two racers battling for the title, D.J. Cox Jr. and defending champion Sean Bellemeur fell out of the race after the Texas FallNationals. The big surprise is the new points leader, Doug Gordon who has come back from a disastrous first-round crash at the Lucas Oil Nationals (Brainerd) in late August. Gordon had been leading the standings until that weekend, but Shane Westerfield (who narrowly avoided being collateral damage in Gordon's crash), took a 54-point lead following the event.

With Gordon out of the picture for an indefinite amount of time, Westerfield took full advantage for a month, racking up a semifinal finish at the U.S. Nationals and a runnerup at the Betway Nationals (Charlotte), to take a 63-point over his closest pursuer, D.J. Cox Jr., going into the final three national events of the season. But a disturbing and ultimately, debilitating situation began to develop with the Rick Jackson Motorsports car. Westerfield redlighted three times during the course of the Charlotte race, but still managed to reach the final round, before throwing away his chances with an -.086 foul start.

It wasn't a "one-off" as the redlights kept piling up, with a second-round loss at the Texas FallNationals, courtesy of a redlight, followed by an embarassing DNQ at the North Central Regional event at St. Louis. In three qualifying passes he only redlighted once, but rang up .014 and .020 reactions on his other two attempts. Definitely flirting with danger, albeit only in qualifying. The redlights kept on coming at Las Vegas, as he turned on the crimson orb once in three qualifying attempts, and again in the first round of eliminations. At the conclusion of the event, which Gordon won, Westerfield's lead was down to 22 points over the fast-closing BETA Motorcycles team.

Last week's final regional event of the 2022 season saw Westerfield redlight once more in qualifying, and again in a first round loss. Taking full advantage of his situation, Doug Gordon took the event win and went home with a 20-point edge going into the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Both racers will be on home turf in Southern California and the momentum is squarely in Gordon's corner with his amazing string of successes since returning from the Brainerd crash with a new car just five weeks ago. Shane Westerfield and his team must feel the pressure now as nine of his last 22 runs have been redlight starts. Is it mental, mechanical, or a combination of the two? Whatever is causing it, they need some answers to the problem... and quickly, or his chances for a second world championship could evaporate very quickly at Pomona.

The situation for both racers is clear from the graphic above, as Gordon "only" needs to reach the semifinals to gain more points, while Westerfield needs to reach the final round - and win it - to win the championship. However, if Gordon can also reach the final, the championship will be his second time to hold the BIG Wally. Tension? You bet!

NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series points

And from the "while we're at it" department, the NHRA finally (like two weeks after the Hot Rod Reunion) got around to posting the final Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series points standings. We're showing the Top Ten finishers in Nostalgia Top Fuel (AA/FD) and Nostalgia Funny Car (AA/FC), but if you click on the graphics, the full (top 25 in FC) list of points earners will appear.

AAFD Points - November 08, 2022

AAFC Points - November 08, 2022