--- Home Page
--- What's New
--- Features
--- Features
--- E-mail

The latest update as of November 11, 2022

57th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals logo

Day ONE is in the books at the Auto Club NHRA Finals

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.

Now that we have all the photos from the first qualifying session for Top Alcohol Funny Car, we can present them in chronological order, complete with captions.

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 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

Kim Parker

Ron Anderson --- Garrett Bateman

(LEFT) Ron Anderson

(RIGHT) Garrett Bateman

Johnny Ahten --- Johnny Ahten

Johnny Ahten

Tom Fox Jr. --- Tom Fox Jr.

Tom Fox Jr.

Madison Payne --- Madison Payne

Madison Payne

Jackie Fricke --- Jackie Fricke

Jackie Fricke

Matt Cummings

Matt Cummings

Joey Severance --- Joey Severance

Joey Severance