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The latest update as of November 12, 2022

57th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals logo

Two days done and two to go at the Auto Club NHRA Finals

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.

It's at this point that we have to close the reporting until Monday. Prior commitments are going to use up all my available time for this evening and all day tomorrow. We'll be back Monday with (hopefully) lots of photos and details on how the race and the championship battles played out.