POMONA, Calif. (November 10, 2017) It’s hard to believe that the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicked off the 2017 season at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona nine months ago. We find ourselves at that very racetrack for the final race of the season. With twenty-three races under our belt, we began qualifying for the Auto Club NHRA Finals today with two sessions.
Brittany Force is looking for a little redemption any way she can. Force dropped her points deficit to class-leader Steve Torrence down to seventeen. In the second session of qualifying, Force ran 3.667 seconds at 330.31 mph, putting her Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster on the top rung of the ladder. Force also set the track ET record, which was previously held by Leah Pritchett. “Going to the number one spot I know how many points I gained and I’m excited about that, I’m pumped about it. But for me, the big picture of this whole thing, there’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot on the line. We’re right there. We could lock in and take this thing home or we could lose it, it could slip right between our fingers. It’s tough but you have to have your mind in the right place. For me, it’s just taking it one run at a time,” Force explained. “That first lap didn’t go as planned but we put it behind us, came back out, made an awesome run in Q2, and we get two more tomorrow so for me it’s just one run at a time.”
Clay Millican’s 3.729 second pass at 328.22 mph was good enough to be off-pole. Defending world champion, Antron Brown is currently sitting third. In Q2, he moved up eight spots when he ran 3.696 seconds at 326 mph. Leah Pritchett, Steve Torrence, Richie Crampton, Doug Kalitta, and Wayne Newby joined the top three in being a part of the “quick eight” qualifiers.
Southern California native and 2012 Funny Car World Champion, Jack Beckman put his Infinite Hero Dodge on the provisional pole when he went 3.887 seconds at 314.31 mph in the second session. “I think that we’re now a top three car no matter what the conditions are. I’m really satisfied, I wish we had six more races to go but it is what it is,” Beckman told the media. He continued, “We stumbled our first run. Pomona is an odd racetrack, we run here twice a year…but nothing else goes down the racetrack. In fact, it’s an access for the parking lot for the L.A. County Fair, it’s kinda sacrilegious when I watch all these passenger cars driving on it. So the fact they come out here and prep this for a national event is mind-blowing that we can run as good as we do.”
Courtney Force improved upon her wild ride that she made in Q1 to put her Chevy Camaro in second. Force ran 3.871 seconds at 334.57 mph, all while showcasing her new livery with Taylor Swift’s latest album: Reputation. Tommy Johnson Jr. got bumped down two spots after the second session but his Q1 run of 3.887 seconds at 314.31 mph put him in third. Alexis Dejoria, Tim Wilkerson, John Force, Ron Capps, and Gary Densham help fill up the top eight rungs on the qualifying ladder.
Points leader, Greg Anderson is trying to inch his way closer to the championship by way of qualifying bonus points. Anderson put his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to the top of the ladder in the first session with a 6.541 second run at 209.79 mph. “It was big obviously to show the world that we’ve got a great car this weekend, first and foremost. It builds confidence in me, I’ve always been a guy that loves to have confidence, without it I’m a little short, with it I think I can do pretty good,” Anderson said. “I’ve definitely got it today. It was a great, great day. We got all the [bonus] points you could possibly get, we’re on the top of the pack—the top of the heap, and we’ve got a great car. I’ve been saying it all year, you’ve got to peak the right time. I’ve had a great playoff run but if this could be the best race of the six-race Countdown for me, it’d be a dream come true without a doubt,” he continued.
Drew Skillman is off-pole after his Q1 lap of 6.555 seconds at 211.69 mph. Jeg Coughlin Jr. will head into tomorrow third on the ladder after running 6.558 seconds at 209.46 mph in the first session of qualifying. Tanner Gray, Erica Enders, Jason Line, Bo Butner, and Chris McGaha round out the top half of the ladder.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
It was very fitting that Chip Ellis finished out the day with the provisional pole. Ellis had low ET of both sessions of qualifying. He made a nice 6.805 second pass at 196.53 mph. Chip Ellis’ is racing with Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson this weekend in honor of his former bike owner, Junior Pippin, who passed away last weekend after his long battle with cancer. “I think what’s really cool is that’s only my second pass ever on that motorcycle, it’s a brand new bike that they just built. Andrew [Hines] tested it after Vegas and it seems to be running pretty good,” said Pippen. Given the loss of his former bike owner, Pippen knew this race would be emotionally difficult. “It’s heavy, man, it’s tough,” he said as he choked back tears. “When the bike cranks up, all that goes away. It’s all good, man. We’re just going to try our best to make it happen for Mr. Pippen and for Vance and Hines. I’m at a loss for words, really, I don’t know what to say. These guys are really good to me, they’re my friends. To be able to come out here on this Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson and show-out like we’ve been, it’s pretty awesome.”
Andrew Hines took his Harley-Davidson Street Rod to the second spot with his 6.817 second effort at 196.36 mph. Fellow Vance & Hines rider and points leader, Eddie Krawiec is currently third after making his Q2 run of 6.836 seconds at 195.87 mph. LE Tonglet, Scotty Pollacheck, Steve Johnson, Joey Gladstone, and Jerry Savoie help make up the fastest eight riders in the field.