By Lee Elder
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2018) – J.R. Todd and Matt Smith grabbed NHRA championships on the final day of the 2018 National Hot Rod Association season on a dramatic day at the Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
The championships were decided in very different ways. Todd sat in line for his first-round race and heard from his team that the only challenger left, Robert Hight, lost and was eliminated. Smith had to out-run his final challenger, Eddie Krawiec, in the final round of the event.
Todd later won the event. The other NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race winners were Tanner Gray and Steve Torrence.
It was the first time since 1992 that neither Don Schumacher Racing or John Force Racing won a championship. Todd drove for Kalitta Motorsports. Smith raced for his own team.
Todd told Fox reporter Amanda Busick, “This is what you live your whole life for when you start racing junior dragsters at 10 years old. You hope you can get to this point in your life and your career but you never really think it’s going to happen.”
Todd’s title came in his second season racing in Funny Car. He raced Top Fuel cars previously.
Smith’s title was his third in PSM. He said, “I can’t believe it. We had a plan to come win the race. This bike worked flawless, my team worked flawless.”
Top Fuel: Billy Litton, Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican, Blake Alexander, Steve Torrence, Billy Torrence, Brittany Force and Antron Brown all advanced.
Funny Car: Robert Hight smoked his tires and lost to Bob Tasca in the first pair. The Funny Car championship went to J.R. Todd at that moment. Todd advanced by beating Jim Campbell in the next pair, but he had clinched the title by then. Also advancing were Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Courtney Force, John Force and Shawn Langdon.
Pro Stock: Advancing were Jeg Coughlin, Bo Butner, Drew Skillman, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, Alex Laughlin, Erica Enders and Tanner Gray.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: The winners were Matt Smith, Hector Arana, Andrew Hines, LE Tonglet, Hector Arana Jr., Angelle Sampey, Eddie Krawiec and Jerry Savoie. Points: Smith 2,546; Krawiec 2,547; Arana Jr. 2,476; Tonglet 2,472.
Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher, Blake Alexander, Steve Torrence and Brittany Force all advanced. Force and Antron Brown both passed Leah Pritchett in the standings.
Funny Car: Todd, the new champ, advanced. So did Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Pro Stock: Jason Line, Tanner Gray, Jeg Coughlin and Drew Skillman advanced. All non-Countdown drivers have been eliminated. Skillman passed Erica Enders for third place. Line passed Vincent Nobile for fifth place in the Countdown.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr. advanced, leaving just the top six riders in the Countdown standings alive in the race. LE Tonglet and Eddie Krawiec had to win to stay alive in the Countdown and they did. The top four in the standings are the last riders left but only Smith or Krawiec can win the title.
Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher advanced and will finish second in the Countdown. Steve Torrence won and is one round away from sweeping every round in the Countdown.
Funny Car: JR Todd and Tommy Johnson Jr. advanced. It will be the fourth time in as many years Johnson has advanced to the final round of this event.
Pro Stock: Tanner Gray and Drew Skillman advanced. Skillman could finish second in the points if he wins the race.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: Matt Smith advanced, as did Krawiec. The winner of the final round will win the title.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: Equal reaction times but Smith won the championship, his third, with a pass of 6.765/201.22. Krawiec was 6.812/198.35.
Pro Stock: Skillman went red by .002 of a second, win to Tanner Gray. Gray’s numbers: 6.519 seconds, 211.86 mph.
Funny Car: Todd beat Tommy Johnson Jr. to cap the championship season. Johnson’s car ends up in the sand but he is not hurt.
Top Fuel: Torrence sweeps the Countdown by beating Schumacher on a hole shot. Torrence’s reaction time was .029 of a second to Schumacher’s .053. Torrence completed the run in 3.702/330.07 to Schumacher’s quicker and faster 3.700/331.61.