2021 NHRA Champions Crowned at Auto Club NHRA Finals

Photo Courtesy: NHRA Media
NHRA, Auto Club NHRA Finals
Photo Courtesy: NHRA Media 

The leaves are falling all around us, and a chill is in the air. Along with signaling the beginning of winter this time of year also begins to bring the racing season to a close. The latest series to draw to a close gave a few NHRA Camping World Series legends the opportunity to add another championship to their trophy case at this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Beginning with the King of Top Fuel Steve Torrence, who clinched his fourth career NHRA Top Fuel championship after collecting 10 victories heading into the season finale and capping this off with his 11th victory after taking down good friend Antron Brown in Sunday’s final round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Funny Car driver Ron Capps also clinched his second NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship at this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals. The 2021 Funny Car championship chase came down to an intense battle between Capps and his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, No. 2 ranked Matt Hagan. Hagan had already beaten Capps in round two and could steal the points lead from Capps and win his fourth championship if he won the event. Less than four seconds later, the win light came on in DeJoria’s lane and Capps, the 2016 champion, became a two-time titlist in the NHRA Funny Car class. It may have taken more than a decade, but Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson can also say he is now a five-time Camping World NHRA Series Pro Stock champion after he defeated his archrival Erica Enders in Sunday’s semifinal round. Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Matt Smith also joined exclusive company in Pomona when he beat Angelle Sampey on a holeshot in Sunday’s quarterfinal round to drive to his fifth NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series world title.

Top Fuel

NHRA, Auto Club NHRA Finals
Photo Courtesy: NHRA Media

Steve Torrence had already won more than half of the season’s first 19 events, collecting 10 victories including two of the last four events heading into the season finale. As the final race weekend began, the driver that no one was able to catch this season would qualify No. 2 and would continue this with a first-round victory over Brandon Welch. Torrence had to pedal his way to victory in round two as both he and perennial championship rival Doug Kalitta lost traction, and Torrence’s 4.25-second attempt was nothing to write home about but nonetheless advanced him to a semifinal date with dark horse favorite Cameron Ferre. Although this would give Torrence just what he needed to earn the 2021 Top Fuel championship, this unstoppable driver went on to win his 11th victory of the season after besting his good friend Antron Brown in Sunday’s final round with a 3.75-second pass to Brown’s 3.80-second attempt.

“All I can say about this season is that I am thankful, grateful and blessed to be where I am once again,” said Torrence. “To cap this championship off with a final round race against one of my best friends in the world just made it that much sweeter. I am definitely going to remember this one for years to come.”

Funny Car

NHRA, Auto Club NHRA Finals
Photo Courtesy: NHRA Media

Torrence was not the only NHRA legend to find himself once again with yet another championship. Don Schumacher Racing’s own Ron Capps came into this weekend’s finals with the points lead and thanks to a solid qualifying effort with crew chiefs Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and John Medlen tuning Capps’ machine to the best run of Q2 and second-best run of Q1 to bank seven crucial bonus points. Their qualifying performance enabled them to further extend their lead on his teammate Matt Hagan by a 67-point margin, which equated to a three round advantage heading into race day. After both Capps and his teammate took down both of their round one opponents, the stage was set for a thrilling round two showdown between the two. Although Capps would fall short to Hagan during this round, his teammate would lose out to Alexis DeJoria in Sunday’s semi-final round, which gave Capps his second NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship.

“I still can’t believe this happened,” said Capps. “I am still in shock! I stood in that grandstands as a kid and watched Joe Amato and Gary Ormsby lined up in the final round years ago and just to be down here doing this right now and have a second World Championship. I can’t say enough, thank you to my entire team and even Don Schumacher.”

Pro Stock

NHRA, Auto Club NHRA Finals
Photo Courtesy: NHRA Media

It took more than a decade, but Greg Anderson can also say that he is now a five-time Camping World NHRA Series Pro Stock champion. Statistically, the 2021 season has been one of the best of Anderson’s career with four wins in eight final rounds. Anderson won in Gainesville and Atlanta and secured crucial Countdown victories in Reading and Dallas to boost his chances.

Anderson’s KB Racing Camaro has also been nearly unstoppable in qualifying, taking the pole position 12 times in 17 events. He has been first, second, or third at every race this season except Indianapolis, where he started from the seventh spot. As the sun rose on Sunday’s last elimination rounds of the season, Anderson defeated Mike Callahan and Deric Kramer to advance to the semifinal round against fellow championship contender Erica Enders.

Anderson took down his femme fatale rival and clinched his first title since 2010 after driving his HendrickCars.com Camaro to a semi-final pass of 6.578-seconds at 208.23 MPH. “This championship is amazing,” said Anderson. “I am the luckiest man in the world to be able to do what I love to do and to be associated with the greatest people in the sport for the last 20 years and am looking forward to many more.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle

NHRA, Auto Club NHRA Finals
Photo Courtesy: NHRA Media

Thanks to having the best bike in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class at almost every race this season Matt Smith also clinched his fifth Camping World NHRA Series championship on Sunday in Pomona when he beat Angelle Sampey on a holeshot in the quarterfinal round. Smith entered the Auto Club NHRA Finals with a tenuous 20-point lead over Steve Johnson and a 30-point advantage over Sampey, who was chasing her third fourth championship and first since 2002. Smith managed to extend that lead in qualifying when he had the quickest bike in two of three qualifying sessions and took this onto back-to-back championships.

“I just want to be one of the greatest riders of all time and thanks to yet another championship for both myself and my Denso Buell team this goal seems to be coming to pass,” said Smith. “I have got to thank Denso, Mark Stockseth, Glen Butcher Trucking, and everyone else who supports us. We did it! We have got five of them and it feels so good.”

A special congratulations goes out to all of the 2021Camping World NHRA Series champions from all of us at RacingJunk.com!! Enjoy your well-deserved respite.

About Ellen Richardson 478 Articles
Ellen Richardson is the author of Behind The Wheel for RacingJunk.com. This automotive sports junkie has a passion for telling an athlete's story while also covering various racing activities. Find out more about her at ellennrichardson.wordpress.com or follow Ellen on Twitter at @ellennrich or Instagram at elnrich33.

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