Today’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona will be a hot one, and not only the weather is expected to contribute to the heat. With all four class championships up for grabs: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, the scenarios call for oddsmakers’ best guesses.
Probably the only class that could be decided in the first round is the two-wheeled set. Andrew Hines is in control of his destiny in seeking a sixth Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, aboard his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle FXDR. Hines qualified fourth after the four sessions were complete and faces improving rookie Jianna Salinas’ Suzuki in the No. 13 slot.
Hines’ top-half result in qualifying eliminated teammate Eddie Krawiec and WAR Racing’s Karen Stoffer. Still in the hunt are No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith, the reigning title holder and Jerry Savoie, who qualified third. In order for Hines to take his sixth championship he’s got to beat Salinas in the first round. If the rookie wins, either Savoie or Smith have to win the race. It’s pretty simple.
Pro Stock isn’t quite as easy, as KB Racing’s Greg Anderson, already eliminated from the title chase in this six-race Countdown to the Championship, played a strategy game throughout the four qualifying rounds. He’s in 15th place and meets points-leader, No. 2 qualifier Erica Enders in the first round. If he wins the round, then his teammates Jason Line and Bo Butner have a chance to earn their fourth and second titles, respectively – if they win the race.
That scenario doesn’t take into account No. 1 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr., trying for his sixth Pro Stock title. Coughlin needs to go three rounds farther than Enders and would have to win the race if Enders defeats Anderson in Round 1. Right now Enders holds 81 points on Coughlin; she’ll earn her third championship if she wins the second round.
The marquee matchup in Funny Car takes place in the first round, pitting points leader Robert Hight against his team owner John Force. Hight’s trying for a third championship; Force wants his 17th. Those John Force Racing (JFR) teammates, driving Chevrolet Camaro SS floppers, have to contend with No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan’s Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody and teammate, No. 2 qualifier Jack Beckman’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, both of whom are still eligible for the title.
Bob Tasca III is still in the hunt as well, but he’s got to win the race and hope Force defeats Hight in the first round. Hight automatically wins if he makes it to the final round; if Force beats him the stakes are high. He needs to go two rounds farther than Hight, while Beckman and Hagan have to go at least two rounds farther than Hight to earn their second and third titles, respectively.
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence is, once again in the catbird seat, while not as dominant as in his first, 2018 championship year. The No. 1 qualifier takes his second consecutive title by going the same number of rounds as competitor Brittany Force of John Force Racing, who qualified eighth. If he beats Cameron Ferre in round one and Force takes out DSR’s Antron Brown, the two meet in the quarterfinals this afternoon.
Force would achieve her second title if she wins her first and second round matchups, as she’d go a round farther than the Texan. Doug Kalitta, who qualified sixth, dropped to a 63-point deficit to Torrence; both he and Billy Torrence have to go three rounds beyond Steve Torrence to attain their first world championships. But if Steve wins in the second round against Brittany, they’re both out of the game.
Racing begins, under sunny and rapidly-warming skies, at 11AM PST,