A trio of first-time world-championship winners, Antron Brown, Jack Beckman and Allen Johnson, headlined those drivers crowned Monday evening during the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Grand Ballroom at the Hollywood and Highland Center.
Top Fuel champ Brown, 36, made history by becoming the first African-American driver to win a major U.S. auto racing championship. He claimed the title in dramatic fashion at the season-ending race in Pomona, Calif. The driver of the Matco Tools dragster earned six victories in 11 final rounds during the season and set a national performance record in Reading, Pa., to add 20 valuable points to his total. He battled teammates Tony Schumacher and Spencer Massey to the final day of the season finale. Brown earned $500,000 from NHRA and Full Throttle for the series crown and added to NHRA’s storied history of diversity, joining pioneering champions Shirley Muldowney, Cruz Pedregon, Tony Pedregon, Angelle Sampey and Hector Arana Sr. in the NHRA record book.
Beckman, 46, took the $500,000 Funny Car title when he outlasted teammate Ron Capps at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, eventually winning the crown by two points in one of the closest title finishes in NHRA history. A cancer survivor and former drag racing school driving instructor, Beckman raced to three victories and also used a national record performance in Pennsylvania behind the wheel of his Valvoline/NextGen Dodge Charger to earn his first pro series world championship title.
Johnson, 52, earned his first Pro Stock world championship and gave Dodge its first series title in 18 years and fifth overall. He drove the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to a personal-best seven victories in 11 final rounds and claimed a category-best 10 No. 1 qualifying positions. Three of those victories came during the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Johnson was awarded $250,000 for the series title from NHRA and Full Throttle.
Krawiec, 35, earned his second consecutive and third overall world-championship title in Pro Stock Motorcycle by racing to a personal-best nine victories in 10 final rounds on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, including three victories during the Countdown playoffs. Krawiec, an Englishtown, N.J., native who now lives near Indianapolis, claimed $75,000 from NHRA and Full Throttle for this season’s title.
Funny Car driver Courtney Force was named the winner of the $20,000 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which recognizes the top NHRA rookie performer of the year. Force had an outstanding first season and raced to one victory in four final rounds and claimed two No. 1 qualifying positions, including the top spot at the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. She finished fifth in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship final points standings and received the award based on votes from a panel of the nation’s top motorsports journalists. She becomes the fourth driver from the John Force Racing stable to win the coveted award, joining teammates Robert Hight and Mike Neff and sister Ashley Force Hood. The other candidates in the very strong rookie class included Alexis DeJoria, Khalid alBalooshi, Todd Lesenko, Blake Alexander, Chris McGaha, John Hall and Scotty Pollacheck.
Winners of the Full Throttle Hard-Working Crew Awards, which recognize the hardest-working crews in each of the four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories, were Brown’s Matco Tools dragster crew in Top Fuel ($25,000) for setting the national elapsed time record at 3.701 seconds in Reading and jumping to a 104-point lead at the fourth of six Countdown playoff events; Force’s Traxxas Ford Mustang crew in Funny Car ($25,000) for helping the rookie driver win her first race in only her 15th start in Seattle despite having their worst qualifying effort of the season (14th); Erica Enders’ GK Motorsports crew for helping Enders make NHRA history in Chicago by becoming the first female to win a Pro Stock race ($15,000); and Krawiec’s Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson crew in Pro Stock Motorcycle ($5,000) for setting a then national elapsed time record of 6.750 seconds and racing to a season-opening victory at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
For the fifth time overall and second year in a row, Ford was named the NHRA Manufacturers Cup winner. Ford also won NHRA Manufacturers Cup titles in 1964, 1965 and 1982. Funny Car racers Neff, Hight, Bob Tasca III, Force, Tim Wilkerson and John Force and Pro Stock racer Larry Morgan, along with NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series drivers Drew Skillman, Bo Butner and Ray Skillman, among others, contributed to the winning effort for Ford.
Popular NHRA announcer Bob Frey was presented the prestigious Don Prudhomme Award for his many contributions to the sport of NHRA Drag Racing throughout the years. Frey, who recently announced his retirement, received a standing ovation from the crowd when he accepted the award.
Drivers in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also were recognized as 2012 world champions: Jim Whiteley (Top Alcohol Dragster), Frank Manzo (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Bruno Massel (Competition Eliminator), Jimmy DeFrank (Super Stock), Brad Burton (Stock Eliminator), Alan Kenny (Super Comp) and Jeff Lopez (Super Gas).