Johnson Jr. lead Funny Car qualifying at Pomona

Billy Torrence, Shane Gray and Karen Stoffer were leaders in their categories at the final playoff race in the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

Pomona, Calif. – Funny Car world championship long shot Tommy Johnson Jr. raced to the qualifying lead Friday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were leaders in their categories at the final playoff race in the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

Funny Car

Johnson powered his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T to a track record performance of 3.917 seconds at 324.67 mph at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona near Los Angeles to take the top spot as he pursues his fourth No.1 position of the season.

“We knew the performance of the car was there and the guys have done a good job of picking at it and getting better and better,” Johnson said. “You’ve gotta win the race. Points are great. We are a long shot. We need to try and win the race. We need to set the record and win the race and have a little luck where those guys have problems. We now have a back-up for the national record and things are going as planned.”

With the effort, Johnson gained two points on series leader Del Worsham. Meanwhile, Worsham, who qualified seventh in his DHL Toyota Camry, and Jack Beckman, who qualified fifth in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, are both in front of Johnson in the series standings, who now trails the leader by 94. Following the first session Beckman was able to trim Worsham’s lead by two and now trials by 36.

“The last three or four races I’ve run a career best, so [crew chief] John Collins has been good about getting better each run,” Johnson said. “I think there’s more out there than the 3.91. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to what Jack and Del have been doing. I am proud of the season we’ve had no matter what happens. If we could win it, it would be outstanding. I am proud of how far we’ve come and what we’re going to do next year.”

Defending world champ Matt Hagan qualified second in his Mopar Charger with a 3.923 at a track record speed of 329.50, while two-time Pomona winner Ron Capps was third in his NAPA Charger with a 3.937 at 325.69.

Top Fuel

In Top Fuel, Torrence moved into position to earn his first No. 1 qualifying position by powering to a career-best effort of 3.726 at 331.61 in his Capco Contractors dragster.

“The guys have been working hard to get both cars on the same page,” Torrence said. “I’ve been benefitting from getting the right set up. Both cars have been running real close. It’s great to be out here. I’ve got a lot of friends and a lot of folks who’ve been rooting for us here.”

Larry Dixon qualified second in his C&J Energy Services dragster with a 3.737 at 327.19 and Tony Schumacher is third in his U.S. Army dragster with a 3.745 at 324.59. Newly crowned Top Fuel world champ Antron Brown is fourth after two sessions, posting a 3.758 at 324.90 in his Matco Tools dragster.

Pro Stock

Gray led Pro Stock with an effort of 6.509 at 212.79 in his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray is trying to improve on his 10th place points position in the factory hot rod category.

“It would be awesome for team morale to go into the off-season with a No. 1, and even better to win the race,” Gray said. “With Erica Enders having already clinched the title, there is nothing to lose and so we can go for it. The more you can relax, the better you can be.”

Vincent Nobile qualified second with a 6.510 at 212.93 in his NAPA Auto Parts Camaro and was followed by rookie sensation Drew Skillman, who sits third in his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro with a 6.512 at 213.06. Enders is fifth overall with a 6.516 at 210.05 in his Elite Motorsports Camaro.

Stoffer, a two-time winner this season, led the two-wheel class with a performance of 6.823 seconds at 196.36 mph on her BIG St. Charles Motorsports Suzuki.

“We want to finish the season off strong,” Stoffer said. “We haven’t traditionally done that. It would be huge for us to do good at this final race and knock that gremlin off our back to finish strong here late in the season. We had a safe run on that first one to get down the track and make sure our brakes work well. We were able to do it on the second hit when we ran the full quarter-mile. I don’t think it will hold. This class is so competitive. The track stayed consistent. Tomorrow is going to be better. There is a little more out there. That 82 isn’t the best we can do. Hopefully we can step it up and meet everybody. If I could win this race this weekend it would truly be a dream season for me.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle

The three Pro Stock Motorcycle championship contenders all qualified in the top half of the field, with series leader Andrew Hines in fifth, second place Jerry Savoie fourth and third-place Eddie Krawiec eighth. Savoie, who earned one qualifying bonus point for his third-place effort in round one, trails Hines by 45 points. Krawiec is 83 back.

Chip Ellis qualified second on his PiranaZ Buell with a 6.830 at 196.42 and defending event winner Hector Arana Jr. is third on his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.833 at 197.57.

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at noon and 3 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m.

Friday's results 

Top Fuel – 1. Billy Torrence, 3.726 seconds, 331.61 mph; 2. Larry Dixon, 3.737, 327.19; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.745, 324.59; 4. Antron Brown, 3.758, 324.90; 5. Dave Connolly, 3.764, 327.03; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.771, 320.20; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.774, 326.56; 8. Clay Millican, 3.775, 323.89; 9. Troy Buff, 3.829, 313.51; 10. J.R. Todd, 3.846, 273.77; 11. Brittany Force, 4.015, 279.09; 12. Morgan Lucas, 4.143, 210.05. Not Qualified: 13. Richie Crampton, 4.633, 160.44; 14. Steve Torrence, 5.603, 114.77; 15. Cory McClenathan, 6.714, 88.07; 16. Terry McMillen, 6.895, 101.62; 17. Shawn Reed, 7.444, 88.27; 18. Steve Faria, 11.774, 69.87.

Funny Car – 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.917, 324.67; 2. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.923, 329.50; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.937, 325.69; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.955, 318.09; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.964, 319.29; 6. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.965, 322.88; 7. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.974, 324.05; 8. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.987, 318.02; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.023, 308.43; 10. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.052, 308.57; 11. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.128, 261.17; 12. John Force, Camaro, 4.343, 209.39. Not Qualified: 13. John Hale, 4.431, 210.14; 14. Paul Lee, 4.503, 268.44; 15. Bob Bode, 4.684, 186.15; 16. Jeff Arend, 4.858, 175.48; 17. Tim Gibbons, 4.995, 161.07; 18. Chad Head, 5.805, 117.46; 19. Courtney Force, 7.833, 78.26; 20. Brandon Welch, 11.007, 60.71.

Pro Stock – 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.509, 212.79; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.510, 213.00; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.512, 213.06; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.513, 212.66; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.516, 212.96; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.521, 212.86; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.523, 213.30; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.526, 213.10; 9. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.528, 212.06; 10. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.535, 212.63; 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.540, 211.79; 12. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.551, 211.56. Not Qualified: 13. Richie Stevens, 6.561, 211.00; 14. Kenny Delco, 6.579, 210.47; 15. Matt Hartford, 6.587, 210.31; 16. V. Gaines, 6.588, 210.44; 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.631, 209.20; 18. Joey Grose, 6.656, 210.34.

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 1. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.823, 196.36; 2. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.830, 196.44; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.833, 197.57; 4. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.836, 196.67; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.837, 195.73; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.853, 196.47; 7. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.855, 195.90; 8. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 195.99; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.878, 194.88; 10. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.915, 192.28; 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.917, 193.88; 12. Angie Smith, Victory, 6.919, 192.14. Not Qualified: 13. Hector Arana, 6.926, 195.25; 14. Mike Berry, 6.951, 190.83; 15. Shawn Gann, 6.960, 192.41; 16. Jim Underdahl, 6.961, 194.55; 17. Freddie Camarena, 6.962, 194.80; 18. Kalle Lyren, 6.983, 191.02; 19. Joe DeSantis, 6.985, 192.11; 20. Redell Harris, 6.994, 190.57; 21. Katie Sullivan, 6.998, 190.22; 22. Robert Karlsson, 7.021, 191.95; 23. Luke Crowley, 7.027, 193.27; 24. Rhett Lougheed, 7.138, 187.94; 25. Eddie Reed, 7.229, 188.54; 26. Lance Bonham, 7.368, 183.92; 27. Bill Burkhart, 7.459, 179.25; 28. Melissa Surber, 18.068, 41.90.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Event Pomona
Sub-event Friday
Track Pomona Raceway
Drivers Larry Dixon , Ron Capps , Tony Schumacher , Karen Stoffer , Bo Butner , Chip Ellis , Matt Hagan , Hector Arana Jr. , Shane Gray , Vincent Nobile , Billy Torrence , Tommy Johnson Jr. , Drew Skillman
Article type Qualifying report