This weekend marks the end of the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the completion of the Full Throttle era in NHRA history. In a season that has been so very wide open (in all but Pro Stock Motorcycle, where the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson motorcycles have won all but one race with Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines riding), it’s a nail-biter as to who will take home the championship Wally trophies in Top Fuel, Funny Car and, to a lesser extent in Pro Stock.
We all know one thing about this weekend’s World Finals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip: Top Fuel belongs to Don Schumacher Racing, with only a very, very slight chance for Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon to make the cut from fourth place and take out the DSR trio ahead of him.
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown holds the lead with teammate Tony Schumacher 65 points back and teammate Spencer Massey 70 points behind. Brown had a crappy race meeting at Las Vegas the final weekend of October, qualifying in the bottom half of the 16-car field and going out in the first round. Massey fell in round 2 and Schumacher went to the finals, leapfrogging the Fram dragster in the process and closing the gap to Brown.
If there’s anybody in this paddock that understands pressure, it’s Schumacher, winner of seven Top Fuel titles and aching for an eighth. Schumacher’s ability to perform under the most difficult circumstances has gotten him where he is today. Using the only canopy-equipped dragster in the field – and that canopy hasn’t been shown to be a performance-enhancing piece at all – Schumacher has been steady and fast throughout the Countdown to One playoffs and could easily cause his teammates conniptions this weekend.
All the media attention has gone to Brown’s attempt to become the first African American person of color to win Top Fuel and that’s a good way to get people that aren’t interested in drag racing to come out and watch. Since he came to the class from Pro Stock Motorcycle, Brown has been a great competitor – just as he was on two wheels. The former track-and-field star doesn’t place any emphasis on race in his dealings with this championship – other than emphasizing drag racing in all its glory – making his ascension as an African American a moot point.
Looking at Funny Car, where Jack Beckman has four points on three-time runner-up Ron Capps, the story is similar – but maybe not. Early in the season, team owner Don Schumacher moved all equipment in Beckman’s trailer and shop area over to Capps, including crew chief Rahn Tobler, bringing in former Snake Racing Top Fuel co-crew chief Todd Smith to engineer the Beckman Dodge Charger flopper. Beckman and Capps have responded by staging a true duel between them ever since with Capps owning five victories and Beckman totaling three – Mike Neff’s Mustang has driven to four wins this year but he hasn’t had the consistency of the DSR boys.