Series drivers heads to season finale at Pomona

NHRA Series press release

Southern California native Del Worsham hopes to make history at his home track, Auto Club Raceway

POMONA, Calif. – Al-Anabi Racing driver Del Worsham, who resides in Chino Hills, Calif., has had a very successful 21-year career within the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series but no year has even come close to the success he has had in 2011. With six No. 1 qualifiers and seven wins, including last weekend’s event in Las Vegas, Worsham sits two points out of first place as he heads ‘home’ to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to try to collect his first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championship title.

I believe when it's all said and done, I'm going to have to win in Pomona, win the Finals, to win the championship.

Del Worsham

“This is 21 years in building,” Worsham said. “My whole career has come down to one race right now. I'm looking forward to it. I've never been at this level before. I'm a lucky guy.”

Defending event winner Antron Brown, who is 14 points out of the Top Fuel lead, is going to do his best to put Worsham’s championship hopes on hold and fulfill his own at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 10-13. Other defending event winners of the event that will be telecast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD include John Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

After dominating the first 16 races of the season and starting the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship in the No. 1 spot, Worsham struggled for the first few races and entered the Las Vegas event in fourth place in the point standings. The hardships only gave the team more motivation as they went on to dominate the race, earning the No. 1 qualifying position and winning the event, which moved Worsham up to second place with just one race to go in the Countdown playoffs.

“I believe when it's all said and done, I'm going to have to win in Pomona, win the Finals, to win the championship,” Worsham said. “There are a lot of great drivers, everybody peaks at different times, and I feel good about going into Pomona right now with a win in Las Vegas. I’ve got a brand new car that runs great and a team that's been in this position before. I'm the guy that's never been in this position before, but I have a lot of people around me who have who are definitely supporting me.”

Worsham may be a newbie to championship pressure but so are his championship rivals, Brown and series leader Spencer Massey, who are also seeking their first career world championships. Three-time world champ Larry Dixon also remains in the title hunt, but would need the three ahead of him to falter early in the weekend to earn his fourth championship.

Brown, who moved from Pro Stock Motorcycle to Top Fuel in 2008, is so close to the title he feels this could be the year when all of his racing dreams come true.

“It's something when I started driving 21 years ago, I just wanted to get down the track,” Brown said. “I never thought about winning a race or a championship but after my first season, it looked like it was something that was possible. I thought maybe it was something I could do. I've been trying to do it for the last 20 years, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm more excited this year than I have been ever in my drag racing career.”

Del Worsham
Del Worsham

Photo by: Ted Rossino

Not only would it be Brown’s first world championship, but should he win he would also become the first African-American to win an NHRA Full Throttle Series world championship in a sport that has been highly regarded for its great diversity among its participants since it was founded by Wally Parks in 1951.

“This is a huge dream for me and for the kids who are out there now,” Brown said. “If it helps anybody else change their dream or their story, I'm all for it. Looking at color and different stuff like that, I'm just an American. I love it. I embrace the sport, and that's where I stand with it.”

No matter who walks away with the NHRA Full Throttle championship trophy Sunday night in Pomona, the drama probably won’t end until the last pass of the evening at Auto Club Raceway.

Depending how the elimination ladders take shape, a winner-take-all final is very likely in both Fuel classes, since the championship battle in Funny Car is even tighter than the one in Top Fuel.

DieHard Dodge driver Matt Hagan holds a one point advantage over his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman and his Valvoline NextGen/Aaron’s Dream Machine Dodge Charger. While two-time Funny Car champ Cruz Pedregon sits 26 points back in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry and two-time world championship tuner turned driver, Mike Neff, who drives the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, is in fourth place, 34 points back of the leader. Neff’s John Force Racing teammate and 2009 champ, Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang, are still mathematically in the running, as is Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle the championship battle is still alive between 2008 champ Eddie Krawiec and rookie Hector Arana, Jr. Krawiec, who has led the points for most of the season, capitalized on Arana Jr.’s early exit in Las Vegas, when he went on to win the event giving him a 69 point lead heading into the final race of the year. Arana Jr. still has a shot at to win the title in his rookie season he will need to make up a lot of points at the Auto Club Finals.

The only class that has already crowned its champion is Pro Stock. The 2006 world champ, Jason Line, took his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a semifinal finish in Las Vegas to clinch his second career Pro Stock world championship.

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Veteran racer Pedregon in position to score third Full Throttle series Funny Car World Championship title

POMONA, Calif. – Two-time NHRA Funny Car world champ Cruz Pedregon will try to put the final chapter of a third come-from-behind championship story in the NHRA record book at the 47th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 10-13 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Cruz Pedregon
Cruz Pedregon

Photo by: Ted Rossino

Trailing by 26 points in third place Pedregon is in one of the tightest championship battles in NHRA history. The scene is set with plenty of potential cut-throat drama and a variety of outcomes, but right in the middle of the action is actually a pretty comfortable place to be for the 48-year-old Torrance, Calif. native.

In 1992 as a rookie, Pedregon won five races in a row at the end of the season to steal the championship title away from John Force, whose lead was so big by mid-season his team went into test mode. Force was literally upside down on more than one occasion coming down the stretch as Pedregon worked his magic in his McDonald’s Oldsmobile and then walked away with the unlikely championship crown.

In 2008’s Countdown to the Championship, Pedregon finished the regular season in fourth place with only one runner-up finish on his scorecard and not much momentum to speak of, but found more late season magic and rallied to capture his second world championship. His Rahn Tobler-tuned Advance Auto Parts Chevy Impala got red-hot in the six-race playoffs and he powered to three victories and one runner-up finish to pull away from challengers Tim Wilkerson, Jack Beckman and Robert Hight down the stretch.

This season Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools Toyota has shown flashes of brilliance by making some amazing qualifying runs, but his team hasn’t found the level of consistency on race day that the former ESPN race analyst would like. His playoff victory at Dallas and semifinal effort at Las Vegas two weeks ago moved him into position to score his third series championship title.

He hopes the very best of his season will surface this weekend at the historic Southern California drag strip as NHRA closes out its 60th Anniversary celebration. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship finale that will be televised on ESPN2 HD.

“I don’t feel like we’ve had our signature race,” Pedregon said. “I feel like we haven't put it all together and really dominated the race, which I think we’re capable of, and that’s saying a lot. That is something that I’m hoping to have because we’re probably going to need it at the Finals. I think we’re going to need to have one of our best races. So I’m looking forward to it. I’m really proud that our Snap-on Toyota is in the championship hunt, even though we’ve had a good year, it could be a great year here (by this weekend).”

Pedregon knows he’ll need a perfect race to track down series leader Matt Hagan, who drove his DieHard Dodge Charger to a runner-up finish last season in the Countdown. One of his title challengers from 2008 – Beckman – is in second place, only one point behind Hagan. Behind Pedregon, 34 points back of Hagan, sits the series leader for much of the year, two-time championship winning crew chief Mike Neff. Hight and Ron Capps are still mathematically alive in fifth and sixth place.

Pedregon says his experience in the two previous comebacks doesn’t necessarily give him the edge this time around.

“I think this year is a new year, and you’ve got new contenders and a whole different circumstance,” Pedregon said. “I’m in a different position than I’ve ever been. I’m basically calling all the shots on my car. I’m in a different mindset so to speak, than I have ever been. But I’m excited and happy to be in that position, because I feel like my instincts and my car is an extension of me. So I think it’s worked well for me this year.”

But I’m excited and happy to be in that position, because I feel like my instincts and my car is an extension of me.

Cruz Pedregon

No matter the outcome on Sunday, one thing Pedregon can be proud of is that his single car team mixed it up with two of Funny Car’s mega teams – Don Schumacher Racing (Hagan, Beckman and Capps) and John Force Racing (Hagan and Hight) – and took them down to the wire. Pedregon says if he’s successful that will make a nice sidebar, but despite the odds, he says winning is where he and his team will ultimately gain the most satisfaction.

“The fact that we’re competing for a championship with a one car team, I think it’s phenomenal,” Pedregon said. “Nobody wants to hear about phenomenal. My sponsors want me to win just like the other guys. I like the fact that we’re in it. We stack all the dice on racing, and we’ll see what happens at the end.”

A very close Countdown to the Championship battle exists in Top Fuel as well, as five drivers are still mathematically alive. Four of those drivers have a realistic chance to win the championship, including series leader Spencer Massey, who drives the FRAM dragster and second place Del Worsham, who drives the Al-Anabi Racing dragster and trails Massey by two points. Third place Antron Brown, who has won six races this season in his Matco Tools dragster and has won this event the last two season, sits 14 points out of first place. Three-time and defending world champ Larry Dixon is fourth in the standings in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, and trails the leader by 44 points. Tony Schumacher is fifth overall, 136 points back and will be trying to improve his position in the standings, but is realistically out of the title hunt.

Jason Line has already clinched the Pro Stock world championship title, the second of his career. He wrapped up the title two weeks ago in Las Vegas and now the focus in the 200-mph factory hot rod category is for second place. Mike Edwards holds the spot, while Line’s teammate and the defending world champ Greg Anderson is third overall. Rookie Vincent Nobile is fourth and will try to give his Southern California-based team owner Nick Mitsos a homespun victory. Allen Johnson and Erica Enders are fifth and sixth respectively, but both have their eyes set on a third or fourth place finish.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship is yet to be decided as 2008 world champ Krawiec, who rides the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, holds a 69-point lead over rookie Hector Arana Jr., who rides the Lucas Oil Buell. Krawiec has owned the two-wheel bragging rights at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona the last three seasons as he has won the last two races at the historic track and was runner-up there in ’08 when he claimed the series crown. Rookie rider Arana will try to continue his late season hot streak, which has included three victories in five final rounds and four No. 1 qualifying positions since the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. in mid-August.

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AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS FACT SHEET

WHAT: 47th Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, the final of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the final of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship. The top 10 drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships.

WHERE: Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Pomona, Calif. Track is located off I-10 at Fairplex Drive. From I-10, go north on Fairplex drive and follow the signs to Auto Club Raceway at the Fairplex.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 10-13

SCHEDULE:
THURSDAY, Nov. 10 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 8:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at Noon.

Jason Line
Jason Line

Photo by: Ted Rossino

FRIDAY, Nov. 11 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations at 8:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at Noon.

SATURDAY, Nov. 12 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

SUNDAY, Nov. 13 - Pre-race ceremonies, 9:45 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION:
Saturday, Nov. 12, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 10:30 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, Nov. 13, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).

2010 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; John Force, Funny Car; Shane Gray, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC, 8; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC, 6; Bob Glidden, PS, 5; Greg Anderson, PS, 5; John Myers, PSM, 5; Tony Schumacher, TF, 4; Warren Johnson, PS, 4; Dave Schultz, PSM, 4.

TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel - 3.770 seconds by Larry Dixon, Feb. ’11; 327.03 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb, ‘11

Funny Car - 4.015 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, Feb. ’11; 313.58 mph by Jack Beckman, Feb. ‘11

Pro Stock - 6.528 seconds by Greg Anderson, Feb. ’09; 212.43 mph by Erica Enders, Feb. ’11

PS Motorcycle - 6.811 seconds and 197.36 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Nov. ’10

NATIONAL RECORDS:
Top Fuel - 3.735 sec. by Del Worsham, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 327.90 mph by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.

Funny Car - 3.995 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.; 318.99 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.

Pro Stock - 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.

PS Motorcycle- 6.777 sec. by Hector Arana, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.

TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRATIX.com.

Eddie Krawiec
Eddie Krawiec

Photo by: Ted Rossino

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Thursday: Adult, $25; Friday: Adult, $30; Saturday: Adult, $53; Sunday: Adult, $55; Children (12 years & under), admitted free with paying adult each day.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $40; Saturday: Adult, $63; Sunday: Adult, $65; Children (12 years & under), admitted free with paying adult each day.

  • Prices above are for tickets purchased in advance. All ticket prices increase by $3 if purchased at the gate.


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NHRA FULL THROTTLE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) for NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories following the 21st of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series -

TOP FUEL: 1. Spencer Massey, 2,503; 2. Del Worsham, 2,501; 3. Antron Brown, 2,489; 4. Larry Dixon, 2,459; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,367; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 2,326; 7. David Grubnic, 2,220; 8. Doug Kalitta, 2,207; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,198; 10. Morgan Lucas, 2,084.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, 2,416; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,415; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 2,390; 4. Mike Neff, 2,382; 5. Robert Hight, 2,345; 6. Ron Capps, 2,344; 7. Bob Tasca III, 2,295; 8. Jeff Arend, 2,270; 9. John Force, 2,200; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,179.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jason Line, 2,592; 2. Mike Edwards, 2,424; 3. Greg Anderson, 2,393; 4. Vincent Nobile, 2,344; 5. Allen Johnson, 2,338; 6. Erica Enders, 2,337; 7. Rodger Brogdon, 2,275; 8. Greg Stanfield, 2,238; 9. Shane Gray, 2,186; 10. Ron Krisher, 2,167.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,589; 2. Hector Arana Jr, 2,520; 3. Matt Smith, 2,403; 4. Andrew Hines, 2,384; 5. Karen Stoffer, 2,329; 6. Hector Arana, 2,312; 7. Jerry Savoie, 2,305; 8. LE Tonglet, 2,299; 9. Michael Phillips, 2,246; 10. Jim Underdahl, 2,201.

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Tags feature, funny car, nhra, pedregon, top fuel, worsham