Pomona II: Saturday qualifying report

KALITTA, BECKMAN, LINE AND HINES EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING HONORS AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS POMONA, Calif. -- Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta outran championship rival Tony Schumacher with a dramatic 4.452-second pass in the final qualifying ...

KALITTA, BECKMAN, LINE AND HINES EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING HONORS AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS

POMONA, Calif. -- Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta outran championship rival Tony Schumacher with a dramatic 4.452-second pass in the final qualifying session of the Auto Club NHRA Finals to earn the No. 1 qualifying position heading Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.

Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified on top of their respective categories at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in the final of 23 races in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Kalitta's run was made in his back-up car. In the day's earlier session, his chassis was damaged during his run and he was forced to switch to a back-up car. His Rahn Tobler-led race team responded with their best pass of the year, a 4.452 at 328.22 mph in the Mac Tools dragster.

"The car was fresh out of the box and it actually ran better than I thought it would," Kalitta said. "It was good to get a run on it before race day, especially one that strong. Rahn [Tobler, crew chief] told me to take it down there if it felt good. He did remind me that it was our only car at this point so I didn't want anything out of the ordinary to happen. It was a great job by everyone on our team to get this thing ready."

Anticipation was high that Schumacher and crew chief Alan Johnson would set a national record in the evening round, but fluid began leaking from Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster onto the track following the burnout. Two NHRA officials gave Schumacher the signal to shut his machine off but crew chief Johnson gave Schumacher the 'OK' signal to make the run. The car lost traction immediately at the hit of the throttle. The incident is currently being reviewed by NHRA officials.

Fresh off his first Funny Car victory in Las Vegas, newlywed Beckman has now bagged his first low qualifier award as well. He actually ran the quickest of both Saturday sessions but the first pass was thrown out due to a fuel violation. Unshaken, he responded with a 4.671 at a track record speed of 333.66 mph in the final session to earn the No. 1 slot.

"This Matco Dodge is a bracket car these last two races," Beckman said. "It's making me look a lot better than I am at this point. I don't want to go as far as to say it's easy to drive this thing by any means, but it's definitely making me look good at the moment. I figure I need 30 or 40 more runs until my mind catches up with this thing. It's an animal."

The three men still fighting for the POWERade Funny Car championship -- points leader John Force, his son-in-law and teammate Robert Hight, and Ron Capps -- all finished on the top half of the grid and ended up on the same side of the elimination ladder. Should they all advance past the opening round, Force will face Capps in the second round, while Hight would get the winner of that tilt in the semifinals.

As it stands through qualifying, No. 2 qualifier Hight (4.672) has moved into second place by one point over No. 6 qualifier Capps (4.725). Hight trails No. 3 qualifier Force (4.677) by 72 points.

Line waited until the final session to run the quickest Pro Stock pass in track history, a 6.663 at 207.59 mph, that earned his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO race team its seventh low qualifier award of the year and third in a row.

"Both cars are really running great." said Line. "[Co-crew chiefs] Rob [Downing] and Jeff [Perley] and all the guys are doing a fantastic job. That was a pretty sporty run by Greg. Those were definitely the best track and weather conditions of the weekend, but honestly, I didn't do that great of a job of driving or it probably would have run a 6.65."

Hines' second low qualifying award of the year in Pro Stock Motorcycle was huge for the ramifications it had in the championship points standings. The Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider entered the race 37 points ahead of Antron Brown. Now, after qualifying No. 1 with a 7.020 at 191.00 mph against Brown's 10th-place effort of 7.106 at 184.70 mph on his U.S. Army Suzuki, Hines is ahead by 43 points. Brown must now go three more rounds than Hines to pass him in the points as each round win is worth 20 points.

"Luckily we got the maximum points we could and at the same time Antron faltered a little bit so we were able to gain a round," Hines said. "I was looking forward to a second-round race against Antron but he moved down to 10th in that round. It would have been great to get him and end this deal once and for all. Hopefully, I can get my third championship and tie my brother [crew chief and three-time champion Matt Hines.] It'll make it easier around the house."

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Jack Beckman , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Robert Hight