Pomona II: Season finale preview, schedule

38th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA POWERade ...

38th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Professional competitors in four categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA POWERade championships.

Sportsman competitors in seven categories earn points leading to 2002 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series championships.

Pomona Raceway, Pomona, Calif. Track is located off I-10 at Fairplex Drive. Go north on Fairplex drive to the Fairplex.

WHAT TO EXPECT: The chase for the POWERade series championship in Funny Car will be decided at this event. John Force and Tony Pedregon are teammates, but the biggest rivals in the race for the Funny Car championship. Force holds a 31-point lead over Pedregon entering the event. Force has won the Funny Car title 11 of the last 12 seasons and is looking to make it 10 straight. Pedregon is seeking his first career championship and is hoping he can join his brother Cruz (winner of the 1992 Funny Car title) as the only two drivers to break Force's dominance during the last decade. While championship crowns have already been awarded in Top Fuel (Larry Dixon), Pro Stock (Jeg Coughlin) and Pro Stock Bike (Angelle Savoie), other drivers will be battling hard to gain critical positions in the POWERade Top 10 standings. The Budweiser Shootout, a lucrative bonus event for the season's quickest Top Fuel cars, will be contested with a $100,000 winner's share up for grabs. Pomona Raceway's smooth quarter-mile surface lends itself to some of the quickest side-by-side racing of the season. NHRA national records will be in jeopardy in all four pro categories. Larry Morgan is the current season leader of the Motel 6 Who Got the Light? Award, by virtue of his 0.0002 of-a-second margin of victory over Greg Anderson in the Pro Stock final round of the FRAM-Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif., in early August. If no Top Fuel, Funny Car or Pro Stock round win at the Auto Club NHRA Finals is closer, Morgan will pocket the $25,000 bonus from Motel 6 for having the narrowest margin of victory during the 2002 season.

SEASON UPDATE: Only one NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series championship remains to be crowned. Ford Mustang drivers John Force and Tony Pedregon will decide the 2002 Funny Car title at the Pomona Raceway finale. Force is seeking his 12th championship, and 10th in a row, while Pedregon is going for his first series title. While season championships have been decided in the other three professional categories, several drivers are positioning themselves for higher finishes in the POWERade Top 10. The race also is the final chance for Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future candidates to make an impression. Leading candidates for the Road to the Future Rookie of the Year award include Gene Wilson and JR Carr in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines and Thomas Miceli in Pro Stock Bike. The prestigious award will be presented during the annual NHRA Awards Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 11 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

FAST FACTS: Jeg Coughlin has a stellar record at Pomona Raceway in the last nine events, where he reached the final round six times, earning a victory three times...Defending Finals PSB winner Angelle Savoie will join Matt Hines, Terry Vance, Dave Schultz and John Myers as the only repeat winners of the Finals if she can earn a victory to close out the season...Larry Dixon is the defending champion of the Budweiser Shootout, which will award $100,000 to the winning driver on Saturday during the Finals...The Finals had five other homes before coming to Pomona Raceway in 1984, including: Tulsa, Okla.; Dallas; Amarillo, Texas; Ontario, Calif., and Irvine, Calif....Kenny Bernstein and Cory McClenathan are the only active Top Fuel drivers to win at the Finals... John Force has advanced to the Funny Car final round at the NHRA finals seven times during his career, winning four ... Kenny Bernstein is the only driver to win both Top Fuel (3) and Funny Car (2) titles at the NHRA Finals ... Rookie Top Fuel driver David Baca, son of 1977 NHRA Finals TF winner Dennis Baca, will attempt to make his first eliminations start in his second career race... John Force will attempt to qualify for his 300th consecutive Funny Car eliminations start... The last time John Force failed to qualify was at the 1987 NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway.

QUOTABLE:

Joe Amato, team owner of the Bilstein Engine Flush dragster driven by Darrell Russell, on Kenny Bernstein's retirement - "We've talked about it (retirement). One nice thing about it is that he has a son (Brandon) he can stick in the car. I think he's comfortable and accomplished what he's wanted to do. He's beat up pretty bad from being in the car and racing all these years. His mind is ready to get out of the car, but it will probably be pretty emotional at the end. But once he is there, he'll be happy."

Kenny Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser King dragster, regarding the end of his championship quest for this season -- "Though we're disappointed not to be able to be in the championship hunt going into the last race of the season, we feel like we're stepping from the cockpit while we're still very competitive. We wanted to go out while we were still on top of our game, and we accomplished that. We can look in the mirror and say we have given a 100 percent effort."

Don Prudhomme, four-time NHRA Funny Car champion as a driver and team owner of the Miller Lite dragster driven by Larry Dixon, regarding his first Top Fuel championship -- "I think it's sweeter than all the rest. At this point of my career, being a car owner, it's great. Also being able to put together the Miller Lite team and watch a young guy like that win the championship -- It's one of the better moments that I've ever spent and maybe the best."

Larry Dixon, 2002 POWERade Top Fuel champion and driver of the Miller Lite dragster, regarding his first championship -- "There are sure a lot of zeros on that giant check POWERade gave me. Man, the money is nothing compared to the feeling I have about giving Snake (Don Prudhomme, team owner) this trophy. It's really the only way in the world I could ever thank him. He took a chance on me when I was nobody. I didn't have any money to bring to the team. I didn't have any experience. I was just a crew guy with a dream and he took a flyer on me."

John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang who leads Tony Pedregon by 31 points entering the season's final race, on pursuing his 12th NHRA Funny Car championship, and 10th in a row -- "It's not over yet. We still have some fighting to do."

Jeg Coughlin, driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier, on winning his second NHRA Pro Stock title -- The 2002 season has been a thrash from the start and the pressure never let up one time, for any of us. We've seen guys like Warren Johnson DNQ for the first time in 15 years, we've seen so many races decided by .001 of a second, we've seen so many fields separated by less than three-hundredths-of-a-second, it's been battle for every inch of ground. It makes winning the POWERade championship so much more remarkable."

Greg Anderson, driver of the Vegas Construction Chevy Cavalier, on what he needs to do to finish out the season - "We need to go out there and win. I need to be as aggressive as I can possibly be. I don't want to play conservative ball. Forget that. I am going to be aggressive. The way Pro Stock is anymore, you can't win unless you are aggressive. There are too many good drivers and too many good cars out there. Last year it was brutal, and that is the way it is going to be. There are so many quality teams and drivers, no one is going to win every week. The competition right now is fantastic for the fans. But it is absolutely gut-wrenching for the drivers."

NOTES OF INTEREST:

A Run to Remember -- Kenny Bernstein will be making his final appearance as a driver at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, where he has been victorious five times in his career. Last fall Bernstein captured his eighth victory of the season en route to clinching his sixth career NHRA crown. Bernstein is retiring from the cockpit at the end of this season and will turn the driving duties of the Budweiser King dragster over to his son, Brandon. A six-time NHRA series champion with 65 victories, he is the only driver in the history of the sport to win NHRA crowns in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

Budweiser Shootout -- The eight quickest Top Fuel drivers from the season will battle for the $100,000 winner's share of this lucrative bonus event, which takes place on Saturday. Should a driver win the Budwesier Shootout and Sunday's eliminations, he will claim an additional $50,000 double-up bonus from the NHRA, bringing the potential earnings for a lucky Top Fuel driver to more than $200,000 for the weekend.

POWERade Championship Cash Up for Grabs -- While John Force and Tony Pedregon will battle for the $400,000 POWERade bonus available for the Funny Car championship, all other teams who are out of the championship picture in every category are still battling for valuable positions in the POWERade Top 10 which offer more cash the higher the finish position.

World's Fastest Couple-- Rhonda Hartman-Smith and her husband John Smith, who also serves as his wife's crew chief, compete against each other in separate dragsters to create an unlikely rivalry in the Top Fuel category. The couple travels with their daughter Megan to each NHRA national event. Rhonda's father, Virgil, is the team owner and also works on both cars, making each race weekend a family affair.

The Racing Chef-- Nicky Morse keeps the Jeg's Racing Pro Stock team running at full speed during each NHRA national event. Morse, a professionally trained chef, prepares meals at the track for the team in his state-of-the-art kitchen built inside an 18-wheel transporter.

NBA Fast Break-- Tom Hammonds and Larry Nance are former NBA players who have turned to a second sport -- drag racing -- to get their competitive fix. Hammonds recently retired from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Nance was the first NBA Slam Dunk champion in 1984. Both drivers had to have their race cars specially-constructed to fit their larger frames.

Safety Safari-- These men and women are a team of professionals dedicated to making the sport safe for the competitors. Spend the day or a few hours with this crew and watch as they take care of preparing the race track for competition, responding to crashes and cleaning up oil and debris on the racing surface.

Regarding Weather -- In drag racing weather plays a vital role as crew chiefs examine data and tune their race cars for maximum performance. Most teams have sophisticated weather stations on board their team transporters so they can access up to the minute weather information as well as forecasts.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:45 p.m. on Nov. 7 and 8. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Nov. 9. The Budweiser Shootout for Top Fuel will start at 12:45 p.m. on Nov. 9. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. Nov. 10.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 38th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Call (800) 884-6472, or call Ticketmaster for ticket information.

ON TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage of Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at 10 p.m. (ET) on Nov. 9. ESPN will televise two hours of final eliminations coverage at 5 p.m. (ET) on Nov. 10. ESPN2 will televise one hour of final eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).

ON THE WEB: NHRA media department press releases are available on the Internet at www.nhra.com

-nhra-

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