Morgan Lucas, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders and Hector Arana Jr. were last year’s winners of the tradition-rich Southern California event at Pomona.
Pomona, Calif. – A world championship may be out of the equation, but Top Fuel standout Brittany Force still has big plans heading into the final race of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Force and the rest of the NHRA superstars will close out the year with the 51st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Nov. 12-15, and her first Top Fuel win would go a long way in finishing off what has been a promising third season.
A strong performance in her 10,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster at her home track could also mean finishing as high as second in the points standings, another sign things are headed in the right direction as Force closes out the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
“Finishing in the highest place we can is exactly our team’s plan,” said Force, who is currently in fifth place. “Everyone is so close in points that anyone can make big moves and we are hoping to reclaim our number three position we had back in St Louis. The key to moving up in points is consistency. We need four great qualifying passes to lock us in the top half of the field before eliminations on Sunday. The entire team needs to be on point. Mistakes cannot be made this far in the game. We need to unleash the beast in Pomona and find that first win we've been working for.”
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the tradition-rich Southern California event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The lucrative event is the final of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and Force is 95 points out of second and just 41 out of third.
Antron Brown claimed the ultimate crown in Top Fuel, clinching his second world championship in Las Vegas on the strength of three Countdown wins, but Force can steal some of that spotlight with a victory in Pomona. She has been close on a number of occasions, as two of her six career final round finishes have come in 2015, and Force is eager to finally visit the winner’s circle for the first time.
“After an amazing season the Monster Energy team's plan is to bring home our first win at the Pomona Auto Club Finals,” Force said. “We've been fighting for that win all year long and have come close with two runner-up finishes. We have one more chance at it before the season ends and we're definitely going to battle it out at my home track.”
Force continues to show rapid improvement on a talented team. After a slow start, Force and her team announced the partnership with Monster Energy in Atlanta and that spurred a dramatic progression.
Both final round appearances took place after that announcement and Force has impressed with consistency and fast performances. That bodes well for the future, but Force hopes it also translates with a memorable finish in Pomona.
“Having that support from Monster allowed our team to take some more risks and make the moves we wanted on the track,” Force said. “My crew chief Todd Smith and Co-Crew Chief Ronnie Thompson were patient all opening season playing it safe but after our unveiling in Atlanta they had the opportunity to get aggressive and its definitely showed. I'm very proud of my entire team and the consistency we've shown on the racetrack. Those four qualifying passes are crucial going into race day and making those killer runs has helped us go rounds and move up the ladder.”
The 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season will of course start in Pomona as well, and Force would like to take momentum into the off-season with a strong finish next weekend. Standing in her way will be newly crowned champ Brown, who has a remarkable seven wins in 2015 in his Matco Tools dragster, eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, Richie Crampton, three-time world champion Larry Dixon, Las Vegas winner Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd, Steve Torrence, Dave Connolly and Shawn Langdon.
“I absolutely love racing at my home track in Pomona,” Force said. “That is the track I first got behind the wheel in a super comp dragster years ago so, it definitely holds some special memories for me. My team has made some huge strides this year and no matter where we end up I'm very proud of our season. There's no better feeling than ending your season on a good note so to take home our first win at my home track would be an absolute dream. I can't wait for Pomona to get here so the Monster Energy team can battle it out and hopefully celebrate in the winner’s circle.”
In the search for his first Funny Car world championship, Del Worsham maintained his lead in Vegas, and will take a 38-point lead over Jack Beckman into Pomona. Other Funny Car stalwarts include Tommy Johnson Jr., who sits in third and 97 points out of first after his win in Vegas, Ron Capps, who is 140 points out of first, reigning world champion Matt Hagan, 16-time world champion John Force, Worsham teammate Alexis DeJoria, two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, Las Vegas winner Robert Hight, who drives the flagship Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS and veteran driver Tim Wilkerson.
Erica Enders wrapped up her second straight world championship in Pro Stock with her ninth win of the season in Vegas, and will look to put the finishing touches on her dominant season by winning the Auto Club Finals for the second straight year. Several other drivers are very hungry to end their seasons with a win as well, so Enders will need to be on top of her game to get the job done. Four-time champ Greg Anderson, Texan Chris McGaha and rookie sensation Drew Skillman will be battling for second place in the points order, and former champ Allen Johnson, Larry Morgan, Jason Line, Vincent Nobile, Jonathan Gray and Shane Gray are all capable of scoring a season-ending victory in the factory hot rod category.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, reigning world champion and points leader Andrew Hines closed in on his fifth world championship by winning in Las Vegas, opening up a 46-point lead over Vegas finalist Jerry Savoie. Teammate Eddie Krawiec trails by 81 points, while others to watch include St. Louis winner Hector Arana Jr., two-time world champ Matt Smith, 2009 champ Hector Arana, two-time season winner Karen Stoffer, Jim Underdahl, ultra-quick Chip Ellis and Scotty Pollacheck.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will be racing hard to earn race victories and season championships in the season finale.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Nov. 13, with sessions at noon and 3 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Nov. 14, also at noon and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15