SCELZI AND HINES WIN POWERADE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES Schumacher, Pedregon, Coughlin and Schnitz are winners at Auto Club NHRA Finals POMONA, Calif. - Gary Scelzi and Andrew Hines clinched POWERade world championship season titles Sunday at...
SCELZI AND HINES WIN POWERADE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES
Schumacher, Pedregon, Coughlin and Schnitz are winners at Auto Club NHRA Finals
POMONA, Calif. - Gary Scelzi and Andrew Hines clinched POWERade world championship season titles Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway.
Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon, Jeg Coughlin and Ryan Schnitz were race winners in their categories at the $1.7 million race, the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Three-time Top Fuel champion Scelzi added his first Funny Car season title and joined drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers in NHRA history to win world championship titles in both nitro categories. Hines raced to his second consecutive POWERade world championship in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Scelzi lost in the second round, but so did his closest championship opponents, Ron Capps and John Force. Scelzi won the title by eight points over Capps for the narrowest margin of victory in history for a Funny Car championship.
"To win a Funny Car championship racing the guys we've had to race this year is just incredible," said Scelzi, who joins Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers to win championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. "My big concern was not letting (my crew) down because they mean so much to me. I am just numb right now because this is so different than the other three. I've never had so much pressure where everything meant so much."
Hines earned the championship in the two-wheel category after he won his first round meeting with Chris Rivas and closest points challenger GT Tonglet was upset by Mike Berry in the opening round.
"Winning this year is definitely better than last year," Hines said. "It was certainly a lot tougher to win races this year because there were about 10 bikes that could win races. I'm just happy to be able to do this for Harley-Davidson and the Vance & Hines team."
Schumacher set single-season records for consecutive victories (five), consecutive finals (seven) and consecutive round wins (20) in taking his 30th career Top Fuel victory by outrunning Melanie Troxel in the final. Troxel fouled at the start in her Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster and Schumacher powered to a 4.496 at 324.36 in his U.S. Army dragster to take his ninth victory of the season.
"With the momentum we have right now I really don't want to stop racing," said Schumacher, who clinched his third world championship title two weeks earlier in Las Vegas. "At the same time I'm glad to have a break. I'm tired. I want to go home and play with my kids and watch them grow for a few months."
Schumacher also added a record for largest margin of victory for a Top Fuel championship (415 points).
"It was really big for this team to win five in a row and get that record," Schumacher said. "It just became a goal they set for themselves and they wanted it. I had the pressure of not letting them down because they gave me a great car every round. It was a tough day. Melanie was anxious to get her first win and she was running great all day. Larry (Dixon) was tough. It was (crew chief Dick) LaHaie's last race and they were going for broke. Brandon had run a 4.4-(second) pass. This was a tough win to get, so it's even more satisfying."
Pedregon claimed his second victory of the season in Funny Car and 29th of his career, powering his Q-Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to a 4.751 at 319.22 to defeat Eric Medlen, whose Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang lost traction at the start.
"This is exactly the way you want to finish a year," said Pedregon, who moved from ninth to seventh in the standings. "This is like a good day fishing for a drag racer. We beat some big names and maybe spoiled it for some people when I beat John in the second round, but we came here to win and that's what we did."
His biggest round win of the day came in the second when he used a holeshot start to defeat his former team owner. Pedregon drove for Force from 1996 until 2003 and won the Funny Car championship in his final season at Force Racing.
"I felt some big emotion when I beat John," Pedregon said. "I knew what it meant for him and we all know he gave me my start. I spent a lot of time with him, a lot of my life, and it was bittersweet knocking him out of the title, but if I didn't give him 100-percent he would have been mad at me. That's the way he is."
Medlen's chances for victory were cut thin when his Mustang plunged into the sand traps at the end of the track in his semifinal win over Tommy Johnson Jr. Medlen wasn't injured in the incident, but his car suffered major damage. His team was joined by crews from the other two Force Racing teams, for a major thrash to repair the car. They made it to the starting line for the final, and made an attempt.
Coughlin ended a two-year winless drought in Pro Stock when Tom Martino turned on the red light at the start of the all-Dodge final. It was Coughlin's 34th career victory and the first Pro Stock victory for Schumacher Racing. It was the first final round for Martino since 2001.
"We had a good run today and it's all because of (crew chief) Bob Glidden and the crew," said Coughlin, who drove his JEG'S Mail Order Dodge Stratus to early round wins over Allen Johnson, Greg Anderson and Jason Line. "The guys deserved this. If effort won trophies we'd have earned a bunch of them this year. It's been about one year since this team was formed and I know the crew guys and Bob haven't had many days off, and their days are usually 14-16 hours long. So naturally they're very, very excited."
Schnitz earned the automatic victory - a category-best third win of the season -- on his Muzzy.com Buell in Pro Stock Motorcycle when newly crowned champ Hines fouled at the start on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
"This win is every bit as special as the first two, maybe even more, because this is Pomona," Schnitz said. "Winning the finals and putting your name with the other riders who have won here is really something. I'm excited about the performance of this team and the momentum we have. We need a marketing partner to sponsor this bike and that's what we'll spend our time in the off-season trying to find. I hope this win and having more wins than everyone else in the class will get us some extra attention."