53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California USA, 2017

Vance & Hines Spread it Around at Pomona

Story and photos by Sandra Alberti, team reports, NHRA and Tim Hailey

Sunday was Andrew Hines' day (photo by NHRA)

Chip Ellis qualified #1 in Pro Stock Motorcycle on Friday, Eddie Krawiec won the championship and took over #1 qualifier on Saturday, and Andrew Hines beat teammate Krawiec in the final for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on Sunday. If it seemed like the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance&Hines/Harley-Davidson team ran the field like their bitches at Pomona, it’s because they did. Make of that what you will.

Hines won the final to continue his streak of 14 consecutive seasons with at least one victory. He defeated Krawiec with a 6.856 at 196.02 while Eddie’s bike stumbled to a 6.930 at 177.58. 

The glory days of the early summer seemed mostly like a distant memory for LE Tonglet and the White Alligator Racing team in the Countdown (photo by Sandra Alberti)

Andrew rode past Ryan Oehler, Joey Gladstone and regular season dominator LE Tonglet before the final. With the victory, Hines finishes the season second in points. Krawiec defeated Lance Bonham, 2016 champ Jerry Savoie and Matt Smith before falling in the final.

Joey Gladstone's last race on the San Marino Suzuki was one his best of the Countdown, qualifying 7th and advancing to the second round before falling to Hines. (photo by Sandra Alberti)

For the first time since 1982, a woman has captured an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship. Brittany Force clinched the crown in the quarterfinals.

Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) also won world championships and race winners were Force (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), and Butner (Pro Stock). 

Force, daughter of 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force, became just the second female to win a Top Fuel world championship by piloting her Monster Energy dragster to a 3.679-second pass at 328.22 mph, defeating Richie Crampton and his 3.757 at 323.81 in the quarterfinals.

The other female to win a championship in the category was legendary racer Shirley Muldowney. Steve Torrence, who entered the race as the Top Fuel points leader, fell to 2016 world champion Antron Brown’s 3.691 at 323.81 to guarantee the title crown to Force. 

Brittany Force snuggles with her big trophy after stunningly capturing the title (photo by Gary Nastase)

“I can’t believe we are here, it seems like a dream,” Force said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around a Pomona win. I’ve always wanted to win here – it’s my home track, and we have the championship. All of it, it’s still doesn’t seem real.

“I’ve watched my dad for years. I really have to give it up to him and thank him and my mom for all their support. They’ve always had my back every tough weekend. I’ve been beaten on holeshots countless times – and red lights, those are tough to come back from. But I really believed that that would make me a better driver in the end. Today is pretty great, seeing it all come back full circle.

“I’ve been carrying a gut-ache for two weeks because I’ve been wanting to get here to today. I thought, ‘Just get me to Sunday, get me in my race car, and let’s see what our team can do.’ I know my team, my crew chiefs, and I know they bring everything to the line. Then it’s my job to finish it, and we did that all day long.”

“The reason we are here is because of that Monster team and all the support I have and all the sponsors. Everyone at JFR and that is the reason we are here. We struggled, we had our ups and downs, but we pulled it together when it mattered most.

“I give all of it up to my crew chiefs, Alan Johnson and Brian Husen. They are the ones that made this possible. They always had my back and they kept pushing me, that is what my Monster team did. They never gave up on me, pushing and fighting, and never gave up. I can’t believe we are here.

“I have to thank my dad, my family. They always had my back no matter what. This is a very proud moment. I can’t believe we are here. It is the support system you have around you and that is why we are here.”

Force, who was also the No. 1 qualifier, raced to victory by defeating Shawn Langdon with a 3.668 at 330.07 when he smoked the tires in the final round. She finishes the season with four race wins, the first coming at the New England Nationals in Epping, N.H.

Force went on to win three events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship—the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Reading, the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, and this weekend’s season ending event. She has two runner-up finishes and two No. 1 qualifiers. 

Robert Hight milking the rewards of a total team turnaround by John Force Racing (photo by Ron Lewis)

Hight secured his second NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world championship in the first round of eliminations Sunday, powering his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to a 3.839 at 332.51 mph to defeat Tim Wilkerson, who smoked the tires at the starting line.

Ron Capps, who was Hight’s nearest championship contender, smoked the tires and lost to Del Worsham, ensuring Hight the world title. 

“It’s been an eventful weekend,” Hight said. “Twenty-four hours ago, I wasn’t even qualified for this event, and we were leading the points. We got it together, got in the 15th spot. If you’re in, you have a chance, especially when you have a team like we’ve got with (crew chief) Jimmy Prock, (co-crew chief) Chris Cunningham. You just believe that those guys are a couple adjustments away from turning this thing around.”

The right adjustments were made, and Hight sped to a first-round win over Tim Wilkerson that eliminated John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force from title contention. Then, Del Worsham knocked off second-place Ron Capps, and Hight had the second championship of his career – this one coming eight years after his first.

“Del Worsham came over to me before first round and said, ‘I don't think I can outrun him, but I’m not going to give it to him. I’m going to make sure my car goes down the track,’” Hight said. “Del Worsham did the right thing by making it go down the track. It’s pretty cool; it’s been 10 years since Chevrolet has won a championship in Funny Car, and we’re back.”

Hight made another stellar run in the second and third rounds, beating Courtney Force in the semifinals to reach his seventh final of the season.

After getting the win light, though, the engine in Hight’s Auto Club car exploded, and the Camaro darted from left from the right lane.

Force, fortunately, had slowed from tire smoke and wasn’t close to Hight as he bounced off the wall in the left lane. The concussion from the explosion knocked the parachute handle out of Hight’s reach, but he was busy trying to control the car and slow it down.

Eventually, it reached the gravel pit past top end and ran into the nets. Hight was unhurt, but the car was too damaged to continue. The team brought out a backup chassis and a third body; the first, sporting a special California Highway Patrol paint scheme, was damaged in Q4.

The third body was built for Brittany Force’s Funny Car, and the JFR team had to swap decals for the final round.

There, Hight went up in smoke against Tommy Johnson Jr. and couldn’t get the race win, but the championship trophy was his.

“That was a crazy, crazy run,” Hight said. “When I got back to the pits, there were Advance crew members and PEAK crew members, and we really rallied to get this thing back together.

“Everybody worked their tail off and was quiet and knew they had a job to do. This is just huge for John Force Racing. For a couple of years, we have struggled but it is such a great group. We signed a long-term deal with Auto Club and they deserve better than what we were giving them.”

“Oh man, I haven’t figured this out yet,” John Force said. “But just proud to see it come together. I expected it from Robert, and I saw Brittany’s lights every round, right there with the hitters. She’s still numb; she doesn’t know what happened.

“It was like a movie; you couldn’t have written it any better. Sometimes luck’s a big part, but as a team owner, I’ve been really proud how the people have stayed together and fought together and worked together. We put the band back together, that’s what I told Jim Campbell from Chevrolet. Me and Robert work every day, and we said we’d turn it around.

“To see him win it for Auto Club – they deserved it,” Force said. “They are a great partner. Courtney performed. Taylor Swift and Big Machine Records – how could it get any better?”

“For Brittany, as a father, to watch her go through the gut aches, I was living it with her and so was her mom, and that red light at Las Vegas really hurt her, but I told her, you have to find yourself. And I can’t take any credit. She had a great coach in Alan Johnson, who took a girl and did what (three-time Top Fuel champion) Shirley Muldowney did 35 years ago. He amazes me. They delivered for Monster a championship, and then went on and won the race.”

Hight’s championship season had four race victories including two wins in the Western Swing and two victories during the Countdown. He earned eight No. 1 qualifiers and had two runner-up finishes. At the event in Brainerd, Hight set the Funny Car national elapsed-time record with a 3.793 and in Sonoma, Hight went on to set the national speed record with a pass at 339.87. Hight closed out his 2017 season with a runner-up finish falling to Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round. 

Bo Butner's Bandit Camaro (NHRA photo)

Butner claimed his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Car world championship by winning the event. According to Jason Line, it’s the first time anyone’s rented a ride to a championship—at least in Pro Stock Car.

Butner drove his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.594 at 210.70 to defeat Tanner Gray’s 6.653 run at 208.62 in the final round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Butner earned his first career victory at the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston earlier this year and ends the season with five event wins and six runner-up finishes. 

“Just never give up. I have a great crew, it’s amazing,” Butner said. “They don’t give up on me. But the KB team, what does that say about them? Honestly, I rent a car and a motor and they put me in a championship. It’s just unbelievable. Thank the Lord for everything; He shined on me.”

Butner took fate into his own hands when he defeated teammate Greg Anderson in the semifinals with a 6.551 at 210.05. Had Butner lost in the finals, Anderson would have won the world championship. 

In Funny Car, Johnson Jr. raced to a 3.920 at 329.10 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T while Hight had trouble off the starting line. It was Jonson Jr.’s second win of the season, 17th of his career and second consecutive at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. 

“It has been a very emotional year, we’ve had a tough year with the loss of Terry Chandler,” Johnson Jr. said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. She gave me the opportunity to drive after sitting out for five years. I was determined to get this win for Terry to close out the season. Just a great day. It wasn’t an easy win. The guys did a great job.” 

Johnson Jr.’s path to victory included wins against Bob Bode, the retiring Alexis DeJoria and teammate and No. 1 qualifier Jack Beckman. Hight took out Tim Wilkerson, Matt Hagan and teammate Courtney Force and won the world championship before falling to Johnson Jr. in the finals.

Alexis DeJoria pulls the chutes one last time (Gary Nastase photo)

Alexis DeJoria’s six-year Funny Car career came to an end at the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday afternoon.

After qualifying fifth for the 141st event of her professional career, DeJoria faced Jim Campbell in the first round of eliminations. The five-time Funny Car winner had the advantage off of the starting line. She powered her Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry down the track in 3.932-seconds at 331.45-miles per hour, defeating Campbell’s tire smoking effort.

The Southern California native drew Tommy Johnson Jr. in the quarterfinal round. DeJoria made another strong run, but Johnson Jr.’s 3.911 E.T. edged out DeJoria’s 3.944-sec. at 327.90-mph pass, which would be recorded as the final run of DeJoria’s 12-year NHRA career.

“I could sit here and say it was a tough day and hard to go out with a loss, but honestly, we ran hella good throughout qualifying, ran well on race day, it just wasn’t our day to win that trophy,” said the 2014 U.S. Nationals Funny Car event champion.

DeJoria, who announced her retirement following the conclusion of the 2017 season last month, hands over the reins of her Nicky Boninfante-Tommy DeLago-led operation to Kalitta teammate, Shawn Langdon, beginning with the 2018 NHRA season.

“This is a top-notch team. Shawn’s going to be stepping into a really good car, and my guys are going to get a great driver. I’m glad the operation will continue with Global Electronic Technology on the side.”

As the feeling of finality sank in for the only driver to claim a win in each of the Funny Car, Top Alcohol Funny Car, and Super Comp categories, DeJoria expressed gratitude and appreciation for her time, and friends made, along the NHRA tour.

“I want to thank all of my sponsors for their support. Patrón, Toyota, Mac Tools, Red Line Oil, Justice Brothers, Global Electronic Technology, and most of all, the Kalitta family. I say ‘family’ because that’s what they truly are. Everybody connected to this family here has just been incredible and I’m going to miss them so much. My team, my crew chiefs, all those guys, they always give me a great car on race day.

“I’m going to miss racing against all of these guys and girls. When we’re on that line, it’s one thing, we’re out for blood, but behind the scenes, we’re family.

“Lastly, thank you to all of our incredible fans for coming out and supporting us through thick and thin for all of these years.” 

Sunday's final results from the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race is the final of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: 

Top Fuel -- Brittany Force, 3.668 seconds, 330.07 mph def. Shawn Langdon, 9.818 seconds, 89.10 mph. 

Funny Car -- Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.920, 329.10 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 6.827, 103.71. 

Pro Stock -- Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.554, 210.70 def. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.653, 208.62. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.856, 196.02 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.930, 177.58. 

Top Alcohol Dragster -- Shawn Cowie, 5.272, 274.72 def. Julie Nataas, 5.481, 272.50. 

Top Alcohol Funny Car -- John Lombardo Jr., Chevy Camaro, 5.420, 271.41 def. Annie Whiteley, Camaro, 5.417, 273.22. 

Competition Eliminator -- Dan Fletcher, Chevy Cobalt, 8.022, 168.11 def. Tom Mettler, Dodge Dakota, 7.399, 183.34. 

Super Stock -- Robert Cruzen, Chevy Cobalt, 9.344, 142.81 def. Jimmy DeFrank, Cobalt, 8.825, 151.70. 

Stock Eliminator -- Austin Williams, Plymouth Duster, 11.080, 109.61 def. Chris Stephenson, Pontiac Firebird, 10.620, 122.56. 

Super Comp -- Bobby Dye Jr., Dragster, 8.904, 167.51 def. Tanner Theobald, Dragster, 8.884, 167.45. 

Super Gas -- Steve Parsons, Chevy Chevy Corvette, 9.895, 171.62 def. Mike Wiblishouser, Corvette, Foul - Red Light. 

Summit Super Pro -- Todd Martin, Undercover, 7.610, 174.89 def. Dale Green, American, 8.886, 173.99. 

Summit Pro -- Jason Patterson, Chevy Camaro, 9.598, 135.82 def. Butch Weinreich, Dodge Dart, 11.018, 120.84. 

Summit Sportsman -- Troy Johnston, Plymouth Duster, 12.005, 111.00 def. Jake Howard, Chevy S-10, 11.974, 108.98. 

Summit Pro Bike -- Riley Toth, Kawasaki, 8.605, 144.09 def. Curt Spraklin, Kawasaki, 8.614, 145.88. 

EARLIER: Krawiec Takes Championship,

Qualifying Lead at Pomona

Eddie Krawiec

Eddie Krawiec clinched his fourth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship, and first since 2012, by qualifying Saturday at the season ending Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. 

En route to the world title Krawiec rode to seven victories including the first race of the season for the two-wheeled category at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. and his second Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win in Indianapolis. In the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, Krawiec cemented his fourth crown with four wins in the first five races and took the points lead when the team left the NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte, N.C. 

“I have to give this to teamwork,” Krawiec said. “All the guys that stand behind me when I’m on my motorcycle and make it go up and down the dragstrip as fast as it does. Everybody at Vance & Hines and NHRA for giving me a great place to race. I just couldn’t do it without my team. What makes it really special is I have my father, my wife and my little girl Kayden at home. This is something special.”

Krawiec powered his Harley Davidson to a 6.781-second pass at 197.68 mph to earn his sixth No. 1 of the season and 29th of his career. Krawiec will face Lance Bonham in the first round of eliminations. His teammate, Andrew Hines is qualified second and will race Ryan Oehler in eliminations. Chip Ellis is third. 

In other racing, Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the final race of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. 

Force piloted her Monster Energy dragster to a track elapsed-time record 3.667 pass at 330.31 on Friday for her second No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career. 

“We had an awesome run in the second round of qualifying yesterday, and to move to the top of the pack after the first day put my team in a great place coming into today,” Force said. “Our team is going to throw down all day tomorrow, we’re aiming for that number one spot and we are going to fight for it.”

Force will be paired with Terry Haddock in round one of eliminations. She enters race day second in the championship points battle, trailing leader Steve Torrence, who is qualified fifth, by nine. Clay Millican holds the No. 2 spot with a 3.671 pass at 328.22 and Leah Pritchett is in third. 

Beckman ran a 3.835 pass at 334.98 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car for his second No. 1 of the season and 23rd of his career. 

“This is a track that doesn’t get run on very often, so it’s been a different animal this time around but we ran low E.T. in two sessions which was awesome,” Beckman said. “I like our chances, but it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing all weekend so we have to make educated and great decisions tomorrow to get a win.”

Beckman will see Jeff Arend in the first round of eliminations. Qualified in second is Tim Wilkerson with a 3.863 pass at 334.98 from the final qualifying round. He’ll race points leader Robert Hight in the first round. Courtney Force enters race day in the third position. 

In Pro Stock, Anderson, the points leader, secured his sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season, 93rd of his career and second consecutive by racing his Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.541 at 209.79. 

“The great news is I have a great car, the bad news is I have to race against two guys who have the same exact equipment that I have,” Anderson said of teammates and championship contenders Bo Butner and Jason Line. “It’s going to be a battle royale tomorrow, we knew that coming in, but it’s exactly where we thought it would be since we can all put up the same numbers on any given pass. I hope that my experience and wisdom come through for me tomorrow, but we know that anything can happen on Sunday so I’m anxious to hit the track tomorrow.”

Anderson will open eliminations against Alan Prusiensky. Jason Line, Anderson’s KB Racing teammate, is qualified second after a 6.546 at 210.14 and he’ll line up against Deric Kramer. Anderson and Line’s teammate, Bo Butner is in fifth. All three KB Racing Chevrolet Camaro’s are in contention for the world championship. 

Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. at the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. Catch the action live at 4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1).

Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the final of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.781, 197.77 vs. 16. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.152, 187.94; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.799, 197.45 vs. 15. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.002, 188.17; 3. Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.805, 196.56 vs. 14. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.967, 191.02; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.817, 195.17 vs. 13. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.955, 195.11; 5. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.828, 198.15 vs. 12. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.953, 195.73; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.861, 195.96 vs. 11. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.932, 192.25; 7. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.873, 193.79 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.912, 193.60; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.878, 193.96 vs. 9. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.885, 193.79. 
Did Not Qualify: 17. Luke Crowley, 7.154, 189.68. 

Top Fuel -- 1. Brittany Force, 3.667 seconds, 330.31 mph vs. 16. Terry Haddock, 3.874, 307.51; 2. Clay Millican, 3.671, 328.22 vs. 15. Shawn Reed, 3.839, 305.01; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.674, 326.32 vs. 14. Scott Palmer, 3.813, 313.22; 4. Antron Brown, 3.696, 326.87 vs. 13. Mike Salinas, 3.796, 322.50; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.719, 289.26 vs. 12. Troy Buff, 3.785, 320.43; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.721, 328.54 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.784, 320.13; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.738, 326.71 vs. 10. Wayne Newby, 3.784, 326.32; 8. Richie Crampton, 3.748, 320.28 vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.753, 323.81. 
Did Not Qualify: 17. Blake Alexander, 3.877, 315.05; 18. Steve Faria, 4.096, 232.71. 

Funny Car -- 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.835, 334.98 vs. 16. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.140, 252.90; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.863, 331.69 vs. 15. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.132, 270.10; 3. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.871, 334.57 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.107, 296.31; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.887, 324.67 vs. 13. Bob Bode, Charger, 4.037, 317.05; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.894, 331.94 vs. 12. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.020, 315.42; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.897, 328.22 vs. 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.978, 322.65; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.898, 333.08 vs. 10. Gary Densham, Mustang, 3.968, 320.66; 8. John Force, Camaro, 3.935, 327.51 vs. 9. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.946, 325.53. 
Did Not Qualify: 17. Jonnie Lindberg, 4.305, 295.34; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 4.321, 281.95; 19. Tim Gibbons, 17.653, 73.20. 

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.541, 210.93 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.665, 207.34; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.546, 210.93 vs. 15. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.622, 209.14; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.555, 211.69 vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.614, 209.88; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.558, 210.47 vs. 13. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.599, 210.73; 5. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.559, 211.20 vs. 12. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.595, 210.64; 6. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.562, 210.64 vs. 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.583, 210.24; 7. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.564, 210.14 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.583, 209.95; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.571, 211.36 vs. 9. Brian Self, Camaro, 6.574, 210.57. 
Did Not Qualify: 17. Steve Graham, 6.684, 207.40; 18. Shane Tucker, 6.714, 205.91; 19. Val Smeland, 6.766, 202.94; 20. Joey Grose, 6.797, 204.08. 

EARLIER: Chip Ellis Leads PSM at Pomona

Chip Ellis on a Harley! (NHRA photo)

With a Junior Pippin sticker on his fairing, Chip Ellis rode to a 6.805 pass at 196.53 to lead the Pro Stock Motorcycle field during qualifying at the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. Ellis was quickest in both of the qualifying sessions and is racing to secure his first No. 1 of the season and first since 2015. 

Pippin recently succumbed to cancer and will be laid to rest in Conyers, Georgia this weekend. "It's amazing to be able to pay tribute to Junior on this Harley-Davidson," said Ellis. "He's been pushing me all day.

“It’s a great bike with a great tune-up and I was just able to ride it well. That was only my second lap ever on that motorcycle. It’s brand new. The bike is working good. I’m glad I’m able to do this. I’m just privileged to be able to ride and fortunately, so far, we’ve done pretty good so far.”

Ellis’s Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec are qualified second and third, subsequently. Krawiec needs only to qualify for the event to clinch his fourth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship. 

Brittany Force (Gary Nastase photo)

Top Fuel title contender Brittany Force piloted her Monster Energy dragster to the quickest pass in Pomona history. Force, who entered the race only 20 points behind first, put down a 3.667-second pass at 330.31 mph in the second qualifying session to take over the Top Fuel lead. 

“Obviously we’re trying to push the car,” Force said. “To jump up to the No. 1 spot was huge for us but that’s where we need to be. We’re chasing down that No. 1 spot and to have a killer run like that sets us up good for tomorrow and gets us ready for race day. It’s not just a confidence builder for me but for my entire team. It pushes us forward and gives us that momentum.” 

Clay Millican is in the second spot with is 3.671 pass at 328.22 while reigning Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown sits in the third position. Current points leader Steve Torrence is in the fifth position. 

Southern California native Jack Beckman raced to the top of the Funny Car field with his 3.835 pass at 334.98 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T during the second session. 

“In the summer we found a groove on hot race tracks and then we decided to park that car and unload a new one, which took us a little while to get a handle on,” Beckman said. “A few months ago, in good conditions we were not a top three car, but I think we are now a top three car no matter what the conditions are so we are very satisfied.”

Courtney Force debuted her Advance Auto Parts/Big Machine Records Chevrolet Camaro SS with a 3.871 pass at 334.57 to put her in the second qualifying spot. Tommy Johnson Jr. sits in third. Championship front runner and Force’s teammate, Robert Hight is currently unqualified while reigning world champion and second in points Ron Capps is seventh. 

Greg Anderson, who is leading the championship chase in Pro Stock, raced his Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.561 pass at 210.67 in the first qualifying session.

“It was big showing the world we have a great car this weekend. It builds confidence in me,” Anderson said, “It was a great, great day. We got all the points you could possibly get. We’re on top of the pack, on top of the heap. We’ve got a great car and, I’ve been saying all year, you have to peak at the right time. We’ve had a great playoff run. If this could be the best race of the six-race Countdown for me that would be a dream come true, without a doubt. We’re off to a great start.”

Drew Skillman is currently in the second spot after racing a 6.555 at 211.69 and veteran Jeg Coughlin Jr. is in third. Championship contenders Jason Line and Bo Butner are currently qualified sixth and seventh, respectively.

Friday's results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, final of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.805, 196.53; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.817, 197.45; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.836, 197.77; 4. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.861, 195.96; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.862, 193.38; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.878, 193.96; 7. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.905, 193.68; 8. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.925, 192.63; 9. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.927, 193.60; 10. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.932, 191.89; 11. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.953, 194.94; 12. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.967, 191.02; 13. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.970, 195.73; 14. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.985, 194.30; 15. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.152, 187.94; 16. Luke Crowley, Suzuki, 7.294, 188.94. Not Qualified: 17. Ryan Oehler, 8.168, 113.09. 

Top Fuel -- 1. Brittany Force, 3.667 seconds, 330.31 mph; 2. Clay Millican, 3.671, 328.22; 3. Antron Brown, 3.696, 326.00; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.712, 326.32; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.719, 289.26; 6. Richie Crampton, 3.748, 316.23; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.755, 326.71; 8. Wayne Newby, 3.785, 324.59; 9. Troy Buff, 3.785, 320.43; 10. Terry Haddock, 3.874, 307.51; 11. Blake Alexander, 3.941, 297.61; 12. Steve Faria, 4.096, 232.71; 13. Shawn Reed, 4.337, 193.38; 14. Scott Palmer, 4.357, 183.00; 15. Mike Salinas, 4.508, 260.91; 16. Tony Schumacher, 5.987, 117.35. Not Qualified: 17. Terry McMillen, 6.862, 100.55; 18. Shawn Langdon, 7.333, 89.35. 

Funny Car -- 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.835, 334.98; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.871, 334.57; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.887, 314.31; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.894, 331.94; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.913, 327.74; 6. John Force, Camaro, 3.955, 316.60; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.956, 322.19; 8. Gary Densham, Mustang, 3.968, 319.07; 9. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.107, 296.31; 10. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.140, 252.90; 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.358, 204.17; 12. Bob Bode, Charger, 5.692, 125.80; 13. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 7.119, 87.17; 14. Matt Hagan, Charger, 7.606, 91.30; 15. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 7.748, 87.01; 16. Jim Campbell, Charger, 7.779, 84.77. Not Qualified: 17. Robert Hight, 7.801, 85.35; 18. J.R. Todd, 8.319, 82.60. 

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.541, 210.67; 2. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.555, 211.69; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.558, 210.47; 4. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.564, 210.64; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.565, 209.85; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.565, 209.65; 7. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.566, 210.28; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.571, 211.36; 9. Brian Self, Camaro, 6.574, 210.57; 10. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.586, 210.24; 11. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.595, 210.64; 12. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.595, 209.95; 13. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.599, 210.67; 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.615, 209.88; 15. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.642, 208.26; 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.665, 207.34. Not Qualified: 17. Shane Tucker, 6.714, 205.91; 18. Val Smeland, 6.766, 202.94; 19. Joey Grose, 6.944, 195.53; 20. Steve Graham, 19.954, 42.94.