7 can’t-miss storylines for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona

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November 12, 2019 03:45 PM

7 can’t-miss storylines for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona

Points-and-a-half format and titles on the line in all four pro classes make for a compelling weekend of drag racing in California.

Susan Wade

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NHRA/National Dragster

Robert Hight, above, leads Jack Beckman by 46 points going into this weekend’s final at Pomona.

The NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship will be settled in all four pro classes at this weekend’s Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
Here’s seven storylines for the weekend:
1) The points-and-a-half format will affect each of the four pro-class championship races. This rather quirky manipulation of points carries a maximum of 191 points from qualifying through race-day eliminations. Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Andrew Hines enjoys the greatest margin of any pro-class leader, at 115 points over No. 2 Jerry Savoie, who has won two Countdown races. Steve Torrence’s edge in Top Fuel is the slimmest at 16 points. In Funny Car, Robert Hight has a 46-point cushion on Jack Beckman, and in Pro Stock Erica Enders still isn’t safe from No. 2 Jeg Coughlin, despite having 92 more points.

NHRA/National Dragster

Brittany Force, above, trails Steve Torrence by just 16 points in Top Fuel.

2) Although the duel between Steve Torrence and Brittany Force for the Top Fuel crown looks juicy, will someone ranked third or lower sneak in and upset both of them? When she won at Las Vegas, Brittany Force said, “Bet you Steve-o is shaking in his boots right now.” He’ll have his say starting Friday at Auto Club Raceway. The two have some history. In 2017, she claimed the championship he appeared destined to gain. He stormed back last season and went on a tear, winning almost half of the 24 events (11), including all six Countdown races to regain dominance. He leads her by 16 points. But third-place Doug Kalitta, who’s 55 points off Torrence’s pace, is eager to shed his label as the NHRA’s most successful racer (with 46 trophies) without a championship.    

NHRA/National Dragster

Steve Torrence, above, has a host of challengers, including his dad, waiting in the event that he slips up at Pomona.

3) In what already is the first father-son battle for a Top Fuel championship, Steve Torrence is in danger of losing his title to a racer who ran only a limited schedule. Dad Billy Torrence qualified for the Countdown, taking the 10th and final spot, on the strength of winning twice and finishing as runner-up twice in only 10 of the 18 regular-season races. In the Countdown, Billy Torrence has won twice to leap to No. 4, only 86 points off the pace.    
4) It’s mathematically possible for three of the four pro categories to crown female champions. Brittany Force is lurking in second place, 16 points behind, as she seeks her second Top Fuel championship. Erica Enders has a 92-point advantage over Elite Motorsports teammate Jeg Coughlin in Pro Stock as she goes for her third crown in six seasons. And Karen Stoffer, though a long shot, has a chance to win her first title in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

NHRA/National Dragster

John Force is in fourth place and within striking distance of his 17th Funny Car championship.

5) Will Funny Car icon John Force, who has run his victories record to 151 races this year, find a way to claim his 17th Funny Car series title? Jack Beckman, the No. 2-seeded driver, said it best: “That guy always seems to find a way to get motivated and win more races.” Beckman will be aiming for Force teammate and points leader Robert Hight, but the top five Funny Car competitors are separated by 104 points. Force is fourth in the order, 72 points out of first place. Matt Hagan is third, 10 behind Beckman, 56 behind Hight and 16 ahead of Force. Bob Tasca III is fifth, and Ron Capps has an outside shot at 160 points off the lead.

NHRA/National Dragster

Jerry Savoie has some ground to make up in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

6) If No. 2-ranked Jerry Savoie is able to close the 115-point gap between himself and leader Andrew Hines to claim his second Pro Stock Motorcycle championship since 2016, that would be a coup for Suzuki. That would give Suzuki only its second series title in 17 years, since Geno Scali in 2003. 
7) Will this really be the last appearance for talented Top Fuel rising star Jordan Vandergriff? D-A Lubricants told Top Fuel team boss Bob Vandergriff early this month it would not return to sponsor 2019 Rookie of the Year candidate Jordan Vandergriff in 2020.

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/nhra/7-cant-miss-storylines-auto-club-nhra-finals-pomona

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