Brittany Force picked up provisional first place on Friday in the NHRA Auto Club Finals. (photos of a river)
POMONA, CA – Point leader Brittany Force hit the fastest race in Top Fuel history Friday, reaching the No. 1 provisional qualifier in a record-breaking fashion in the final race of the season, the 57th Annual NHRA Finals for Automobile Club at Auto. Racetrack in Pomona.
Cruz Pedregon (Fun Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angel Sambi (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional No. 1 qualifiers in the 22nd and final event of the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and sixth race in the countdown to the qualifying championship.
The Force ran 3,641 seconds at 338.94 mph in her 11,000-hp Monster Energy Dragster, beating her record for the fastest race in class history and giving her a perfect start to a massive weekend start. If it holds up, it would give Force its 10th place this season and 42nd place in its career.
More importantly, it gives Force, who entered the weekend with a seven-point lead over Justin Ashley, impetus as they look to win their second world title.
“It’s great to get those points wherever we can, and it’s so cool to run the mph and break the record at a home track where I grew up racing,” said Force. “I love this place and this run, we planned to push the car and it worked. But he will come on race day and we will try to catch this thing. This is a great start for our team.”
Four-times defending champion Steve Torrens, who started the weekend behind Force’s 87 points, is currently second with 3,656 passes at 333.33, and Leah Pruitt is third with 3,669 passes at 329.67. Ashley is in seventh place after two sessions.
Having struggled for most of the season, two-time Funny Car champ Cruz Pedregon is hoping Pomona will be a momentum shift heading into the off-season, doing a pair of 3.84 runs, including a best-in-class 3,840 at 322.58 at his 11,000 horsepower. Additional Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. The veteran will be awarded his first qualification for this year’s top spot and 63rd in his career if he continues.
This wasn’t the year Pedregon had been hoping for after competing for the championship in 2021, but a win at the end of the year will alleviate those ills in the 2023 campaign.
“To say I am happy, excited and satisfied in every single one would be an understatement,” Pedregon said. “I’ve been surprised before at the finish line but not like that. That was a great run and frankly, the car had a cylinder of about three quarters of the track in that first (run), so if we could replay the back half of that second run with the first one I would have been a little bit better.”
Championship contender Matt Hagan moved up to second with a score of 3,844 at 323.58. Hagan also sent past Ron Caps in the standings, making him 59 points – which is two rounds short with Pomona by a point and a half – over leader Robert Haight heading into Saturday.
Defending champion Bob Tasca finished third with 3,856 at 322.65.
Pomona has always handled Anderson well and that continued on Friday in Pro Stock, where the five-times world champion clocked a No. 1 stellar pass of 6.509 at 211.00 at HendrickCars.com’s Chevrolet Camaro to close out the day. The 100-time event winner would give his fourth best qualifier in 2022 and 122nd in his impressive career.
“There is a lot of history in place, both here at the Auto Club Finals and the Winternationals. This is where you used to show up in February to see how you compete against everyone else,” Anderson said. “9 out of 10 times the championship has been won here. This clearly did not happen this year. The tournament is over (after Erica Enders won in Las Vegas to claim her fifth title) but there are plenty of crumbs to fight for. The championships are great but we come to the track to win races and that’s our target this weekend. I did a couple of good runs today and now we just need to continue that the rest of the weekend.”
Dallas Glenn shone in session two as well, with Anderson’s teammate KB Racing going into second with a score of 6.514 at 210.77. Troy Coughlin Jr.’s 6,520 at 211.36 puts him third in the last two sessions on Saturday.
Sambi is looking to finish her season on a bright note, as she enjoyed an amazing Friday in Pro Stock Motorcycle, breaking the record with a 6,703 in 201.61 at Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. It puts Sambi on track to finish the 2022 season with her sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 59th in her career.
Most importantly, Sambi will love his second win to wrap up the season.
Things didn’t go their way in the tournament countdown, but all of that could be erased by a successful weekend at the legendary facility.
“I was so excited to see this run as I am on a mission this weekend to change things up,” Sambi said. “My team gave me a Suzuki to win the race. I got the best bike in almost every race this year but didn’t deliver as well as I should. This team deserves a championship and I didn’t succeed. My goal is to win this race and then be able to relax off season knowing That we’ve changed things. I want to erase the past and gain some momentum.”
Point leader Matt Smith moved up to second after hitting 6,719 at 202.70, setting the track speed record.
He made two strong runs on Friday as he neared his sixth world championship. His wife, Engy, is currently third after 6,744 at 201.97.