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Top Fuel Duel Tightens At NHRA Season-Ender In Pomona

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 11 2017

Brittany Force picked up valuable Top Fuel points at Pomona on Friday.

Top Fuel title contender Brittany Force cut into Steve Torrence’s point-lead via the quickest pass in Auto Club Raceway at Pomona history Friday during qualifying for the season-ending 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Force earned the provisional pole with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.667-seconds at 330.31 mph, breaking the track record for elapsed time. Force pocketed four qualifying points for that pass and now trails Torrence by 17 with two sessions remaining Saturday. Torrence began the day 20 points ahead and earned one bonus point in Q2 in a spirited battle between two drivers seeking their first world titles.

“It was an awesome pass,” said Force, driver of the Monster Energy dragster fielded by John Force Racing. “We have a lot on our shoulders, but running like that pushes us. We’re going for the No. 1 spot.”

Force, whose car is tuned by crew chief Brian Husen and consultant Alan Johnson, did not complete a full-pass during the opening session down the famed Southern California strip.

“We’re trying to push the car, and Q1 we put it behind us and I knew our team would get this car figured out and I would make a decent run,” Force said. “To jump up to the No. 1 spot is huge for us, but that’s where we need to be. We’re chasing down the No. 1 spot and to have a killer run like that sets us up good for tomorrow and have us ready for race day.

“It’s not just a confidence-builder for me, but for our entire team to get that number on the board. It just pushes us forward. It gives us that momentum going into the weekend.”

Clay Millican occupies the second spot after a pass in 3.671-seconds at 328.22 mph in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster, while three-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown sits third in the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster fielded by Don Schumacher Racing. Torrence is fifth in his Capco Contractors dragster.

Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were provisional qualifiers in their respective categories at the final event of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Beckman raced to the top of the Funny Car field with his 1,000-foot pass in 3.835-seconds at 334.98 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T during the second session.

“It’s not any fun coming here and not being in the championship hunt,” said Beckman, the 2012 world champion who ranks fourth in points. “Fast Jack” is 148 points behind leader Robert Hight of JFR with reigning champ/DSR teammate Ron Capps in second.

Beckman is not mathematically eliminated from contention, as 183 points remain available in a race featuring a special points-and-a-half payout. Still, Beckman acknowledged it would take a miracle to drive around the leaders.

“Our only real chance is if Ron and Robert get into a bar fight tonight and NHRA fines them 100 points,” Beckman joked. “We’re not in the championship hunt; it’s Capps or Hight. But that doesn’t mean we won’t do everything we can to end the season with our third Wally (trophy) of the year.

“In the summer we found a groove on hot racetracks and then we decided to park that car and unload a new one, which took us a little while to get a handle on. 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’re very satisfied.”

Capps, working with crew chief Rahn Tobler, qualified his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge seventh and earned one qualifying bonus point to chip into the lead held by Hight. The 2009 world champion, Hight was unable to get his California Highway Patrol Chevrolet Camaro SS down the track on either of his two runs and currently remains 17th and not qualified.

Courtney Force of JFR debuted her Advance Auto Parts/Big Machine Records Camaro SS with a 3.871-second pass at 334.57 mph to take the provisional second spot. DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr. sits in third in his Make-A Wish Charger.

Pro Stock point-leader Anderson wheeled his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS to a quarter-mile pass in 6.561-seconds at 210.67 mph in the first qualifying session to claim the provisional pole.

“It was big showing the world we have a great car this weekend. It builds confidence in me,” said Anderson, chasing his fifth world championship in the Factory Hot Rod category. “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.”

Anderson gained eight bonus points to take a 48-point lead over Ken Black Racing teammate Bo Butner and his Jim Butner’s Auto Camaro SS heading into the final two rounds of qualifying. Anderson swept the 2016 races at Auto Club Raceway and was runner-up in the 2017 season-opening Winternationals.

Drew Skillman sits second at 6.555-seconds and 211.69 mph in the Ray Skillman Auto Group Camaro SS. Jeg Coughlin Jr., a five-time world champion, is third in the JEGS.com Elite Motorsports Camaro SS. Rookie Tanner Gray, who leads the class with five victories in the Gray Motorsports/Valvoline Camaro SS, is fourth. Butner placed eighth while three-time/reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line of KB Racing_ third in the standings in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro SS _ qualified seventh.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Chip Ellis rode a Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a quarter-mile pass in 6.805-seconds at 196.53 mph to lead the provisional field. Ellis, quickest in both qualifying sessions, is out to secure his first pole of the season and first since 2015 on an emotional weekend.

Ellis’ longtime team-owner, Lewis G. “Junior” Pippin Jr., of Conyers, Ga., died on Sunday, Nov. 5. Pippin, 64, was the owner/operator of Junior Pippin Trucking Company and a fan of NHRA drag racing. Pippin was diagnosed with nasal cancer shortly after the NHRA’s Route 66 Nationals in July 2015 and started chemotherapy and radiation on Aug. 31 of that year.

Pippin sat out the 2011 and 2012 NHRA seasons in support of his wife, Lisa, and her battle with breast cancer. She is among his survivors. Pippin’s funeral services will be held Saturday.

Ellis is riding a third Vance & Hines H-D Street Rod this weekend in tribute to his friend. “It’s a great bike with a great tune-up and I was just able to ride it well,” said Ellis, a 47-year-old native of Daytona Beach, Fla. “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.”

Ellis’s Harley-Davidson teammates _ five-time world champion Andrew Hines and three-time champ Eddie Krawiec _ are qualified second and third, respectively. Point-leader Krawiec needs only to qualify his Street Rod for the event to clinch his fourth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series PSM world championship. 

FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will air one hour of live qualifying coverage Saturday at 6 p.m. (EST), and three-hours of live finals coverage Sunday at 4 p.m. (EST).

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Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway. The race is the last of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and sixth-of-six during the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

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 Jr., 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.

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. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 11 2017
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