CHEVROLET AT POMONA
53rd Auto Club NHRA Finals
Friday, Nov. 10-Sunday, Nov. 12
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California
FS1: Qualifications live – 6:30 p.m. ET Friday; 6 p.m. ET Saturday
FS1: Eliminations and finals live – 4 p.m. ET Sunday
Chevrolet Aims to Wrap Up Championships in Three Pro Classes
Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock titles on the line in Auto Club NHRA Finals
DETROIT (Nov. 8, 2017) – Nine months encompassing 23 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) events across the country has been the prelude to the showdown this weekend in the final race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Titles in three professional classes are on the line for Chevrolet teams and drivers in the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
* Robert Hight, driving the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, is 15 points clear of second place and reigning Funny Car champion Ron Capps. Hight’s John Force Racing teammate, Courtney Force, in third place in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, is mathematically eligible to claim her first pro title.
* Brittany Force, driving the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster, is 20 points arrears Top Fuel front-runner Steve Torrence.
* Greg Anderson, driving the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS, is 40 points ahead of KB Racing teammate Bo Butner and holds a 76-point margin over teammate and reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line.
There is a twist to the season finale that increases the stakes for every pass over the three days of competition. In each of the previous 23 events, 20 points were awarded for each elimination round win. Thirty points is the reward in the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Additionally, extra qualifying points are awarded. Winners of each class will collect 150 base points in addition to bonus points, with a maximum of 191 points available.
“The way I look at a 15-point lead is, we just have to go further than Capps at Pomona,” said Hight, who grabbed the points lead at Las Vegas two weeks ago. “No matter what, we need to go one round further than him, or we both lose in the same round, and it’s over.”
Two wins and three semifinal finishes, plus three No. 1 qualifier honors, in the Countdown have powered Hight, who won the 2009 Funny Car title, to the top of the standings. Overall, he has four wins, a class-leading eight No. 1 qualifiers, and has registered a career-best 42 round wins this season.
“Our goal going into Pomona is to win that race, go in there and go four rounds, and cap off a championship with a huge win at our home track in front of our sponsors, at the Auto Club Finals,” he added.
Brittany Force entered the Countdown to the Championship in sixth place. Two wins and a runner-up showing at Las Vegas have given the fourth-year Top Fuel driver an opportunity to secure her first pro title.
“I don’t try to focus on the big picture and how many points you need,” said Force, who has six career wins. “Obviously, I hear things and how many rounds out we are, but my main focus is one round at a time. For me, less distraction is better when I’m in the car.”
Chevrolet has won all 23 Pro Stock events, featuring nine different drivers visiting the winner’s stage. Anderson (twice), Butner, Line, and rookie Tanner Gray (Gray Motorsports/Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS) have won the Countdown races. Anderson, who swept the 2016 events at Auto Club Raceway, was runner-up to Line (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) in the ’17 season opener at the racetrack.
“This is a dream come true for us, but now we have to go out there and settle it amongst ourselves,” Anderson said, referring to the title competition with his teammates. “It’s great to have that 40-point lead with my red Summit Racing Chevy Camaro, but still, each round will be worth 30 points in Pomona.
“This isn’t over yet. As great of a weekend we had in Las Vegas, to only come out 40 points ahead, you’ll probably have to go to Pomona and win the race if you’re going to be world champ. That’s the way it should be, though. You have to earn every inch of it. I expect a complete knock-down, drag-out brawl, just like we had in Las Vegas.”
FS1 will telecast qualifications live at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday and 6 p.m. ET Saturday. FS1 will telecast eliminations and finals live at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.
Tom Ferruggia of Menifee and Tim Seymour of San Dimas will represent California in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros in Stock Eliminator. Also among the 60 entries is Al Corda of Elk Mound, Wisconsin, and Justin Lamb of Hendersonvile, Nevada, in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros. Last weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Lamb locked up the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Stock championship, giving Chevrolet COPO Camaro drivers the class title two years in a row. Jeff Strickland of Red Bay, Alabama, won in 2016.
Ray Martin of Anchorage, Alaska, is entered in Super Stock with his Chevrolet COPO Camaro.
Fans will have the opportunity to tour the Chevrolet Racing Tour display at the track. The expansive display will feature production vehicles such as the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Premier, the 2018 Camaro Coupe SS, the Silverado 2500 HD High Country, and the Corvette Grand Sport.
CHEVROLET RACING ENGINEERING PREVIEW
ROGER ALLEN, CHEVROLET RACING NHRA PROGRAM MANAGER: “When we started the season at Auto Club Raceway in February, we knew all the Chevrolet teams in the three professional classes would be strong throughout the 24-race campaign and championship contenders. Now we’re at the season finale at Auto Club Raceway, and Chevrolet teams and drivers have the opportunity to sweep the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock titles. We’re looking forward to another exciting and competitive event, and are 100 percent supportive of the championship contenders and all the other Chevrolet teams and drivers.”
CHEVROLET FROM THE COCKPIT
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET TOP FUEL DRAGSTER (three-time winner, including Reading and Dallas in Countdown; has qualified in top half of field in 22 of 23 events; 20 points out of first place): “It seems unreal to be here (second in standings). I’ve watched my dad win 16 championships, and coming into my fifth year, I’m still trying to wrap my head around winning a single race. That’s so huge for me, so exciting. That’s something I’m so proud of. And now to be thinking that we’re in the hunt for a championship, it just seems unreal. But looking at this team and this car, I know we’re totally capable of winning it.”
ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (four-time winner, including Charlotte and Dallas in Countdown, and two-time runner-up; will run special California Highway Patrol paint scheme; four-time winner at track; sits atop point standings): “I was a little nervous (at Las Vegas), but you have to learn how to channel that pressure and that energy. And we just have to do the same thing at Pomona we did at Vegas. One of the pitchers from the Dodgers made a statement that really hit home for me, and that is, you have to focus on the process, not on the outcome. That’s really it. If you start changing the way you race because you’re nervous and you’re worried about the points, or worried about winning or losing, you will lose, you’ll beat yourself. You have to focus on what got you here, don’t change anything, and keep doing it. I like our chances. Pomona is a good race track for us, and we’ll run good there.”
COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, BIG MACHINE RECORDS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (five-time runner-up, including at Pomona in February and three times in Countdown; seven-time No. 1 qualifier; won at track in February 2013; will run special paint scheme, featuring Taylor Swift; third in points): “Even though we haven’t gotten a win yet this season, at least we’re being consistent. And I think that’s the most important thing. You can definitely win a championship with a consistent car, rather than just having a fling and one great run, or a killer record run. Not having consistency won’t get you anywhere. So far this season, having a consistent race car is what we need. I think everyone going into the final race wants to get that win. Obviously, we’ve been right there, been in multiple final rounds.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT & MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Gainesville; eight-time winner in fall event at the track and 16 times overall; sixth in points): “I can’t run for the title – I’m not in the hunt, but my teams are running for the championship. Robert Hight, (daughter) Courtney (Force) is still close – she might need a miracle – and (daughter) Brittany’s (Force) in the hunt. That’s what I’m really excited about. I’m going to enjoy Pomona. I’m going to go out there and race the race and see where it goes. I’ve got a good car.”
GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (four-time winner and seven-time runner-up this season, including February event at track; five-time winner in fall event at track; swept 2016 races; sits atop point standings): “We try to operate as an open book on this team, and we want to make every car we have as fast as it can be. It’s just our M.O., and I guess it just comes down to the fact that we do the best we can to beat ourselves – but that’s what’s so neat about KB Racing. We can’t predict what’s going to happen. Jason (Line) and I raced door handle-to-door handle (Oct. 29) in Las Vegas in the semis, and I won by just .006. That’s what makes you feel good at the end of the day. It’s not a good feeling if one car isn’t up to speed with the other. You want them all to be even and let the drivers and crew chiefs settle it. I can’t say enough about this race team. It’s wonderful to be a part of it. It certainly makes my job more difficult, but that’s why I love it so much.”
BO BUTNER, JIM BUTNER AUTO, BUTNER AUTO SALES CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (four-time winner, including Reading in Countdown, and six-time runner-up; five-time No. 1 qualifier; second in points): “We didn’t really have an edge this year, but I feel like the KB Racing team raced smarter. We said all year long that we wanted to be 1-2-3 at the end, and now we’re almost there and it’s looking like that could very well happen. I’m proud to be part of this team, and proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. We’ve got one more to go. We’ve got the best guys, and I know we’ll have my car figured out for Pomona. I’ve had some pretty good luck there. Back in my bracket racing days, racing for points as a Sportsman, I would have tried to line myself up with Greg (Anderson) somehow first round if I could. Let’s get it over with early and move on. But we’re going to do our same routine, and if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.”
JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (reigning Pro Stock champion; won season opener at Pomona and also won at Dallas in Countdown; No. 1 qualifier at February event; runner-up in both 2016 races at track; third in points): “You never know – I could break Greg’s leg before first-round and maybe I’ll win the race – but I don’t want to win that way. When it comes down to the championship, crazy things have happened both for us and against us in the past. That’s why you go there and race instead of working it all out on paper. A lot of the time, on paper, it looks like one thing, but in reality, it’s another. We’ll see what happens, but right now, I’m happy. I’m proud to be part of this team.”
TANNER GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Las Vegas in April to become youngest winner in NHRA history; also won at Topeka, Sonoma, Brainerd, and Charlotte; four-time No. 1 qualifier; fourth in points): “Coming into Pomona sitting No. 4 isn’t the place we wanted to be in order to win the championship. We have had an incredibly blessed season and one for the record books for sure. We are going to go out swinging this weekend and give it all we got. After the Vegas national event, my dad and I stayed and tested Monday in preparation for Pomona. We struggled at Vegas with some car issues and want to make sure we won’t experience that in Pomona. I got my first round win at my first race in Pomona this year in February. My dad has won this event before and usually runs pretty good. With both of our Chevy Camaros out at the track this weekend we should be able to go out and do some damage.”
DREW SKILLMAN, RAY SKILLMAN MOTORSPORTS, RAY SKILLMAN AUTO GROUP CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (four-time winner and two-time runner-up, including Dallas in Countdown; holds track Pro Stock track speed record, set in November 2015; fifth in points): “The Winternationals in February at Auto Club Raceway seem so long ago. We didn’t start the season on the right foot, and it took us some time to figure out what was wrong. But we hit our stride before the Countdown. Now we’re sitting fifth in points with the chance to move up. A victory would be a great way to end the year.”
ERICA ENDERS, MELLING PERFORMANCE/ ELITE MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at New Hampshire and three-time runner-up this season; holds Pro Stock track elapsed time record, set in November 2014; clinched 2014 Pro Stock title with win at track; sixth in points): “For the second year in a row we didn’t quite have the season we wanted or expected. But this season we made so many strides in the right direction that we have huge expectations for our future. The key is having the right people around you to overcome and adapt. We’re on our way to another championship year, no doubt, and it very well could be next season. That’s the plan. I know I have the best team in the sport, from (owner) Richard Freeman, to our engine guys on to the crew chiefs and mechanics, we’re world class. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ for us.”
JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM ELITE PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (two-time runner-up and three-time No. 1 qualifier this season; made his initial Pro Stock start in 1998 at the track; six-time winner at track; eighth in points): “Let’s finish this season off in style with a big win. Of course, as soon as we do that we start talking about next season. Fortunately for me, drag racing seasons always start and end in Pomona, which is one of my favorite places on earth. The history of the facility, the excitement that comes with both races here — be it the start of a new year or the crowning of our champions — always makes this an event where the emotions are running high. We’ve had great fortune here in the past and we’d love to recreate some of that and return to the winner’s circle again.”
SHANE GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (competing in 10th race of season and 173rd of career; won at Gainesville): “Our Gray Motorsports team has had a hell of a year. Our engine program has boomed and we have seen a ton of success with both Tanner (Gray) and Drew (Skillman). I knew heading into this year that I was going to take a supporting role to both Tanner and Drew as opposed to drive, and it’s been a blast watching these two young men win rounds and races. Racing Pomona this weekend will give our Valvoline Chevy Camaro team more data heading into the off-season, and allow us to prepare for next season. We are constantly looking at ways to find more power to win more races.”