2013 Auto Club NHRA Finals, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, CA, USA
photos by Tim Hailey with reports from NHRA and others
Outgoing NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Eddie Krawiec (above) claimed his third win in his sixth consecutive final round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona when he rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.918 at 192.41 to deny Scotty Pollacheck his first win. Pollacheck trailed with a 6.963 at 193.57 on his Quality Tire Buell. “It was an awesome day,” Krawiec said. “I’m fortunate that this race track has been my house. That’s the way I look at it. I do the best I can to not let anyone else win here. The odd stat is that I’ve won here every year that I’ve lost the championship, and lost this race in years when I’ve won the championship. I guess that it’s a good way to cap the season either way.”
Krawiec, who finished the season in third place in the standings, outran Steve Johnson, Johnny “Balls” Hall and Michael Ray en route to taking his second victory of the season and 22nd of his career. He celebrated the win with several Harley-Davidson execs, including Willie G (Davidson), the icon of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. “I look up to him for what he’s done in the sport,” Krawiec said. “He has a long history of success in motorcycle racing. I ended up giving him the race-win Wally. He has everything he’s ever wanted, but he didn’t have a Wally. That was just a small token of my appreciation for him.”
Matt Smith claimed the 2013 PSM title with one race remaining in Las Vegas.
No one’s season ended as badly as the Arana’s. Hector Jr lead the championship all year until midway through the countdown. He finished fourth in points, with his dad Hector Sr fifth and rookie brother Adam tenth. Number 1 qualifier H2 lost to Katie Sullivan in round 2 at Pomona after merely surviving round 1 against number 16 qualifier Jimmy Underdahl. “First round we were lucky,” said H2. “We cut an OK light and the bike left good. It shifted into second, and then I’m going to shift it into third, and the bike’s not shifting. I’m hitting the button, hitting the button, hitting the button. Now the bike’s getting on the rev limiter, and I’m opening my hand to get ready to pull in the clutch. I hit it one more time, and the bike just kicks into gear, and I was able to stay in front and get the win.”
Hector Jr (left) started off strong then plummeted, while John Hall (right) peaked mid-to-late season
Arana scrambled to chase down Underdahl, whose pass was 6.979 seconds at 195.00 mph. Arana caught him with his run of 6.926 seconds at 193.24 mph to get the win.
Against No. 9 qualifier Sullivan, Arana wasn’t so lucky. She left first with a .023 light, putting Arana immediately behind. Sullivan’s pass was 6.918 seconds at 195.34 mph, good enough to hold off Arana’s 6.878-second run at 193.18 mph. “Good job by Katie, and she ran good, too. We were right there, side by side. I made up some distance, but I wasn’t able to get around her. That’s part of racing.”
Arana Sr. started the day with a staging duel against Andrew Hines. Arana went in first but Hines, the No. 12 qualifier, didn’t move, so Arana backed out. “I went in and pre-staged, and Andrew wanted to let me hang out there, so I went ahead and got out of the pre-stage beam,” Arana said. “He went ahead and pre-staged, and I pre-staged again and then I staged. When I did that, he got on his two-step and then he proceeded to stage.” Arana got off the line first with a reaction time of .063-second to Hines’ .084 and never trailed. Arana’s pass was 6.871 seconds at 195.73 mph, beating Hines’ 6.931-second pass at 192.08 mph.
That matched him against Pollacheck, who had lane choice after making the quickest pass of the first round. Pollacheck then had low e.t. for Round 2 at 6.882 seconds at 194.10 mph while Arana spun the tire and had a run of 6.905 seconds at 195.36 mph. “We spun the tire real bad in the first 60 feet,” Arana said. “In first gear you can see on the graph that it was terrible. We lost a lot of momentum and we had a .109 60-foot. That hurt us, and Scotty Pollacheck made a good run and won the race.”
Adam Arana lost to Shawn Gann in round 1.
After remaining within the top five Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors for 13 consecutive races of this 16-race season, the Sovereign-Star Racing team and racer Michael Ray will finish their 2013 season in the No. 2 position of the NHRA Mello Yello Series Countdown to the Championship following this past weekend’s event. This marks the 14th season that Star Racing has finished at No. 1 or No. 2 in the overall points standings. After a three-year hiatus from NHRA drag racing, Star Racing owner George Bryce teamed up with Hungarian-based Sovereign Racing and owner Jenõ Rujp in 2012 to make a comeback in the sport. “It was a great season, and I think that No. 2 was a great goal that we accomplished. In two years, we’ve moved a long way from where we started, and I feel like we’re back in the hunt to win races every single time that we go,” Bryce said.
During his first full season racing for this team, Ray has claimed two national event wins, six additional semifinal round appearances, three No. 1 qualifying positions, low ET for the Norwalk and Reading events, and the top speed for Norwalk that also set a new track record. “It was good to be consistent and run well. We didn’t come up with any wins in the last four races of the year, but we definitely came out with a bunch of points. When you look at everything that happened in those last four races, we were very resilient. I’m very proud to go up (at the awards banquet) and be recognized for No. 2. I couldn’t be more impressed with the professionalism of this team and their true dedication,” Ray said.
During first round eliminations at Pomona, Ray’s excellent .008-second reaction time set him up for the win against No. 10 qualifier LE Tonglet. Ray improved from his qualifying time to post a 6.89 ET at 193 mph against Tonglet’s 6.93/192 mph. Ray advanced to face No. 15 qualifier Gann in round two, where both bikes ran 6.98 ETs, but Gann left the starting line too soon to turn on the redlight and forfeit the win. In his eighth semifinal round appearance this season, Ray was up against No. 6 qualifierKrawiec. Ray was a little late leaving the line after trying to hold the motorcycle back to prevent a red light. Krawiec went on to take the win, posting a 6.95/191 mph to Ray’s 6.97/191 mph. “The track at Pomona is 13 feet downhill from start to finish. We don’t stage with our brakes; we stage with our feet, so it was really tricky all weekend to keep the bike from rolling. Unfortunately, when I put it on the two-step, it creeped on me about three inches, which is huge when it comes to reaction time. So at that point, I was just thinking: keep it clean and green,” Ray said.
Jeg Coughlin captured his fifth NHRA Pro Stock world championship title Sunday at Pomona, and Shawn Langdon won his first Top Fuel for Al-Anabi on Saturday.
Coughlin, who won four races in eight final rounds during the season at the controls of his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger, took the title when his only remaining challenger, Jason Line, lost in the second round of eliminations. “In this day and age, it is so tough to win out here,” said Coughlin. “We’ve seen a lot of races won and lost by just a few thousandths of a second. I think this is one of the tightest, and one of the most intense championships I’ve ever won. This ranks right up there with 2007 when we had the two cuts to the Countdown to One in the first year of our playoffs.”
Coughlin, a native of Columbus, Ohio, becomes only the eighth driver in NHRA history to win five pro series championships. He also won a Super Gas title in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series in 1992. This title, his first since 2008, follows a disappointing 2012 season where he failed to win a race and finished ninth in the points standings. “To bring a second straight championship back to Auburn Hills for our friends at Mopar and another one to Greeneville, Tenn., for the J&J Racing crew, and now a seventh overall world championship to Delaware, Ohio, for everyone at JEGS, it feels fantastic,” Coughlin said. “It ranks right up there at the top.
“When I stepped away from professional racing at the end of 2010, I honestly wasn’t real sure how quickly I’d get back in the seat. But shortly thereafter, we put a great program together with our friends at Mopar to run a Dodge Avenger for the ’12, ’13 and ’14 seasons.”
The championship was the fourth this year for the Coughlin family. T.J. Coughlin, Jeg’s nephew, won the Division 3 title in Super Gas; Cody Coughlin, another nephew, won the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour stock-car championship; and Jeg Coughlin III won the Ohio state high school golf championship. The family also scored its 100th career national-event victory in NHRA when Troy Coughlin won Pro Mod in Las Vegas.
Coughlin qualified No. 4 at this race and had to take on teammate Vincent Nobile in the first round. Nobile had beaten Coughlin in three final rounds this season, including the season-opener here in February. But Coughlin and his crew were up to the task, as Coughlin had a solid .031-second reaction time and outran Nobile with a pass of 6.544 seconds at 211.26 mph. “When I saw we had Vincent, I thought, ‘Aw, man, here we go,'” Coughlin said. “He’s had my number this year, cracked me in all three of the finals we had. Knowing I had him, though, was probably a little bit of a blessing. I knew I had to bring my A-game, and the team prepared the car extremely well.”
Coughlin was in the next pair behind Line in the second round, so he knew he had clinched the title before he raced Johnson. Maybe because of that thrill, Coughlin tripped the starting beam -.001 seconds too soon, giving Johnson the round win. “We obviously wanted to win that round,” Coughlin said. “I really felt like we could be somewhere between .010 and .014 on the Tree. I saw where Jason got beat – most of us were shocked at that outcome – and I think I was just ice-cold and relaxed and turned the red light on by one-thousandth.”
But the championship was already his, and now all that’s left to do is celebrate. “It’s been a long road this year,” Coughlin said. “Very tense, very stressful, but that’s what we love about it, right?”
Rickie “Not Lee” Jones scored an emotional first career victory in Pro Stock, defeating defending world champ Johnson in the final round. The 26-year-old driver, who became the ninth different winner in the competitive category, used a reaction time advantage and clocked a 6.584 at 210.28 in his Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro to hold off Johnson’s quicker, but losing Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, which finished in 6.581 at 211.03.
Jones outran Matt Hartford, four-time champ Greg Anderson and Buddy Perkinson to advance to his fourth career Pro Stock final round. He broke down as he was climbing out of his car in the shut down area. “Man, it was so emotional,” Jones said. “You work for something so long, driving the race truck across the country, and keep beating on it. This is what I’ve always wanted since I was racing junior dragsters when I was 10. It seemed like it took forever for the win light to come on, and when it did, there were so many tears in my eyes that I almost couldn’t see the turnoff road. To get my first win at the Finals at Pomona, which is one of the biggest races of the year, is really awesome.”
Newly-crowned Top Fuel world champ Langdon finished off his year in style by racing to his seventh victory of the season, holding off hard-charging Doug Kalitta at the finish line in the final round. Langdon powered to a 3.784 second run at 323.58 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to finish in front of Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster, which posted a 3.808 at 322.04. Langdon defeated Steve Torrence, David Grubnic and Clay Millican in the first three rounds. “This is the top of the cake this weekend,” said Langdon, who secured his first Top Fuel crown following Saturday’s qualifying. “It’s an absolutely special weekend for everybody involved with Al-Anabi Racing. This is what I envisioned as a kid wanting to be a professional drag racer. When you’re living a dream and being part of something special, it almost puts you at a loss for words. I’m very fortunate to be a part of a great team. I still have to keep pinching myself.”
The Southern California native became only the sixth Top Fuel driver to sweep both Pomona races, as he opened the season with a victory at the NHRA Winternationals. Tony Schumacher (2004), Gary Scelzi (2000), Mike Dunn (1999), Darrell Gwynn (1989), and Gary Ormsby (1986) also accomplished the feat.
“There are certain races you go to when you feel like you need to win the race as soon as you pull in the gates, and we definitely have that in Pomona,” Langdon said. “Alan works his magic out here, and you can see by his track record. My crew chief, Brian Husen, gave me a phenomenal car all weekend. The team has been in this position before, but it’s all new to me as a driver. I was a nervous wreck coming in, but I built up some confidence as the weekend went on. My lights started getting better and better, and the car was getting better as well.”
Funny Car winner Matt Hagan
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan gained a bit of revenge by defeating season champ John Force in a marquee final round pairing between the top two points finishers. Hagan, who won the race without the assistance of crew chief Dickie Venables who was recuperating in Indianapolis after a recent medical procedure, posted a 4.018 at 320.66 in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger to edge the 16-time series champ’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang at the finish. “I’m on cloud nine that our assistant crew chief stepped up and was able to fill some big shoes,” Hagan said. “Dickie Venables was sick this weekend, and Mike Knudsen has never tuned a race car and had to jump in here, and there hasn’t been a crew chief [from another team] up in our lounge. I mean, this guy has done a phenomenal job. It just shows you when something happens someone else can step up and take the reins and run with it.”
Hagan earned his 10th career victory and second at this event by also outrunning Alexis DeJoria, Johnny Gray and Cruz Pedregon in earlier rounds. Hagan, who led the series standings for much of the season, finished second to Force for the second time (also 2010). “My guys have been working so hard; I’m so proud of them,” said the 2011 world champ who moonlights as a cattle rancher in his native Virginia. “I wish we could have won the championship, but that goes to John this year. I’m young in this sport, and I’ll just come in and fight for it next year.”
The 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series opens Feb. 6-9 with the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE — Michael Ray, Buell, 6.894, 193.71 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.934, 192.49; Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.973, 194.52 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.500, 145.52; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.930, 190.70 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.923, 193.13; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.856, 194.91 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.875, 193.54; Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.912, 193.79 def. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.923, 195.82; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.926, 193.24 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.979, 195.00; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.871, 195.73 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.931, 192.08; John Hall, Buell, foul def. Matt Smith, Buell, DQ;
QUARTERFINALS — Ray, 6.987, 191.24 def. Gann, foul; Sullivan, 6.918, 195.34 def. Arana Jr, 6.878, 193.18; Krawiec, 6.928, 191.46 def. Hall, 7.056, 186.00; Pollacheck, 6.882, 194.10 def. H. Arana, 6.905, 195.36;
SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 6.957, 191.05 def. Ray, 6.979, 191.29; Pollacheck, 6.949, 191.51 def. Sullivan, 7.004, 185.54;
FINAL — Krawiec, 6.918, 192.41 def. Pollacheck, 6.963, 193.57.
ROUND ONE — Morgan Lucas, 3.793, 325.22 def. Terry McMillen, 4.969, 145.61; Clay Millican, 3.791, 325.30 def. Troy Buff, 9.993, 77.20; Brandon Bernstein, 4.410, 222.07 def. Billy Torrence, 8.151, 83.24; Shawn Langdon, 3.781, 322.42 def. Steve Torrence, 17.243, 44.03; Doug Kalitta, 3.757, 328.70 def. Tony Schumacher, 5.441, 133.99; Antron Brown, 3.762, 324.75 def. Bob Vandergriff, 9.300, 85.11; David Grubnic, 3.839, 309.70 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.250, 205.47; Brittany Force, 4.594, 188.25 def. Spencer Massey, 4.763, 224.21;
QUARTERFINALS — Force, 3.855, 313.37 def. Bernstein, 6.311, 105.96; Millican, 3.776, 325.77 def. Lucas, 3.782, 320.13; Kalitta, 3.797, 325.22 def. Brown, 3.825, 310.84; Langdon, 3.779, 326.08 def. Grubnic, 3.802, 319.45;
SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.791, 325.77 def. Force, 12.487, 43.18; Langdon, 3.756, 326.87 def. Millican, 4.155, 199.67;
FINAL — Langdon, 3.784, 323.58 def. Kalitta, 3.808, 323.04.
ROUND ONE — Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.101, 309.56 def. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.495, 233.40; Gary Densham, Charger, 4.100, 305.91 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.131, 303.91; Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.108, 309.56 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.260, 256.50; John Force, Mustang, 4.036, 317.12 def. Bob Bode, Chevy Impala, 5.316, 132.09; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.059, 315.27 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.056, 314.24; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.089, 315.19 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.657, 183.97; Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.092, 313.07 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.212, 257.43; Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.452, 207.46 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 5.138, 161.00;
QUARTERFINALS — C. Pedregon, 5.207, 267.43 def. Tasca III, 5.626, 242.93; Densham, 4.128, 302.48 def. Capps, 4.312, 254.86; Hagan, 4.070, 309.98 def. Gray, 4.086, 311.56; J. Force, 5.533, 183.94 def. Arend, 11.451, 66.72;
SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.043, 314.83 def. Densham, 4.128, 297.16; Hagan, 4.057, 315.56 def. C. Pedregon, 4.134, 288.09;
FINAL — Hagan, 4.018, 320.66 def. J. Force, 4.057, 317.94.
ROUND ONE — Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.586, 211.03 def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.595, 211.59; Buddy Perkinson, Camaro, 6.680, 207.02 def. Bruno Massel, Camaro, 6.750, 208.07; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.537, 212.09 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.555, 212.03; Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.536, 211.56 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.586, 210.77; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.560, 211.76 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.583, 210.28; Kurt Johnson, Pontiac GXP, 10.021, 104.02 def. Mike Edwards, Camaro, no time; Rickie Jones, Camaro, 6.532, 211.73 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.635, 209.39; Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.544, 211.26 def. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.601, 210.57;
QUARTERFINALS — K. Johnson, 6.587, 210.08 def. Gray, 16.018, 53.75; Perkinson, 6.567, 211.96 def. Line, 6.685, 211.43; A. Johnson, 6.566, 211.63 def. Coughlin, foul; Jones, 6.546, 211.96 def. Anderson, 10.800, 83.97;
SEMIFINALS — A. Johnson, 6.548, 211.23 def. K. Johnson, 6.598, 210.34; Jones, 6.548, 211.86 def. Perkinson, 6.574, 211.83;
FINAL — Jones, 6.584, 210.28 def. A. Johnson, 6.581, 211.03.
Top Alcohol Dragster — Johnny Ahten, 5.428, 259.86 def. Jim Whiteley, 8.590, 95.50.
Top Alcohol Funny Car — Frank Manzo, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.531, 265.06 def. Clint Thompson, Monte Carlo, 6.758, 161.59.
Competition Eliminator — Jeff Lane, Chevy Cobalt, 9.863, 95.50 def. Doug Lambeck, Pontiac Sunfire, foul.
Super Stock — Jeff Adkinson, Chevy Cobalt, 8.722, 153.74 def. Don Keen, Ford Mustang, foul.
Stock Eliminator — Bo Butner, Ford Mustang, 9.951, 133.65 def. Peter Biondo, Chevy Camaro, 10.393, 124.37.
Super Comp — Bobby Dye Jr., Dragster, 8.915, 169.06 def. Andrew Madrid, Dragster, 8.938, 166.15.
Super Gas — Pete Zak, ’27-T Ford, 9.881, 147.29 def. Dave Kelly, Pontiac Firebird, 9.877, 153.00.
Summit Super Pro — Edmond Richardson, American, 7.269, 170.82 def. Mark Simons, Yancer, 7.566, 178.99.
Summit Pro — Alvie Merrill, Chevy Camaro, 10.231, 129.47 def. Kip Norup, Ford Thunderbird, 9.892, 137.37.
Summit Bike — Chad Isley, Suzuki GSXR, 8.842, 148.36 def. Jon Haner, Honda, 9.688, 137.25.
Summit Sportsman — Jeff Hefler, Chevy Impala, 12.233, 105.36 def. Gary Hairfield, Chevy Corvette, 12.108, 119.46.
Point standings (top 10) following the 49th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the final of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Shawn Langdon, 2,653; 2. Antron Brown, 2,489; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2,488; 4. Morgan Lucas, 2,422; 5. Spencer Massey, 2,422; 6. Clay Millican, 2,404; 7. Tony Schumacher, 2,394; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,286; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 2,251; 10. Steve Torrence, 2,217.
1. John Force, 2,688; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,548; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,445; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,415; 5. Robert Hight, 2,413; 6. Ron Capps, 2,406; 7. Courtney Force, 2,403; 8. Del Worsham, 2,309; 9. Johnny Gray, 2,309; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,238.
1. Jeg Coughlin, 2,572; 2. Allen Johnson, 2,514; 3. Jason Line, 2,502; 4. Mike Edwards, 2,482; 5. Shane Gray, 2,480; 6. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,406; 7. V. Gaines, 2,355; 8. Greg Anderson, 2,345; 9. Vincent Nobile, 2,298; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,147.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Matt Smith, 2,633; 2. Michael Ray, 2,510; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,492; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2,464; 5. Hector Arana, 2,456; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,385; 7. LE Tonglet, 2,383; 8. John Hall, 2,351; 9. Shawn Gann, 2,247; 10. Adam Arana, 2,244.