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The last Sunday of NHRA’s Full Throttle Drag Racing 2012 season is here, and after yesterday’s final qualifying, there are some good championship races about to go down. In both Top Fuel and Funny Car, three racers each have a shot at the championship, while Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle were wrapped at the end of the day yesterday. Check out the action as it’s gone down so far, and stay tuned for more updates.
The morning started off with the presentation of championship trophies to Sportsman divisional winners from around the country (left). Then veteran announcer Bob Frey, who is retiring from NHRA today, was honored by NHRA President Tom Compton.
Two professional championships were wrapped up after qualifying, with Eddie Krawiec (left) winning Pro Stock Motorcycle and Allen Johnson (right) getting his first national championship in 17 years of trying.
The top three contenders that are still chasing the championship in Top Fuel, from left to right: Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, and Spencer Massey.
Ron Capps, Fast Jack Beckman, and Mike Neff (left to right) all still have a shot at the Funny Car title.
One of the biggest upsets in the first round was points leader and championship contender Antron Brown near lane facing fellow contender Spencer Massey. Massey got a very tiny advantage off the line, and then Brown's fueler popped a blower, deployed the chutes, and gave Antron some minor burns to his legs and hands. He has to sit and watch to see how Massey and The Sarge do in eliminations to see where the championship ends up.
Jeff Arend beat the legend, John Force, in the first round when Force lost the hook. Arend then went to the second round where he lost to Jack Beckman, who is perhaps on his way to a championship, depending on how eliminations go.
Vince Nobile shocked the crowd, and his crew, when he beat Jason Line in the second round to move to the semis to face Erica Enders in Pro Stock.
Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher took out JR Todd in the first round then Khalid alBalooshi's Al-Anabi car in the second round, where he's going to face Bob Vandergriff.
Mike Neff, part of John Force Racing's multi-car team, beat Paul Lee, then met Cruz Pedregon in the second round where he lost on a hole shot. Neff ran a quicker 4.058 to Cruz's 4.082, but the light did him in.
Pedregon now has to face Beckman in the semis. If Courtney Force beats Ron Capps in the other pairing, regardless of whether or not he wins his round, Beckman will nab the championship.
Brandon Bernstein (left) and Schumacher both made it to the final round. Bernstein took out Clay Millican with an .076 light to an .081, but it never was a race as Millican went had to pedal it while the MavTV car in the opposite lane motored off to a wicked 3.793 at 322 mph.
Ron Capps' hopes for a title ended at the hands of Courtney Force. They were almost dead-even on the light, with Capps getting a mere .003 advantage, but the girl beat him to the stripe with a 4.069 at 318 to the Napa car's 4.091 at 313. That made Jack Beckman, who was strapped in his car behind them, the champion, his first ever.
Erica Enders (shown here with her dad) made it to the semis after besting Shane Gray and V Gaines, but Pro Stock racer-on-a-tear Vince Nobile dispatched her to head to the finals. Erica finished fourth in points, showing that women are just as fast as men in a Pro Stock car.
The Top Alcohol class ran eliminations before the Pro cars, with Chris Demke's Uyehara-chassised car winning Top Alcohol Dragster over Jim Whiteley's YNot digger. In T/A Funny Car, it was John Lombardo's Monte carlo (far lane) over Tony Bartone's bright orange Mustang. Both races were decided by less than a hundredth at the finish line.
Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Eddie Krawiec waits for his final round against teammate Andrew Hines. Hines got the smaller Wally at this race, beating Kramiec with a 6.766 at 198 mph to the losing 6.805 at 197.
As good as he was this weekend, Vince Nobile couldn't off the Allen Johnson juggernaut in the final of Pro Stock. The champ got a very small advantage on the tree, and ran a stellar 6.528 to Nobile's 6.533. That's two Wallys for Johnson (the event and overall championship) at the World Finals.
Left: With the Funny Car championship firmly in the hands of Beckman, who was already out thanks to Cruz Pedregon in the semis, the final round was still a nail-biter as the crowd was wondering if the former champ Pedregon would take the win, or if Courtney Force would win her second race in Funny Car. Courtney tree'd Cruz, but her TFX Hemi threw the wrong kind of fire out of the pipes all the way down, kicking its rods out and Pedregon motored off to a 4.03 at 306. Right: If Tony Schumacher beat Brandon Bernstein in the final round, he would have the championship. As they did their burnouts, Antron Brown stood with his family at the base of the tower, watching. He would be champ if Schumacher lost. It was a dead heat all the way. Antron said, 'I watched them go down and they were both lit the whole way. In weather conditions like this, you're walking such a fine line with that that sometimes you don't make it down. I saw Brandon's win light come on, and wasn't sure what to do so I just raised my arms.' Then it got crazy.
The base of the tower around Antron exploded in applause when Bernstein beat Shumacker and Antron was mobbed by family, crew, fans, media, and everyone that could get to him. With this championship, Antron Brown not only gets his first one, but it's the first major championship in any high level of racing for an African American.
Left: Antron being presented his trophy. We've never seen a more joyful celebration over a Top Fuel Championship. Team owner Don Schumacher said, 'Tony's my son so I always want him to win. But I really wanted Antron and his crew to get this one. They worked so hard for it.' Teammate and Funny Car champ Beckman was there to hug Antron before he went on stage. Right: Your class champions at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing World Finals. From left to right are Allen Johnson, Cruz Pedregon, Brandon Bernstein, and Andrew Hines.
And finally, your 2012 World Champions. From left to right: Allen Johnson, Fast Jack Beckman, Downtown Antron Brown, and Eddie Krawiec. Congratulations to the drivers and their entire teams for a season well done.