Words and images courtesy NHRA/National Dragster
Del Worsham and Matt Hagan raced to their first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championship titles and also earned race victories Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Veteran driver Worsham captured the Top Fuel season crown while Hagan avenged last season’s runner-up performance by taking the Funny Car title. Eddie Krawiec claimed his second Pro Stock Motorcycle championship. Pro Stock champ Jason Line secured his title two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
Greg Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the season-ending race in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Longtime Funny Car racer Worsham, 41, claimed the Top Fuel championship in dramatic fashion by edging series challenger Spencer Massey at the finish line in the winner-take-all semifinal round. He went on to claim his eighth victory of the season and 33rd of his career by outrunning Tony Schumacher in the final round. Worsham powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a 3.796 second run at 318.02 mph to finish just in front of Schumacher’s U.S. Army machine, which posted a 3.799 at 321.50 and went winless for the season for the first time since the 2001 season.
“The semifinal round was the biggest of my 21 year career as far as what was at stake,” Worsham said. “Spencer Massey is a great competitor. It was so close, I didn’t know if I had won. When I saw the ESPN cameras coming over to me it was like, wow, I was speechless after that round.”
The $500,000 Full Throttle championship is the second consecutive and 10th overall in Top Fuel for Worsham’s team manager, Alan Johnson.
“Alan Johnson’s abilities are unmatched, he’s unbelievable and a great motivator,” Worsham said. “(Team owner) Sheikh Khalid put this team together with Alan, and Brian Husen did great in his first season as a crew chief. I was really down after (the race in) Reading (Pa.), and we weren’t very good in Phoenix. Alan called me and Brian into his trailer after Phoenix and said we’re going to roll out a new chassis. This new car has been great for us.”
In Funny Car, Virginia cattle rancher Hagan, 28, avenged his painful loss to John Force last year by powering past teammate Jack Beckman in the quarterfinals and then outrunning two-time champ Cruz Pedregon in the semifinals to score his first world championship. He then claimed his second win of the season and fifth of his career by posting a track record performance of 4.009 at 317.79 in his DieHard Dodge Charger to hold off final round opponent Robert Hight in the quickest side-by-side race in Funny Car history. Hight trailed with a 4.031 at 318.92 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
“You come in expecting the worst and hoping for the best,” Hagan said. “It really is truly amazing this weekend to win the championship and win the race. It’s a testimony to all of my guys who have worked so hard on this DieHard team. They were so relaxed today. Being in that situation last year with John Force really helped us. I hate the phrase you’ve gotta lose one to win one, but in this case it’s sort of true. Last year we were trying so hard to make everything happen that we kind of chased it away I think, and this year we just let it all come to us.”
Hagan earned $500,000 for the championship title, which is the first for crew chief Tommy DeLago and the second Funny Car title for team owner Don Schumacher, who also won in 2005 with Gary Scelzi.
“I am really happy for DieHard and all the associates on the car,” Hagan said. “These Funny Car trophies are so hard to come by. When you can win it all, you have truly accomplished something.”
Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider Krawiec took his second Pro Stock Motorcycle title by winning the second round, which closed out his lone championship challenger Hector Arana Jr.
“This has been my championship all year long,” Krawiec said. “This championship validates the championship I won in 2008 when I didn’t win any races. For Andrew and I to go to the final two races and be winner and runner-up is amazing. Plus to have the opportunity to race with such great competitors, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Hines earned his second win of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, outrunning newly crowned champ Krawiec in the final. Hines took his 25th career victory with a 6.814 at 196.39 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, while Krawiec fouled at the start on his Harley-Davidson.
“Pomona has always been on my list and it’s been a thorn in my side,” Hines said. “I’ve been racing here for ten years and it’s been a long road. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs at this track. Today, our guys did an outstanding job. Communication doesn’t need to happen in our pit area because everyone knows what to do. It’s amazing to see our whole team perform. We put both of our V-Rods in the final at the last two races this year and luckily, I was able to get the last win of the year. It’ doesn’t get any better than that.”
In Pro Stock, Stanfield scored his first win of the season and fifth of his career when he defeated Kurt Johnson in the final round. Stanfield finished in 6.597 at 209.59 in his Nitro Fish Pontiac GXP, while Johnson’s GXP broke on the starting line.
“Any time that you win the last race of the season, it makes the winter time a lot better,” Stanfield said. “We’ve been a bit behind in this game for a while, we’re a little bit off, the car has got a lot of runs, and we’ll be hoping to get a new car for next year. It takes a lot of people to put a program like this together. And I have to thank J.D. Coffman of Coffman Trucking and Kenny Koretsky of NitroFish for their help. We’re a small team so we try to run everything really tight. We use our equipment probably longer than we need to. But for them guys, it’s special to give them a win.”
The 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season begins Feb. 9-12 with the 52nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Del Worsham raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday as rain shortened qualifying at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.
Matt Hagan, Mike Edwards and Andrew Hines also were qualifying leaders at the season-ending race of the 2011 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Worsham powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to the No. 1 spot early Saturday with a 3.773-second run at 320.05 mph. In total Worsham picked up eight bonus points in qualifying and took the points lead in the category by eight points over Spencer Massey heading into Sunday’s eliminations.
“We came into this race with a plan to try to make up a couple of points on Spencer and put a round on Antron (Brown), and we couldn’t have done any better to this point,” said Worsham. “Being a two-car team and watching Larry (Dixon) go 3.79 ahead of us, I’m sure that (team manager) Alan Johnson, (crew chief) Brian Husen, and Jason (McCulloch, Dixon’s crew chief) had a pretty good idea of what it was going to do.”
Worsham’s teammate and defending world champion Dixon qualified second for the event and currently sits 47 points behind Worsham in the standings, while third-place driver Brown qualified seventh and is 25 points behind the leader.
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan took the top spot in the class with his run early on Saturday. Hagan drove his DieHard Dodge Charger to a 4.033 at 315.27 to take his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 10th of his career. Hagan also racked up a total of seven bonus points throughout qualifying to give himself a 12-point lead over teammate Jack Beckman heading into eliminations Sunday.
“We’re all glad as a team to be back here and back in this hunt,” said Hagan. “We were looking to get another qualifying run in tonight; unfortunately the weather didn’t allow that. We have to go forward tomorrow and hopefully make some laps and have a long day. I believe in our team and the guys that got us here, and I believe that (crew chief) Tommy DeLago is going to carry us through this thing. I just have to stand on the pedal and have some fun.”
Cruz Pedregon, who entered the event third in the Funny Car standings, qualified fifth for the event and moved to within 35 points of Hagan, while fourth-place driver Mike Neff qualified third for the race and sits 40 points behind the leader.
In Pro Stock, Edwards drove his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to the No. 1 spot with a run of 6.520 at 210.93. It was Edwards’ sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 40th of his career. It was also his third consecutive No. 1 in the Countdown to the Championship.
“We just missed the clutch set-up on both of today’s qualifying runs and it was worse in the second session,” said Edwards. “We changed engines this evening for the second session to see if it might run any better, but that didn’t happen. We’re struggling in the clutch area right now. We made a real nice run on Thursday, but we’ve just gone backwards since then.”
Hines stayed in the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle after four rounds of qualifying. His Thursday night run of 6.820 at 197.54 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson was strong enough to give Hines his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 30th of his career.
“Right now, we’re just working on our consistency,” said Hines. “We showed that all through qualifying. I had the quickest bike in three rounds. On that last run, I lost a TPS (throttle position sensor) and the bike was misfiring badly. We slowed up but I’m lucky that happened today and not tomorrow.”
In the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship battle, series leader Krawiec holds a 69-point advantage over rookie rider Hector Arana Jr. The two riders could meet in the semifinals, but if Krawiec wins the second round he will be the champion. Arana Jr. needs Krawiec to lose in the first round and then he needs to win the race to take the title.