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NHRA: Kalitta, Johnson, Anderson, Smith Take Season-Ending Crowns at Pomona

Compiled by SEMA Editors


kalitta johnson anderson smith

KALITTA, JOHNSON, ANDERSON, SMITH TAKE SEASON-ENDING CROWNS AT POMONA: Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were victorious at the 24th and final event of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. The Auto Club NHRA Finals marked the conclusion of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Kalitta powered to a holeshot victory with a 3.745-second pass at 326.63 mph in his Mac Tools dragster to defeat J.R. Todd’s 3.704 at 327.90 in his SealMaster dragster in the Top Fuel final. Kalitta claimed his fourth victory of the season and 42nd of his career. He sprinted past Shawn Reed, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher and Shawn Langdon in the earlier rounds. The win moved him to second in points, where he will finish for the fourth time in his career.

“I’ve been trying to win this last race for a long time,” said Kalitta, nephew of drag-racing legend Connie Kalitta. “The history here, for me, growing up watching Connie race over the years and to be able to win today was huge for me and for everybody on the team. It was very cool that [Todd] and I were both in the final and got to run for the money there. It will be good momentum for all of our teams, and we finished off the season with some good runs."

nhra awards

CHAMPIONS CROWNED AT NHRA AWARDS CEREMONY: Antron Brown, Ron Capps, Jason Line and Jerry Savoie were the headliners crowned as world champions Monday evening during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. The four drivers were honored for their season-long achievements and presented with checks and trophies for winning 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship titles during the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship—NHRA’s playoffs.

jerry savoie

SAVOIE RACES TO FIRST PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: Jerry Savoie earned his first career Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship after he advanced to the semifinals while his nearest contenders, Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, were knocked out in the quarterfinals. Savoie, rider of the White Alligator Racing Suzuki, never led the points standings until he secured the title.

“To only dream of winning one race and to come out here and put a deal together with the support of Vance & Hines and my crew and to win the championship is amazing,” said Savoie, who won two races and notched four runner-ups. “I went to church this morning [Sunday] and the word was encouragement and to get encouraged from the people that inspire you. I want to thank everybody, especially the fans. Without these guys, this would not be possible; you make our dreams come true, and those guys are my family.”

He Said, She Said

ron capps

“I really haven't slept well since the Countdown started after Labor Day. It really came together, but man, what a fight. My stomach has been in a knot since Indy. I’m not sure I’ll sleep tonight. It hasn’t sunk in. I have to tell you that the trophy should be broken into a trillion pieces and given to all our fans. We have the best fans. I can't even tell you how focused Rahn Tobler has been this year. I almost gave up trying so hard and wishing so hard, and just focused on winning races. With everything we got this year—my 50th career win, passing some people I really looked up to in the sport with wins—that's mind-boggling for me. This was the toughest Funny Car class ever and the 50th anniversary of the Funny Car, which was awesome. What a great, great season.”

—Ron Capps after securing his first Funny Car world championship at Pomona. Capps raced to a category leading five wins in 2016 along with five runner-up finishes.

Inside the Numbers

jason line

3: Both the number of points separating 2016 Pro Stock world champion Jason Line and Greg Anderson and the number of championships for Line. The veteran racer was able to clinch the championship after he raced to victory in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro in the semifinal round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, putting the points out of reach for second-place teammate Greg Anderson.

“It’s been a great year and thanks to all of our competitors; they kept us honest and made us work hard right to the end,” said Line, who also won the world title in 2006 and 2011. “I have to thank all the Summit guys, Ken Black, and all of them. It has been an incredible season and I can’t believe I didn’t actually mess it up.  It is such an honor to be up here. We have had a great car all year. Greg [Anderson] and I have had probably the two best cars all year. If it had ended any other way, I would have been disappointed.”

Did You Know

SUMMIT SERIES NATIONAL CHAMPS CROWNED: Jeff Hefler won his third Summit Racing Series national championship and was joined in victory by Timothy Smith, Chad Isley and Curtis Spracklin as the yearlong competition raced to a conclusion at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. The quartet of winners, all champions at the divisional level, battled drivers from other regions of the country in eight-vehicle fields to win bracket racing’s greatest honor.