|Top Fuel pilot and defending world champion Tony Schumacher.|
SCHUMACHER EARNS SIXTH STRAIGHT, SEVENTH OVERALL CHAMPIONSHIP: In one of the most exciting semifinal rounds in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing history, Top Fuel pilot and defending world champion Tony Schumacher won his sixth straight and seventh overall world championship after fellow competitor and second-place driver Larry Dixon fell to Spencer Massey. Schumacher also lost to teammate Antron Brown in the semis, but his two-point lead was just enough to give the champ his first world championship with new crew chief Mike Green.
Though the excitement was saved for Sunday afternoon, the championship-winning run may have come the night before when Schumacher and his U.S. Army dragster team came out and posted a 3.772-second run in the final round of qualifying to steal the No. 1 qualifier from Dixon and the extra three bonus points that come in qualifying. Those extra points gave Schumacher a two-point lead going into eliminations on Sunday and when both drivers went out in the semifinal round, Schumacher clinched his seventh title.
“That run (Saturday) night was bone-crushing, weight-of-the-world pressure, and that U.S. Army team came through—unbelievable.” Schumacher noted in his meeting with the media after he was crowned champion that the world championship trophy would find a special home within the next few weeks.
“You can’t mention it before the race because you don’t know if you’re going to win it, but this thing’s going to sit at Fort Hood for the families. I don’t think there’s any question about it; it has to be there. They deserve it. This is an Army strong trophy, and it’s going to sit there and be beautiful.” Schumacher finished the season with two No. 1 qualifiers, 47 round wins and five wins in seven final-round appearances.
|Funny Car driver Robert Hight jumped from 10th to first place in the point standings within
the final six races to earn his first NHRA Full Throttle
Drag Racing world championship.
HIGHT WINS FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, FIRST FOR JFR SINCE ‘06: After barely making it into the Countdown to 1 playoffs in the final 10th-place spot, Funny Car driver Robert Hight made one of the biggest moves in NHRA history, jumping from 10th to first place in the point standings within the final six races of the season to earn his first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing world championship.
After a stellar performance in front of his hometown crowd at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, which included qualifying second for the race, Hight clinched his first world championship Saturday night as qualifying for the Auto Club NHRA Finals came to an end. For Hight, driving his Auto Club Ford Mustang to his first world championship at his hometown track and his sponsor’s event, the feelings couldn’t be stronger. “Coming so close so many times before makes this really special, but it’s really all about this team,” said Hight. “It’s a whole team behind this, starting with John Force, who put me with the best people. The best advice he gave me was to team up with Jimmy and become his buddy, like he and [Austin] Coil and just live with him and that’s what I’ve done.
He’s like my brother. I can’t thank John enough for taking a chance on a guy who’d never driven anything but a Ford F-150 truck and for the sponsors like AAA for supporting John.” Hight finished the season with four No. 1 qualifiers, 30 round wins and three wins in four final round appearances.
|Mike Edwards wins his first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Championship in Pro Stock.|
EDWARDS CAPS OFF NEAR PERFECT SEASON WITH FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: Domination seemed to be the name of Mike Edwards’ 2009 campaign for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing world championship in Pro Stock, and his performance at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona was no exception. Edwards dominated qualifying for the event and earned his first world championship as qualifying came to an end Saturday night.
Edwards took the top spot in each of the four qualifying sessions, driving his A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac GXP to the top spot of the field night in and night out, and when all was said and done, hoisted his first world championship trophy in front of the Southern California crowd as the sun went down Saturday night.
“I can say words, but they just don’t describe the feeling I have,” said Edwards. “It’s so exciting for me and it’s been such a long time coming, but it’s all worth it. It’s Roger Stahl and a bunch of guys who got together a couple of years ago and decided to give it our best effort. We decided we’d try one time to do it the right way and started our shop and we’ve all just kept pulling at the same end of the rope and here we are, living our dream.”
Though Edwards didn’t finish the season with a win, he’ll never forget his 2009 Auto Club NHRA Finals performance. Edwards finishes the 2009 season with an impressive 16 No. 1 qualifiers (tied for the most in a season in NHRA history), 53 round wins and five wins in 10 final-round appearances.
|After 19 years of competition, Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana claimed his first world championship.|
ARANA EARNS FIRST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN 19-YEAR CAREER: To say that Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana’s first world championship was a long time coming would be an understatement. The rider has had a stellar 19-year career, but had never finished higher than fifth in the point standings. But with an impressive 2009 season, which included two wins in three final round appearances in the six-race, Countdown to 1 playoffs, Arana was well on his way to his first world championship.
But a second-round loss in eliminations at the Auto Club NHRA Finals put Arana’s hopes in jeopardy as second-place driver Eddie Krawiec had a chance to snatch the world championship away. But when Krawiec was unable to set a national record, Arana was able to celebrate his first world championship after almost two decades of racing.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Arana. “I do feel better, lighter now that the stress is over and the worries. It’s an awesome feeling to have this accomplishment this year. A lot of things happened this year that I accomplished: I won five races, I won three in a row, I set the national record, and I won the championship. This is awesome.” Though it was a long time coming, Arana would be the first to admit that good things come to those who wait.
KRAGEN O’REILLY NHRA WINTERNATIONALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, FEBRUARY 11–14: The 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will kick things off in sunny Southern California with the 50th anniversary of the Winternationals. Defending event winners include Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel); Ron Capps (Funny Car); and Jason Line (Pro Stock).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
A BIG WIN FOR A STRUGGLING YEAR: Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson on winning the final race of the season to close out a tough year of racing: “It’s been a very, very, very interesting season for me, kind of a trying, up and down year for me with a few too many valleys and not enough peaks. We had a few flashes of brilliance, like (Sunday), where we showed what we can do; we just didn’t do it often enough.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
1: Funny Car driver and 2008 Auto Club “Road to the Future” winner, Mike Neff earned his first career win Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that Harley-Davidson Motor Company has extended both its official program with NHRA and its title sponsorship of the NHRA Harley-Davidson Sportsman Motorcycle Series through the 2012 season. Harley-Davidson, the only major U.S.-based manufacturer of motorcycles, became the official motorcycle of NHRA and title sponsor of the popular NHRA Harley-Davidson Sportsman Motorcycle Series in 2006. For more information, visit www.NHRA.com.