IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS! HAGAN AND FORCE BATTLE FOR THE WORLD TITLE AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS: After 22 races and more than 330 rounds of racing; after traveling all across the country, from the West Coast to the East Coast and back again over the span of nine months; after picking up national records and round wins by hundredths of a second, the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car world championship comes down to this: Matt Hagan vs. John Force at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Youth vs. Experience. DSR vs. JFR. The Country Boy vs. the Truck Driver. And there’s only 37 points separating the two. For Hagan, it’s the chance to prove himself. In just his second full season competing in the Funny Car category, Hagan has raced his way to three race wins in five final-round appearances, four No. 1 qualifiers, a national record for time at 4.011 seconds (earning him 20 bonus points) and the points lead heading into the final race of the season.
“As a driver, you have to step back sometimes and just really enjoy the moment,” said Hagan. “Enjoy being out here mixing it up with John Force, enjoy that you’ve done so well in such a short time and realize that it might not happen again for a while. However it plays out here in Pomona with John and me battling this thing out; it’s definitely going to be a dogfight.”
For the veteran John Force, it’s a chance at redemption. At rejuvenation. At turning the clock back for one more season, and one more chance to show the world and himself that he can still do it. It was just three seasons ago that Force was involved in the horrific accident in Dallas that nearly ended his racing career. And after coming back to race to his first win since the accident at Topeka in 2008, Force finished the 2009 season without a win, the first time the driver had ever done so since 1986. But 2010 was different: it was the turnaround year and the comeback he was looking for. After winning the first race of the season, the 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, Force went on to win four more races in the season and lead the point standings for nearly the entire year. But after a first-round loss in Reading, the same race where Hagan set the national record, Force lost his top spot to the younger driver. A win at the recently completed NHRA Las Vegas Nationals helped narrow the points gap to just 37 heading into the final race of the season and a track that has seen Force in the Winner’s Circle 13 times in his career.
“Right now I’ve got to come in with an attitude that there can be no error, there can be no mistakes,” said Force. “We have to gobble up every point that we can. We didn’t get every point at Vegas. But my daughter (Ashley Force Hood) outran me and had a shot at the record there. We can’t wait for Hagan to fail. Too good of a race team. That means we have to do everything we can. We have to stay ahead of him in those qualifying points just during the four sessions that we get before the race because if he picks up a couple more points there, then that’s another round that I’ve got to gain on him.”
So, after a full season of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing, the Funny Car world championship comes down to two drivers separated by more than 34 years, but only 37 points. For tickets to the Auto Club NHRA Finals, call 800/844-NHRA or go online to NHRATIX.com.
NHRA ANNOUNCES OILDOWN PENALTY POLICY FOR AUTO CLUB FINALS: The NHRA will immediately implement an oildown-penalty policy for the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. The penalties will be in effect for the final race of the 2010 season, the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, November 11–14, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. In Pomona, teams depositing oil on the racetrack surface during any qualifying or elimination rounds will result in loss of the elapsed time and miles per hour for that run. In qualifying, the time will be voided for all purposes (qualifying position, performance points, national records and low e.t./top speed). On Sunday, the time will be voided for the purpose of lane choice, run sequence choice, national records and low e.t./top speed. However, should the violating team win the round, it will advance in the bracket, be deemed the round winner and maintain the points earned. In addition, each oildown will result in a monetary fine. The first violation will be assessed $2,500, and the second violation will be assessed an additional $5,000 fine. For more information, visit NHRA.com.
AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NHRA FINALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, November 11–14: The 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series comes to an end where it all began: in sunny Southern California for the final event of the season and the crowning of the NHRA Full Throttle world champions. Defending event winners include Antron Brown (Top Fuel); Mike Neff (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). For tickets, call 800/844-NHRA or go online to NHRATIX.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Public Relations Michael Padian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KRAGEN O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA WINTERNATIONALS, AUTO CLUB RACEWAY AT POMONA, February 24–27, 2011: The 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and 60th anniversary season of NHRA kicks off at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona at the 51st running of this event. Defending event winners include Larry Dixon (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock). For tickets, call 800/844-NHRA or go online to NHRATIX.com. For media credentials, please contact Director of Public Relations Michael Padian at email@example.com.
HE SAID, SHE SAID
A CHANGE AT SEASON’S END: Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan after it was announced that he would be released from Don Schumacher Racing at the end of the season: “I am not retiring. I have had a wonderful relationship with Don Schumacher, both personal and professional. I am grateful to him and to Honeywell for all they had done for me. Right now, I have to focus on trying to win the 2010 championship, which I want to do for DSR, Fram, Prestone and Autolite and, of course, for myself. After this season is over, I will pursue other opportunities to continue racing in the NHRA Full Throttle Series.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
37: That’s the number of total wins at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona that the remaining Full Throttle World Championship contenders have. Below is a list of each category and the number of wins for each driver.
Larry Dixon – 5
Tony Schumacher – 6
Cory McClenathan – 2
Matt Hagan – 0
John Force – 13
Jack Beckman – 0
Ashley Force Hood – 0
Greg Anderson – 9
Mike Edwards – 2
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Greg Stanfield – 0
Andrew Hines – 0
LE Tonglet – 0
DID YOU KNOW…
…that throughout this week and concluding next Monday following the Auto Club NHRA Finals, fans are invited to vote for the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Hard-Working Crew Award winners. Fans can visit NHRA.com and view videos of the four finalists in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, then cast their vote in each class for the winners. For more information, contact NHRA Media Relations at 626/914-4761 or visit the NHRA MEDIA CENTER online.