race reports

NHRA World Finals at Pomona, California


Championships Come Down to the Wire


Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis and Tim Marshall

Brittany Force 


For the first time since 1982, a female has captured a NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship. Brittany Force clinched the category crown in the quarterfinals of eliminations Sunday, Nov. 12, at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.


Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) also won world championships at the final 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.


The race winners at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona were Force (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Butner (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).



Brittany Force 


Brittany Force, driving the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster, secured her first Top Fuel title. Force reset the track Top Fuel elapsed-time record in earning the No. 1 qualifier honor for the second time this season, and went on to post her third win in the Countdown and fourth in the season.


She dispatched 2016 Top Fuel champion Antron Brown in the semifinals and ousted Shawn Langdon in the final. But the most important round win was the second, when she knocked off Richie Crampton moments after points leader Steve Torrence lost to Antron Brown.


In the final Force ran 3.667 at 330.07 mph to earn her third win in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.


“That’s pretty incredible,” Force said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around a Pomona win. I’ve always wanted to win here – it’s my home track, and we have the championship. All of it, it still doesn’t seem real.


“The reason we are here is because of that Monster team and all the support that I have with my team, my sponsors, everyone at John Force Racing and my family. We had our ups and downs, but we pulled it together when it mattered most,” said Force, who entered the Countdown to the Championship in sixth place. It was Force’s sixth season as a professional driver.

Shawn Langdon took the measure of Tony Schumacher 3.725/326.16 to 3.724/328.38 in the first round and then defeated Leah Pritchett (far lane) 3.683/321.81 to 3.714/320.20 in the second. Langdon then got a holeshot win over Doug Kalitta before going up in smoke at the hit of the throttle in the final.

Antron Brown (far lane) knocked Steve Torrence out of the Top Fuel points hunt.


Steve Torrence had trouble qualifying for the final event, but wound up fifth on the ladder after Q4. He won over Troy Buff in the first round of eliminations, but his dreams of a first championship were dashed after a second-round loss to good friend, Antron Brown.


“I feel bad for all my guys, everybody on this Capco team,” said Torrence, who dominated the points most of the season. “They worked their butts off all year and to come this close to winning it all, well, that kinda sucks, to be honest.”

Terry McMillen was happy with his racing season.


Riding the momentum of an NHRA national event win in Las Vegas, Terry McMillen, driver of the AMALIEⓇ Motor Oil XTERMIGATORⓇ Top Fuel Dragster had high hopes for a strong finish at the season’s final event in Pomona. While he came up short in Pomona, he did not come up short on reaching goals for the 2017 NHRA season.


“It’s hard to be disappointed today,” McMillen said after his close opening round loss to Richie Crampton. McMillen posted a 3.769 elapsed time to Crampton’s 3.724. “We’re really starting to run well and gel as a team. So, that’s a reason to not want the season to end. On the other hand we’re excited about the season ending because we hit our two main objectives of winning a race and making the Top 10. Now we can reset our goals, get everyone back to even in points and go after this thing again in a few short months.”


Final Top Fuel Points: 1. Brittany Force, 2,690; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,609; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2,553; 4. Antron Brown, 2,508; 5. Leah Pritchett, 2,452; 6. Clay Millican, 2,419; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2,406; 8. Tony Schumacher, 2,395; 9. Terry McMillen, 2,310; 10. Scott Palmer, 2,218.


Tommy Johnson Jr. (near lane) got the Funny Car final-round win over newly crowned champion Robert Hight.


For Tommy Johnson Jr. with Terry and Doug Chandler's Make-A-Wish team defending its title at the NHRA Finals was the only accomplishment that could have salvaged an otherwise disappointing race day for Don Schumacher Racing.


Johnson and the team led by crew chief John Collins and assistant Rip Reynolds defeated new Mello Yello world champion Robert Hight in the final round at Pomona.


The team's only other Wally Trophy was won at Las Vegas in April but their mentor and friend, the late Terry Chandler, wasn't able to attend that race. The following week, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and lost her valiant battle on July 4.


The last time she joined her team in a winner's circle was a year ago, and Sunday was the team's first win since her passing.


"We've tried several times to win another one for her, and I knew this was our last time this year," said Johnson, who raced in the final round of the season three straight years.


"She was a great lady, and we miss her."


Johnson, the defending event winner in the NHRA Finals at the historic Pomona track, first knocked out Dodge driver Bob Bode despite losing a cylinder down track as Bode couldn't get off the starting line cleanly. Johnson next bested Alexis DeJoria, but due to a faulty parachute ended up in the sand at the end of the shutdown area.

Undeterred, the team brought out a backup body from last season and bested DSR Mopar teammate Jack Beckman on a side-by-side run to reach their sixth final round of the year.


The victory was Johnson's second of the season and the 15th of his Funny Car career. He also has two in the Top Fuel category.


Reigning world champion Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T started the day trailing Robert Hight of John Force Racing by eight points but Capps' goal of being the first Funny Car driver to repeat as champion since 2001 was thwarted when he lost traction in the opening round. He had to win one round more than Hight to repeat.

In the opening round, Capps was paired against longtime friend Del Worsham but Capps' Dodge went into tire smoke and despite a near perfect effort at regaining traction was enough for his 4.177-second run at 316.52 mph to catch Worsham's subpar run (4.045 at 306.19) to the finish line. 


"It rattled and I gave it a pedal," said Capps, who is runner-up for the championship fifth time. "I saw Del out there. I love racing him, I get up to race him.


"Just I guess it wasn't meant to be. We had a great season with (Crew chief) Rahn Tobler, Eric Lane and our NAPA AutoCare guys. To end anything, win or lose here in Pomona is special with all these fans and our NAPA Auto Parts, Dodge, Mopar, Pennzoil and USA Compression family here."

Robert Hight reacts to Ron Capps’ loss, meaning that Hight won the championship.

Ron Capps congratulates new champion Robert Hight.


Capps had a remarkable season by winning six of 18 events in the Mello Yello regular season and two of six in the Countdown to the Championship playoff.


Despite winning 25 Mello Yello titles this year, it marks the first time DSR has not won a world championship in the past four years and only the third time in the past seven seasons when it did not have a champion crowned.


Shortly after wrapping up his second Funny Car title, Robert Hight suffered an explosion and wall contact in the semis that ultimately found him off the end of the racetrack in the netting at the back of the gravel. He was unhurt and returned to take on Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round.

Alexis DeJoria competed in her final NHRA race after 12 years of racing, the last six in Funny Car. She got a first-round win when Jim Capbell’s Charger broke, but then lost to eventual winner Tommy Johnson Jr. 

Courtney Force had a special wrap for singer Taylor Swift’s newest release, “reputation”. Courtney defeated Jeff Diehl and Del Worsham before losing to teammate Hight in the semifinal.


Final Funny Car Points: 1. Robert Hight, 2,686; 2. Ron Capps, 2,588; 3. Courtney Force, 2,543; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,519; 5. Matt Hagan, 2,470; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,452; 7. John Force, 2,388; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,296; 9. J.R. Todd, 2,282; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,178.




It was no surprise that a Ken Black car would win the Pro Stock championship, and no surprise that he would be driving a Chevrolet. It turned out to be Bo Butner holding both the World Finals trophy and the 2017 Pro Stock championships trophy.

Butner (near lane) drove his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.594 pass at 210.70 mph to defeat Tanner Gray’s 6.653 run at 208.62 in the final round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals.


Butner earned his first career victory at the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston earlier this year and ends the season with five event wins and six runner-up finishes.


“Just never give up. I have a great crew; it’s amazing,” Butner said. “They don’t give up on me. But the KB team, what does that say about them? Honestly, I rent a car and a motor and they put me in a championship. It’s just unbelievable. Thank the Lord for everything; He shined on me.”


Butner took fate into his own hands when he defeated teammate Greg Anderson in the semifinals with a 6.551 pass at 210.05. Had Butner lost in the finals, Anderson would have won the world championship.

Veteran racer Allen Johnson said farewell to Pro Stock competition with the NHRA after a 22-year career. 


In the first round of the class, but the final round for Johnson, after a slight head start, Erica Enders was able to drive away for the win with a 6.554 at 209.82 mph, while Johnson's car got a bit squirrely and he had to shut it down early, crossing in 6.979 at 153.25 mph.


"We were both crying down there," Enders said. "I felt bad but at the same time it's kind of cool that his last pass was against us. I love him and (wife Pam) so much. He's one of the best people I've ever met and we will certainly continue to vacation with the Johnsons like we have for years. I wish him nothing but complete happiness."

Erica Enders 


Enders’ Camaro made a move toward the centerline in her next match, allowing Jason Line to move on. Line then turned on the red light against Tanner Gray.


Final Pro Stock Points: 1. Bo Butner, 2,731; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,724; 3. Jason Line, 2,644; 4. Tanner Gray, 2,558; 5. Drew Skillman, 2,476; 6. Erica Enders, 2,367; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 2,318; 8. Allen Johnson, 2,284; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,257; 10. Vincent Nobile, 2,052.



Andrew Hines won the Pro Stock Motorcycle portion of the race to continue his streak of 14 consecutive seasons with at least one victory. He defeated teammate and newly crowned 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Eddie Krawiec with a 6.856 pass at 196.02 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson. Krawiec rode to a 6.930 run at 177.58.


“It was a long season for my side of the team, but we found a way to get better throughout the season to get back to the level we expect ourselves to perform at,” Hines said. “There were plenty of long hours from the Vance & Hines team this year, and it’s really special to have a team of guys like I do that make sure we’re heading down the right path as we continue to push forward going into next year.”


Hines rode past Ryan Oehler, Joey Gladstone and LE Tonglet before facing his Harley-Davidson teammate. With the victory, Hines finishes the season second in points. Krawiec defeated Lance Bonham, 2016 world champ Jerry Savoie and Matt Smith before falling in the finals.

Eddie Krawiec will be wearing the No. 1 next year. 


Eddie Krawiec clinched his fourth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship, and first since 2012, by qualifying Saturday. Krawiec powered his Harley Davidson to a 6.781-second pass at 197.68 mph to earn his sixth No. 1 of the season and 29th of his career.

Chip Ellis rode a third Vance & Hines Harley in remembrance of legendary bike racer Jr. Pippin, who died on Nov. 4. Ellis won the first round against Katie Sullivan, but next lost to Tonglet (far lane). 


Final Pro Stock Motorcycle Points: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,783; 2. Andrew Hines, 2,614; 3. LE Tonglet, 2,591; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,492; 5. Jerry Savoie, 2,472; 6. Matt Smith, 2,454; 7. Hector Arana Jr, 2,453; 8. Karen Stoffer, 2,301; 9. Joey Gladstone, 2,280; 10. Angie Smith, 2,258. 




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