VP FUELS NHRA WINNERS, 2009 CHAMPIONS IN POMONA
POMONA, CA (November 15, 2009) VP Racing Fuels, the Official Racing Fuel of NHRA Championship Drag Racing, fueled all the Pro Class winners at the year-end Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona as well as the 2009 points Champions. Antron Brown and Mike Neff rode VP Nitro Race power to wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car respectively, while Tony Schumacher and Robert Hight used the same fuel to secure the points championship for those classes. Meanwhile, VP’s C25 racing fuel powered Greg Anderson and Eddie Krawiec to the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle wins, as well as Mike Edwards and Hector Arana to their respective season championships..
The sky-high championship drama that remained after Robert Hight in Funny Car and Mike Edwards in Pro Stock earned their season titles Saturday evening, ratcheted up in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle before Tony Schumacher and Hector Arana, respectively, claimed the titles. Although the Top Fuel title officially was decided when Tony Schumacher, with a two-point lead, and Larry Dixon, both unexpectedly lost in the semifinals, in essence it was won Saturday night when Schumacher stole Dixon's No. 1 qualifying berth and the points that go with it to go from a two-point deficit to a two-point lead entering race day, a margin that ended up being the final score. Arana won the championship in the semifinals when Eddie Krawiec, who needed to win the race and set a national record, was unable to earn a backup run in the semifinals. He did win the race and, ironically, like Dixon, finished second by two points.
The stage had long been set in everyone's mind that Schumacher and Dixon would square off in a winner-take-all final round, but someone forgot to tell Massey and Brown, who worked their way to a surprising final round. The final was short-lived, though, as Massey left .008-second too soon, then smoked the tires on Don Prudhomme's machine. Brown raced to the title, his eighth in the class, with a strong 3.801.
"Of all my years racing, this was a career year," said Brown. "We won a lot of rounds and got a lot of points, but we just have to tackle this Countdown a little different way next year, and we're going to work real hard on that. This was a whole new package we were running this weekend and not the stuff we were running earlier this season, and it kind of bit us in the Countdown. We got our car turned around this weekend, so hats off to Brian [Corradi] and Mark [Oswald, crew chiefs]. We'll have a lot more resources next year [being with Don Schumacher Racing] and be back at this race next year running for the title like [Schumacher and Dixon] were this year."
Neff, a former world champion crew chief with Gary Scelzi, finally got his first win as a driver in a wild final-round battle with teammate Ashley Force Hood. Neff smoked the tires at 60 feet and appeared dead in the water until Force Hood smoked her tires 200 feet out. Neff recovered better, and while Force Hood was sashaying wildly all over the track and eventually tagged the wall, Neff was long gone to a 5.13 to record his first win.
"It feels awesome to get our first win. We've been to a lot of finals and had some bad breaks and just couldn't seem to get it done, so your confidence starts to get rattled and you start wondering if you're ever going to get a win. Today we got a lot of breaks but we ran good at the right time.
Neff, who reached the final earlier this year in Phoenix and in Reading, came from the No. 10 spot with his Drive One Mustang by getting past Jim Head, team owner John Force, and Tim Wilkerson, running as quick as 4.12 in the second-round conquest of his boss.
Force Hood didn't win the championship that was locked up by her teammate, Robert Hight, on Saturday, but her run to the final did lock up second place despite the best efforts of several other drivers to steal it from her. After qualifying her Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas-tuned Castrol GTX Mustang No. 1, she raced past Bob Bode, Del Worsham, and Ron Capps to reach the final, the 13th of her Funny Car career.
After a late season full of Mike Edwards domination – capped by Edwards' coronation as the new champ Saturday evening – Anderson and Kurt Johnson both ended up with a final season outing that gives them hope after a pair of disappointing seasons. In a rematch of last season's final round here, Anderson won again when Johnson turned on the red-light with a -.017 foul. The win is Anderson's milestone 60th win in 88 career finals.
Anderson, unaccustomed to playing second fiddle, can go into the off-season confident that Ken Black's Summit team is back as they outran Edwards all day, including in the semifinals where Anderson beat the new champ , 6.57 to 6.66. Prior to that, Anderson had run 6.580 and 6.575, outperforming Edwards in both of those rounds as well in defeating Dave Northrop and red-lighting Greg Stanfield.
"Mike did a whale of a job this year and he deserves to be the champion," Anderson acknowledged, "but we found a way today to outperform him. The years I won the championship, I always wanted to win this race, too. You think, 'If I don't win this race, it will be a hole in that championship season' because when you're the champion you want to be standing on that last stage. It makes the title complete. I certainly don't want to take anything away from Mike because he had 24 great races, but right now I'm the last guy standing tonight and the happiest guy right now. Tomorrow night [at the awards ceremony], he'll be the happiest guy, but right now I'm the happiest guy.
Krawiec, who won the season title last year without winning a race, finished in second place with his fifth win of the season when Doug Horne turned on the red-light by .001-second. Krawiec ran a dazzling 6.905, low e.t. of the meet and a run he could have used the round before.
Krawiec needed a near miracle to catch Arana in their battle for the season championship, even after Arana went out unexpectedly in round two on a red-light. By that point, Krawiec had already beaten Steve Johnson and Jim Underdahl with a pair of 6.95s but found himself needing next to not only beat teammate Andrew Hines in the semifinals but run at least 6.918 to get a backup for the national record and the 20 bonus points he'd need in addition to also winning the final round to squeak past Arana. Hines went -.010 red against Krawiec, but Krawiec's third-straight 6.95 was nowhere close to the necessary backup he needed, and didn't even earn the Harley rider lane choice against Horne in the final round, the 17th of his career.
“If I had had that final-round e.t. [in the semifinals], I think Hector would have been sweating it out a little bit,” said Krawiec. “My bike was on a rail there in the final, finally. That was the first pass of the weekend that I could say that my bike made a respectable pass down this track, and I’m pretty excited.
“Last year, I was fortunate to come up here and not have the race win and have the championship, but this year I still am a very lucky person to be in here talking about getting the race win and not the championship. It came down to two points. It shows you how important qualifying is. We bobbled a little bit this weekend in qualifying, which ultimately could have cost us. We were trying to keep Hector from getting to that three-round deficit for us, and unfortunately for us, we didn’t, and it shows in the end. But our Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson bike has been running really well second half of the year. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to next year. This year’s behind us already, so looking forward to 2010.”