POMONA, Calif. -
Points leader Jack Beckman from Norco, second place driver Ron Capps from Carlsbad and third place Mike Neff, a native of Hemet who now resides in Indianapolis, are the three drivers in contention for the world championship crown. The title would be a first in the Full Throttle Series for each of the three drivers.
Only four points separate teammates Beckman and Capps. Neff, who tunes and drives his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, is 88 points back and he would need to earn a maximum amount of qualifying points, post a winning performance and see both of the front-runners lose early to have a shot at the title.
The championship drama building between Beckman and Capps is extra-spicy. Upon orders from team owner Don Schumacher, the two drivers traded crews and cars after the fourth race of the season. Capps and new tuner Rahn Tobler had instant chemistry and raced to six consecutive final rounds and to the top of the points order. Beckman fell to sixth in points and his turnaround has taken time with new crew chief Todd Smith. However, Beckman hit his stride in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs and peaked with a victory in St. Louis and a national record-setting run at Reading, Pa. He was runner-up to Capps two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
It is a bit ironic that the two Don Schumacher Racing teams now will face each other in the final race of the season with an opportunity to win the championship. In order to win the title each driver must defeat his old team.
"We're both fighting for that first championship ring," Capps said. "I wake up in the morning thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it. And we're close."
Capps, who drives the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, has been close to winning a world championship title several times before. Three times to be exact. In 1998 and 2000 he came up short to John Force. In 2005 he lost a nail-biter by eight points to Gary Scelzi, also a DSR teammate. With 38 career victories, Capps is second on the list of winningest NHRA drivers without a world championship title.
"I can't wait for Pomona," Capps said. "I feel so confident that we're going to be able to at least show up and give the fans a run for this against Jack's car and make it fun. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Tobler has brought a lot of confidence to me, and I've been through this before. This one feels different for some reason, and that's a good thing."
Beckman has also been in this position before. Just one year ago he faced eventual champ Matt Hagan in a winner-take-all second round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Hagan won the round and the championship. Beckman finished second. The former Air Force Sergeant, cancer survivor, motivational speaker and drag racing school instructor wants desperately to add another title to his lifetime snapshot: NHRA Full Throttle Series world champion.
And speaking of qualifying, Capps feels like each of those four runs will be massively important for each team and will ultimately set the stage for Sunday's eliminations. NHRA awards the quickest three teams in each round of qualifying, 3, 2 and 1 bonus points, respectively. Additional points are available for qualifying position, with eight points going to the No. 1 qualifier.
"It's basically come down to Thursday, Friday and Saturday trying to gain more than Jack and four more, at least, than Jack in small qualifying points so that we can go into Sunday either tied or ahead," Capps said. "You have to do that because if we happen to go out the same round, that's going to mean the world championship. That's going to be crucial. Qualifying is going to be as big as the race here probably."
The only prediction that either driver will make is that it's going to be an exciting affair, one that no NHRA fan can afford to miss.
"I don't think many people are going to be using their seats at Pomona," Beckman said. "I think a lot of people are going to be standing up watching every run that these cars make."
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown is seeking to become the first African-American to win an NHRA Full Throttle Series title as well as a major U.S. auto racing series championship. He leads Tony Schumacher by 65 points and third place Spencer Massey by 70. Brown is a two-time winner of the Auto Club NHRA Finals, while Schumacher has won this race four times and has claimed two come-from-behind championship trophies at the event.
In Pro Stock, Team Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Allen Johnson is very close to wrapping up his first world championship title and in the two-wheel category, Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider Eddie Krawiec needs only a few more points to secure his third Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship title.
In observance of Veteran's Day, on Sunday, Nov. 11, active and retired military can save $10 per Sunday ticket by showing military ID. A special Veteran's Day Track Walk with Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown will be held on Sunday morning. Free for all Sunday ticket holders, the popular Track Walk gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary drag strip alongside some of the NHRA's biggest stars.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits and the Midway, fans will want to check out NHRA's "Rumble in the Junction" Car Corral featuring dozens of nostalgic dragsters, race cars and hot rods on display. The Rumble in the Junction also will showcase several NHRA-exclusive Cacklefests throughout the weekend.
As part of the Nitro Generation theme of the season, NHRA is offering free general admission for kids 12 and under with a paying adult. Tickets are available online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472).
• SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9 and continue at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472).
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise 75 minutes of qualifying coverage at 10:45 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Nov. 10. On Sunday, Nov. 11, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET), and will be preceded by one hour of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET). ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will re-air eliminations at 3:30 a.m. (ET) on Wednesday, Nov. 14.