POMONA, Calif. -- Crowns
For the second year in a row, Schumacher waited until the final pass of the season to steal the title away, this time from "Hot Rod" Fuller. He defeated Bob Vandergriff with the quickest pass of the race, a 4.486 at 328.30 mph. Robert Hight beat fill-in teammate Phil Burkart in the Funny Car final when Burkart's car lost traction 200 feet out.
In Pro Stock, Coughlin punctuated his title with his 38th career win, this one over first-time finalist Justin Humphreys. Smith beat fellow Buell rider Chip Ellis in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final.
"After the second round it was like deja vu," Schumacher said. "My knees started shaking and I had that feeling like maybe we could do it again. The guys on this team are unbelievable when the pressure is on. They showed it again today."
Temporary teammates Hight and Burkart had little to race for in the final besides bragging rights and an event trophy as the Funny Car title had already been decided one round earlier when Hight couldn't run quick enough to set a national record, depriving him of a chance at the 20 bonus points he would have needed to pass Pedregon.
"We pushed as hard as we could in the semifinals to try and at least get the back-up for a record but we broke a couple of lifters and it was a handful just to keep it off the wall," Hight said. "It would have been close but it didn't happen. If we had won the championship it wouldn't have made this a great year. Winning the race didn't make it a great year. We lost our teammate [Eric Medlen] this year and nothing will make up for that. We all miss him like you can't believe. I'm gonna go home and have a little ice cream, and like Eric always said, that is sure to make you happy."
"This is racing, and we want to win races, but we have to remember we're putting on a show, and I think the NHRA did a great job with this Countdown," Pedregon said. "The biggest difference between this year and 2003 when I won a title with John Force Racing was the amount of media coverage. The stress is through the roof but in the end, I think we have a better product now. I had people doubting my sanity when I left John but I wanted to race with my brother and I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. I know how difficult it is to race a team like that. I know what they have over there. And to be able to beat them is special. Winning our first race on my own was huge. To win this championship, I can't describe it."
"This goes back to last week in Las Vegas when I woke up on Sunday morning and said to myself that if I was gonna win the championship it was time to get after it," Coughlin said. "No matter what car I had under me, I needed to get it done. We made it to the final but lost to Greg and came in here almost two rounds behind him. I had to have that talk with myself again and I don't know if I was buying it this time.
"It was amazing to see how it came out in Round 1 with Greg Anderson and Dave Connolly, two of the best in the business, both losing like that. We knew we needed some help and we got it right away. Then I just dug down deep and got that second round win and clinched it. It's a phenomenal feeling."
"I don't know if words can describe this feeling," Smith said. "I've had some big races before but nothing like this. My goodness, it was all or nothing there.
"This is pretty special, especially with my dad here helping us. We felt like we had such a great bike all year and we had times where we just couldn't punch it through when we probably should have won some races, but we never gave up and just kept fighting."
The championship was put up for grabs after leader Andrew Hines rolled the lights in the quarterfinals and red-lighted. Had Hines won that round, he would have clinched his fourth straight title. Instead, he was relegated to second place.
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