The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Tony Schumacher and Matt Smith needed wins in the final round of Sunday's 43rd annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals to clinch Countdown to the Championship titles in the POWERade Drag Racing Series. New Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon sweated it out until the semifinals before securing his second crown, while Jeg Coughlin wrapped up his third Pro Stock title in the quarterfinals.

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.

Schumacher becomes the first Top Fuel racer to win four championships in a row with his second Cinderella finish in as many years. Entering this weekend in fourth place and needing help on many fronts, Schumacher danced his way through to the final in his U.S. Army dragster and blistered Vandergriff's UPS dragster 4.486 to 4.681 to win his fifth POWERade championship by just 19 points.

"After the second round it was like déjà 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.

Hight still shined in the final with the best pass of the weekend, a 4.731 at 326.71 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.

"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."

Pedregon was relieved and emotional after finally securing the championship in his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala.

"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."

Two rounds after clinching his third NHRA title, Coughlin won his 38th national event by barely catching and passing Humphreys. The former NHRA Sport Compact champion was ahead of Coughlin at every timer except the finish line, but Coughlin's Cobalt had just enough steam to win with a 6.638 at 207.98 mph to Humphrey's 6.662 at 207.27 mph in his Knoll Gas & Energy Pontiac GTO.

"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."

The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship came down to the final round and Smith was superb under the intense pressure, rocketing off the starting line on his Torco Race Fuels Buell and never looking back, defeating Ellis's S&S Buell with a 6.944 at 191.191.08 mph to Ellis' 6.957 at 192.17 mph.

"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.

* * *

POMONA, Calif. -- Final finish order (1-16) for professional categories at the 43rd annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race is the final of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

TOP FUEL: 1. Tony Schumacher; 2. Bob Vandergriff; 3. J.R. Todd; 4. Brandon Bernstein; 5. Larry Dixon; 6. Morgan Lucas; 7. Doug Herbert; 8. David Grubnic; 9. Hillary Will; 10. Melanie Troxel; 11. Doug Foley; 12. David Baca; 13. Rod Fuller; 14. Cory McClenathan; 15. Alan Bradshaw; 16. Doug Kalitta.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang; 2. Phil Burkart, Mustang; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Chevy Impala; 4. Mike Ashley, Dodge Charger; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger; 6. Ashley Force, Mustang; 7. Jerry Toliver, Toyota Solara; 8. Jeff Arend, Impala; 9. Ron Capps, Charger; 10. Tony Pedregon, Impala; 11. Kenny Bernstein, Charger; 12. Tony Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo; 13. Mike Neff, Mustang; 14. Gary Scelzi, Charger; 15. Del Worsham, Impala; 16. Gary Densham, Impala.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Cobalt; 2. Justin Humphreys, Pontiac GTO; 3. Tom Hammonds, Cobalt; 4.Mike Edwards, GTO; 5. Jason Line, GTO; 6. Richie Stevens, Dodge Stratus; 7. Allen Johnson, Stratus; 8. Greg Stanfield, GTO; 9. Greg Anderson, GTO; 10. Warren Johnson, GTO; 11. Dave Connolly, Cobalt; 12. V. Gaines, Stratus; 13. Max Naylor, Stratus; 14. Larry Morgan, Stratus; 15. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt; 16. Ron Krisher, Cobalt.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Matt Smith; 2. Chip Ellis; 3. Antron Brown, Suzuki; 4. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki; 5. Peggy Llewellyn; 6. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson; 7. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki; 8. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson; 9. Matt Guidera; 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki; 11. Geno Scali, Suzuki; 12. Craig Treble, Suzuki; 13. Hector Arana; 14. Angie McBride, Suzuki; 15. Shawn Gann, Suzuki; 16. Junior Pippin.

POMONA, Calif. -- Sunday's final results from the 43rd annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race is the final of 23 in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel -- Tony Schumacher, 4.486 seconds, 328.30 mph def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.681 seconds, 317.19 mph.

Funny Car -- Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.731, 326.71 def. Phil Burkart, Mustang, 8.314, 104.31.

Pro Stock -- Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Cobalt, 6.638, 207.98 def. Justin Humphreys, Pontiac GTO, 6.662, 207.27.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Matt Smith, Buell, 6.944, 191.08 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.957, 192.17.

Top Alcohol Dragster -- Bill Reichert, 5.191, 275.22 def. Duane Shields, 13.445, 87.32.

Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Jay Payne, Ford Mustang, 5.607, 257.24 def. Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 7.034, 129.85.

Competition Eliminator -- Tom Mettler, Dodge Dakota, 7.456, 180.12 def. Dean Carter, Dragster, 6.954, 177.35.

Super Stock -- Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 9.361, 137.51 def. Michael Iacono, Camaro, 9.937, 125.10.

Stock Eliminator -- Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu, 13.180, 79.89 def. Toby Lang, Chevelle, 11.681, 111.97.

Super Comp -- Shawn Langdon, Dragster, 8.924, 167.24 def. Gary Stinnett, Dragster, 8.946, 174.21.

Super Gas -- Steve Parsons, Chevy Camaro, 9.906, 157.50 def. Randy Balough, Chevy Corvette, 9.916, 155.17.

POMONA, Calif. -- Final round-by-round results from the 43rd annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the final of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:


ROUND ONE -- Morgan Lucas, 4.562, 322.04 def. Doug Foley, 4.572, 325.92; Larry Dixon, 4.522, 323.81 def. Hillary Will, 4.524, 330.07; Brandon Bernstein, 4.557, 327.11 def. Cory McClenathan, 12.109, 75.31; J.R. Todd, 4.496, 334.24 def. Doug Kalitta, foul; Tony Schumacher, 4.508, 325.69 def. Alan Bradshaw, 12.480, 75.09; Doug Herbert, 4.624, 296.05 def. David Baca, 4.574, 327.19; David Grubnic, 4.542, 326.00 def. Melanie Troxel, 4.549, 330.15; Bob Vandergriff, 4.540, 331.28 def. Rod Fuller, 10.998, 78.01; QUARTERFINALS -- Vandergriff, 4.570, 310.63 def. Herbert, 4.681, 294.11; Bernstein, 4.549, 322.19 def. Grubnic, 5.020, 305.77; Schumacher, 4.501, 330.96 def. Lucas, 4.552, 327.90; Todd, 4.508, 330.88 def. Dixon, 4.549, 318.84; SEMIFINALS -- Vandergriff, 4.585, 331.94 def. Todd, foul; Schumacher, 4.520, 325.53 def. Bernstein, 4.637, 319.14; FINAL -- Schumacher, 4.486, 328.30 def. Vandergriff, 4.681, 317.19.


ROUND ONE -- Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.797, 324.90 def. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 7.076, 123.67; Tim Wilkerson, Impala, 4.762, 321.50 def. Tony Bartone, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.931, 318.47; Ashley Force, Ford Mustang, 4.843, 296.31 def. Del Worsham, Impala, 7.037, 132.24; Jeff Arend, Impala, 4.849, 318.02 def. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.853, 319.98; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.902, 307.09 def. Gary Scelzi, Charger, 5.632, 176.90; Jerry Toliver, Toyota Solara, 4.871, 322.34 def. Kenny Bernstein, Charger, 4.915, 316.75; Mike Ashley, Charger, 4.802, 328.62 def. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.938, 284.56; Phil Burkart, Mustang, 4.861, 317.57 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.822, 323.35; QUARTERFINALS -- Ashley, 4.795, 329.91 def. Beckman, 4.799, 320.81; Wilkerson, 4.792, 322.42 def. Force, 4.812, 322.50; Burkart, 4.891, 301.81 def. Arend, 5.596, 223.91; Hight, 4.796, 319.29 def. Toliver, 4.839, 323.58; SEMIFINALS -- Hight, 4.877, 255.05 def. Ashley, 4.951, 324.51; Burkart, 4.796, 324.20 def. Wilkerson, 4.859, 312.06; FINAL -- Hight, 4.731, 326.71 def. Burkart, 8.314, 104.31.


ROUND ONE -- Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.669, 208.01 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Stratus, 6.681, 206.70; Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.671, 206.92 def. Max Naylor, Stratus, foul; Tom Hammonds, Chevy Cobalt, 6.693, 206.76 def. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.739, 206.70; Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.671, 206.80 def. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.844, 205.38; Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.699, 206.39 def. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.663, 207.85; Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.703, 206.10 def. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, foul; Justin Humphreys, GTO, 6.669, 207.18 def. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.658, 208.42; Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.650, 207.34 def. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.692, 206.80; QUARTERFINALS -- Hammonds, 6.693, 206.64 def. Stanfield, 6.742, 206.57; Humphreys, 6.647, 207.50 def. A. Johnson, 6.676, 207.02; Edwards, 6.712, 206.57 def. Line, foul; Coughlin, 6.646, 207.88 def. Stevens, 6.672, 206.80; SEMIFINALS -- Humphreys, 6.674, 206.70 def. Hammonds, 6.699, 206.73; Coughlin, 6.654, 207.88 def. Edwards, foul; FINAL -- Coughlin, 6.638, 207.98 def. Humphreys, 6.662, 207.27.


ROUND ONE -- Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.116, 185.77 def. Craig Treble, Suzuki, foul; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.996, 189.50 def. Junior Pippin, Buell, 7.263, 180.94; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.990, 188.62 def. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.035, 188.20; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.019, 189.47 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.052, 189.26; Peggy Llewellyn, Buell, 7.075, 187.57 def. Hector Arana, Buell, foul; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.984, 191.46 def. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.182, 175.46; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.993, 190.24 def. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.068, 189.36; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.994, 188.78 def. Angie McBride, Suzuki, 7.152, 165.68; QUARTERFINALS -- Smith, 6.969, 188.73 def. Llewellyn, 7.005, 189.28; Sampey, 6.979, 190.48 def. Stoffer, 7.078, 187.78; Ellis, 6.979, 190.30 def. Krawiec, 7.053, 187.08; Brown, 7.078, 184.95 def. Hines, foul; SEMIFINALS -- Ellis, 6.987, 191.02 def. Sampey, broke; Smith, 6.956, 190.30 def. Brown, foul; FINAL -- Smith, 6.944, 191.08 def. Ellis, 6.957, 192.17.

POMONA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 43rd annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the final of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel

1. Tony Schumacher, 3,186; 2. Rod Fuller, 3,167; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 3,149; 4. Larry Dixon, 3,135; 5. Bob Vandergriff, 2,358; 6. Doug Herbert, 2,292; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,273; 8. Whit Bazemore, 2,182; 9. Melanie Troxel, 1,173; 10. Doug Kalitta, 1,045.

Funny Car

1. Tony Pedregon, 3,178; 2. Robert Hight, 3,159; 3. Gary Scelzi, 3,092; 4. Ron Capps, 3,067; 5. Jack Beckman, 2,358; 6. Mike Ashley, 2,337; 7. John Force, 2,191; 8. Jim Head, 2,163; 9. Del Worsham, 1,050; 10. Ashley Force, 960.

Pro Stock

1. Jeg Coughlin, 3,217; 2. Greg Anderson, 3,173; 3. Dave Connolly, 3,126; 4. Allen Johnson, 3,086; 5. Jason Line, 2,292; 6. Kurt Johnson, 2,278; 7. Larry Morgan, 2,233; 8. Warren Johnson, 2,180; 9. Richie Stevens, 1,056; 10. V. Gaines, 1,025.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1. Matt Smith, 3,211; 2. Andrew Hines, 3,205; 3. Chip Ellis, 3,204; 4. Peggy Llewellyn, 3,108; 5. Angelle Sampey, 2,309; 6. Craig Treble, 2,283; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 2,244; 8. Karen Stoffer, 2,242; 9. Steve Johnson, 746; 10. Antron Brown, 708.