POMONA — Ron Capps and Alan Johnson are still in the mix for National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) world championships.
The titles are on the line Sunday when the NHRA holds final eliminations at the 53rd annual NHRA Auto Club Finals.
The jockeying for position continued Saturday as NHRA held the final two rounds of qualifying at Pomona’s Auto Club Speedway.
Capps, the San Luis Obispo native and defending Funny Car World champion, remains in second place in his class, right behind series leader Robert Hight.
In a day filled with drama, Capps had the chance to leapfrog Hight for the title.
That was because Hight had trouble qualifying for the 16 car final elimination field.
Capps easily qualified for Sunday’s race — sitting in seventh place after Friday’s first two qualifying rounds. He moved up to fifth after Saturday’s third qualifying session then was bumped down to sixth after the final round.
It was Hight’s Sunday start that was in jeopardy.
The best he could do through the first three qualifying sessions was 17th place.
In his final run, he broke into the field with a 4.132-second run at 238.30 miles an hour, far behind overall No. 1 qualifier Fast Jack Beckman’s 3.835/339.98 pace but good enough for the No. 15 seed to guarantee at least one round of racing Sunday. It was also good enough to keep him nine points ahead of Capps (down from 15) in the title chase.
“I like our chances of winning Sunday but it’s not guaranteed smooth sailing,” said Beckman right after qualifying. “I have a high comfort level at this track but once the motors start up, all bets are off.”
Each round win in Sunday’s final eliminations will be good for 30 points which means Capps has to go at least one round deeper into eliminations to win back-to-back world titles.
Capps and Hight could meet in the semifinals, which would make that round a winner-take-all race for the title.
Courtney Force still has an outside shot at knocking both of them off. She needs both Capps and Hight to lose in the first round Sunday and then go on and win the race. All three are on the same side of the elimination bracket.
Meanwhile, Santa Maria’s Alan Johnson is in the thick of the Top Fuel battle.
Johnson is the consultant to Brittany Force’s team and Force is right behind Steve Torrence for that world championship.
Forced entered the weekend 20 points behind Torrence.
She had two great days of qualifying while Torrence had mechanical issues and after qualifying, Force narrowed the gap to nine points.
Force set the Auto Club Speedway record for lowest time, at 3.667 seconds (330.31 mph) during Friday’s second session. She also had the fastest time in the fourth round of qualifying with her Friday time holding up to earn the overall No. 1 qualifying position.
“We struggled in the first qualifying session but that run in the second was an awesome pass,” said Brittany Force. “Alan Johnson helped me bring home my first win. We need another win here but I am so proud to be teamed up with him.”
Torrence had the fifth best time Friday, a time that held through the final two rounds.
He’ll need to go at least one round farther than Brittany Force Sunday. The two could meet in the semifinals.
The Pro Stock battle is a three-man race between three KB Racing teammates — Greg Anderson, Bo Butner and defending series champion Jason Line.
Anderson is the No. 1 qualifier with Line sitting at No. 2 and Butner starting Sunday in the No. 5 spot.
Anderson is 53 points up on Butner and has an 80 point cushion on Line.
Butner and Anderson could meet in the semifinals where a Butner win followed by a win in the finals round could flip the title his way. But if Line wins on the other side of the bracket, then beats Butner in the finals, then he’d keep the champion’s No. 1 decal on his car.
“The good news is I’ve got a great car,” said Anderson. “The bad news is I’ve got to race these guys. But we’re all even. It comes down to a thousandth of a second. I’m just hoping my experience and old age comes through.”
There was one world title wrapped up Saturday.
Eddie Krawiec sealed his fourth Pro Stock motorcycle world championship when he won the race’s top seed.
With the points Krawiec earned in qualifying, he ended the day with a 162 point lead on LE Tonglet. There are only 150 points left in the season that will go to the winners of Sunday's final rounds.
“It feels awesome to come out to Pomona for the last race of the year and get the job done,” said Krawiec. “I’ve been lucky when I needed to be lucky and good when I needed to be good. This is the most rewarding of the championship I’ve earned but my work isn’t finished yet.”