Another strong qualifying performance on Friday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona has put Shawn Langdon into position to clinch his first Top Fuel world championship as early as Saturday during the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
John Force (Funny Car, LEFT), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories in the final of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Langdon, who now holds a 104-point advantage over defending champ Antron Brown, will claim the series crown if he holds a lead of 100 points or more at the end of qualifying Saturday at the final of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
?The whole Al-Anabi team has done such a phenomenal job,? Langdon said. ?You see the hard work and the determination that goes into everything they do throughout the season, but there’s something different when it gets to Countdown time. You see everybody dig that much deeper, work that much harder, and stay that much later to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect from top to bottom.?
Langdon gained one more point on Brown when he powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a 3.750 second run at 327.03 mph Friday to maintain his spot at the top of the Top Fuel qualifying order. Brown was second with a 3.775 at 322.42 in his Matco Tools dragster.
?On that 3.750 at 327 that we ran, we got back and everything looked great,? Langdon said. ?The bearings look good; the rings look good. We’re excited that it’s the last race of the season, but it’s almost a little bit sad that we don’t get to go to any more races this season because we have such a good running car.?
Morgan Lucas was third in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster with a 3.782 at 320.20 and rookie driver Brittany Force was fourth with a career-best 3.787 at 323.19 in her Castrol Edge dragster.
In Funny Car, John Force, who has already captured his 16th world championship title on Oct. 27 at Las Vegas, was quickest with a run of 4.015 at 318.62 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
?We’re having fun right now,? Force said. ?The championship, we’re going to celebrate, but that’s behind us now. We’re focusing on winning, and we’re trying to gobble up points and keep them away from the competition and trying to finish one, two and three. Don’t know if we’ll get there, but that’s our drive and to win the race.?
Del Worsham qualified second in his DHL Toyota with a 4.024 at 318.69, while Robert Hight is third overall in his Auto Club Ford with an effort of 4.028 at 317.49.
Edwards continued to lead Pro Stock, improving on his Thursday effort with a time of 6.545 at 211.66 in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro.
Edwards, who dominated the regular season but struggled at three of the six playoff events, has trimmed his championship deficit to 77 points so far during qualifying, but knows winning a second championship will require him to be running late on Sunday and series leader Jeg Coughlin to make an early exit in eliminations.
?I’ve dug myself in a deep hole,? Edwards said. ?I started off on top, maintained that a bit for the first race [of the Countdown], and then dropped off after that. It’s frustrating to me the way I’ve driven lately. I know I’m better than this. I know that I’m not the best, but I’m better than the way I’ve been doing lately. I’ve had a great team, a great car, and to do what I’ve done in the last few races of the Countdown has been disappointing.?
Coughlin, who is seeking his fifth Pro Stock world championship, held onto second place in the qualifying order with a 6.552 at 210.77 in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger. Jason Line, currently second in points, was third in his Summit Racing Camaro with a 6.554 at 210.93.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. made a big move to the top of the order by racing to a performance of 6.837 at 195.51 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
?Everything is coming together,? said Arana. ?We have several good motors together, and we’re relaxed and having a lot of fun. It’s our goal to [qualify No. 1], and hopefully we can accomplish it this weekend. Tomorrow, the weather is supposed to cool down a little more, so I look forward to getting back out there and seeing what we can do.?
Scotty Pollacheck qualified second on his Buell with a 6.874 at 194.18 and Adam Arana, who led on Thursday, dropped to third on his ProtectTheHarvest.com Buell with a 6.888 at 195.28. Matt Smith, who sits at 17th after two sessions, already claimed the championship in the two-wheel category at the season’s penultimate race in Las Vegas.
Qualifying continues Saturday at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. and eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.