Del Worsham moved into the Top Fuel points lead during Friday's qualifying at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Tony Schumacher, Robert Hight, Mike Edwards and Andrew Hines are the qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the final NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship event of the season at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
As a result of bonus points earned during the first two qualifying sessions, Worsham moved two points ahead of Spencer Massey in the standings. Worsham is qualified second with a run of 3.830 seconds at 316.67 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, while Massey is third overall with a 3.837 at 319.14 in his FRAM dragster.
“It was a great run,” said Worsham, the long-time Funny Car racer who is seeking his first world championship title. “The Al-Anabi car went out and performed as we expected. We're making good runs and getting ready for Sunday. The weather forecast seems like it keeps improving and it looks like it is getting better and better each time I see it. It should be good and cool tomorrow and we should get at least one run in and get the field set for Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Antron Brown is not qualified as the championship pressure intensifies with only two sessions remaining Saturday before Sunday's final eliminations. Local weather forecasts are calling for a chance of showers tomorrow, and a total washout will bring Brown's season and championship hopes to an end.
“I am hoping for a sunny California weather day tomorrow,” said Brown, driver of the Matco Tools dragster. “We don't have any control over the weather so things are what they are. The car has been a little aggressive so they are working on it right now. There's no need to get all jittery or worried. We just need to do the same things that got us here and not do anything different.”
Seven-time champ Schumacher, who is trying to end a season-long winless streak at this event and earn his first pewter Wally trophy of the season, leads Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.827 at 321.19 in his U.S. Army dragster.
"It left good on our run today, but it had a clutch malfunction," Schumacher said. "Oh, well. Things break. With the weather looking questionable earlier in the week, you don't want to try to run a high-3.70 and risk not making the field. [Crew chief] Mike Green did a great job on our 3.82. Conditions were a little warmer than they were yesterday. I don't know what the weather is going to do tomorrow. I never wanted to pass my number of wins with No. 1 qualifiers, but it looks like that might happen if our time holds up unless we can pull off a win."
In Funny Car, Hight stayed at the top of the qualifying order in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, but series leader Matt Hagan increased his points lead over Jack Beckman by posting the quickest run of the day, a 4.087 at 313.44 in his DieHard Dodge Charger. Hagan's run was good enough for third overall in the 16-car lineup.
“Our game plan coming in here was to be aggressive every run and try to gain points,” Hight said. “We don't really have a lot to lose here. We're having some fun. We're relaxed. We've won a championship before and know we can do it. We're just trying to go down the track and earn some points.”
Like Brown in Top Fuel, Funny Car championship contender Cruz Pedregon also is currently not qualified. He sits just outside the field at 17th in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry with a weekend best of 4.445 at 195.31.
No one improved in Pro Stock, so Edwards remained at the top with his 6.520 at 210.93 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.
“After having won two weeks ago in the warmer conditions in Las Vegas and being No. 1 so far in the cooler temperatures at Pomona, we feel very comfortable with our car,” Edwards said. “If the weather prevents us from having qualifying rounds tomorrow, I still feel good about going into eliminations. Hopefully we'll get to run tomorrow, but if not, we'll go into Sunday and see what happens. You're always ready to quit [and get some rest] at the end of the year's long schedule, but the way that our car is running now, we'd like to continue racing. Maybe start the Countdown all over again.”
Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider Hines continued to lead Pro Stock Motorcycle with his 6.820 at 197.54 from Thursday. Series leader Eddie Krawiec, who qualified third, increased his lead by one point over rookie Hector Arana Jr.
“That run yesterday, it's nice to go out there and go 6.82 and be low of the session, but that race there today between me and Eddie, that's what reminds me why this is so fun,” Hines said. “We get to go up there, have fun, and try and kill the Tree because it's qualifying so it doesn't really matter. He was .014 on the Tree. I was .012, and it was nine-thou stripe at the finish line. Going 1-2 for the session, that's what it's all about.”
Saturday qualifying sessions at 11 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Sunday's final eliminations start at 11 a.m.