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Through Las Vegas

TOP FUEL
Pos Driver Points
1 Steve Torrence 2718
2 Clay Millican 2487
3 Tony Schumacher 2454
4 Leah Pritchett 2394
5 Brittany Force 2302
6 Antron Brown 2291
7 Mike Salinas 2259
8 Doug Kalitta 2259
9 Terry McMillen 2253
10 Scott Palmer 2182

FUNNY CAR
1 JR Todd 2553
2 Robert Hight 2479
3 Ron Capps 2388
4 Tim Wilkerson 2367
5 Tommy Johnson 2362
6 Courtney Force 2324
7 Matt Hagan 2321
8 Jack Beckman 2283
9 John Force 2277
10 Shawn Langdon 2204

PRO STOCK
1 Tanner Gray 2583
2 Jeg Coughlin 2443
3 Erica Enders 2434
4 Drew Skillman 2413
5 Vincent Nobile 2404
6 Jason Line 2350
7 Greg Anderson 2334
8 Bo Butner 2300
9 Deric Kramer 2220
10 Chris McGaha 2135

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
1 Matt Smith 2479
2 Eddie Krawiec 2475
3 LE Tonglet 2418
4 Hector Arana Jr. 2415
5 Jerry Savoie 2378
6 Andrew Hines 2366
7 Angelle Sampey 2268
8 Angie Smith 2255
9 Steve Johnson 2242
10 Scotty Pollacheck 2209
Dixon, Force, Tonglet Crowned Champs at NHRA Finale

by Pete McCole
Monday, November 15, 2010

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Larry Dixon
Larry Dixon, John Force, and LE Tonglet were crowned champions on Sunday in a drama-filled finale for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series at the 46th Annual Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

In the final race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship, the titles in three of the series’ top divisions came down to the finals on Sunday, with a wily veteran and a Cinderella-story rookie looking to make history with their last runs of the season.

Antron Brown, Force, Shane Gray and Eddie Krawiec scored victories in their respective classes, but all eyes were on the championship battles, with three make-or-break runs to start things off in the opening rounds.

The Funny Car title came down to the wire as both points leader Matt Hagan and second-place John Force kept pace with each other through qualifying.

The always grimy looking John Force
Force entered Sunday’s contest 37 points behind Matt Hagan, and needed a first-round elimination for Hagan to even have a shot.

Facing Bob Tasca III in the opening round, Hagan matched Tasca at the light and pulled ahead slightly at the 660-foot mark, only to see Tasca surge ahead to take the victory give Force a shot at the title.

Force then went on to easily defeat Gary Densham to set up a championship-clinching matchup against Bob Bode, with Force leading Bode all the way to clinch an incredible 15th-career NHRA Funny Car title.

“You got to give it to a great bunch of guys led by Mike Neff teamed up with Bernie (Fedderly) and (Austin) Coil - so much experience there, so many championships. It just brought that  new energy to this team,” said Force.

“We went all year with the lead and then we stumbled at Reading when the clutch pedal fell off and couldn’t get it in reverse. We sat with the guys week after week in meetings, two or three times a week, saying ‘We can’t make mistakes.’ We opened the door for Hagan, and he took advantage of it. He came over and congratulated me. Hagan is a class act. He’s got a lot of championships ahead of him; it’s going to happen. But we got it here.

“The shot around the world was by Bobby Tasca in that Ford Mustang when he took him out first round because we couldn’t count on this kid Hagan to stumble. We knew if we got him in the final it was too late. There was no national record, so somebody had to get him, and Bobby got him, and that opened the door for us.”

Force’s championship comes just three years after losing teammate Eric Medlen in a crash during testing in Gainesville and Force’s own near-fatal wreck at Dallas that many thought would end the 61-year-old’s racing career.

“After the loss of Eric Medlen, and then my crash, the Ford engineers, everybody worked to build a racecar that would be fast, light and would also protect the driver and win a championship. And then there was me, a mess, not even winning a race last year. And the sponsors, Castrol, stood by me and said ‘you tell us you can do it, we’re with you’. They could have walked away when I couldn’t perform, and 25 years they’ve stood by me. In this economy, they could have quit instead in investing in a guy with broken arms and legs.

“But when I cried and said I didn’t have it anymore, my wife and kids said ‘that isn’t the John Force we know, and I just sucked it up, and turned me into a tiger.”

Force’s day was not done, as he went onto eliminate Melanie Troxel to advance to his 213th final round, facing Jeff Arend for the first time in the finals.

At the light, Arena had a brief lead before Force stormed back to post a 4.085 and cap off his championship run with his 132nd-career victory.

L.E. Tonglet
LE Tonglet’s amazing rookie season culminated Sunday with his first series title, beating out Steve Johnson in the second round to top points leader Andrew Hines, who red-lighted in the opening round.

It was a fairy-tale ending to a championship run that almost didn’t happen.

Coming into the opening race in the Countdown at the US Nationals in Indianapolis with a borrowed engine, Tonglet’s family-owned team squeaked out an improbably victory, which led to a full-time ride with Kenny Koretsky’s NitroFish stable.

With solid financial backing finally in place, Tonglet and his team went on a tear, winning four out of the six races – including three against Hines – to move to within 34 points.

After qualifying side-by-side on the ladder, Tonglet would have face Hines in the second round in a winner-take-all matchup, but Hines red-light against Johnson put Tonglet back in the running, and with his victory over Johnson clinched the title by just four points over Hines.

Tonglet would later red-light to eventual winner Eddie Krawiec in the semi-final, but it would be the only letdown in an otherwise stellar season.

“It feels awesome,” said Tonglet. “The way the year started, we didn’t think this was possible, we just wanted to qualify and each race my dad got the bug a little bit more, it’s just been unbelievable since Indy.

“I can’t think Kenny Koretsky and NitroFish for stepping up, they got us a spare motor - which at Vegas if we wouldn’t have had that we would have been done. Thankfully that spare motor ran really good and we left it in for this race and it was just flawless until I red-lit, but thankfully we got the championship.”

Krawiec would face defending series champion Hector Arana in the final, with Arana red-lighting to give Krawiec just his second win of the season and seventh of his career.

The Top Fuel final proved to more anti-climatic, as Larry Dixon ended Tony Schumacher’s six-year stranglehold on the title.

Schumacher face a tough road to repeat as champion, needing to have Dixon put down in the opening round, then win the event a top his own National Record - a daunting task, but one he had done before.

But any chance Schumacher might have had to stage a miracle comeback disappeared after Dixon defeated Mike Strasburg in the opening round to clinch the his third NHRA title and his first since 2003.

“I’ve never had so much excitement for a first-round win in my life,” said Dixon. “What an awesome job by the team all year. It was one round today, but it was all the great rounds that we’ve had in previous races, the second rounds, the semifinals, a lot of wins, and they’ve all added up to this point. Credit to Alan Johnson, Sheik Khalid, Jason McCulloch, and the entire Al-Anabi crew. Everybody pitches in to make this happen, and this is it, this is what we do it for.”

Dixon would later lose to Shawn Langdon in the semi-finals as Langdon advanced to face Antron Brown in the final. Brown then went on to defeat Langdon 3.840 to 4.185 to score his first victory of the season and 25th of his career.

With the Pro Stock title already decided in the second round of qualifying, Sunday’s finals were all about gaining momentum for next season.

Newly crowned champion Greg Anderson fell out early in the opening round to Jeg Coughlin, who then moved on to defeat Rodger Brogdon and top-qualifier Allen Johnson to face rookie Shane Gray in Gray’s third final-round appearance.

In the final, Gray had a 0.010 light to lead off the line and stayed there to post a 6.566 over Coughlin’s 6.568 to score his first career NHRA Pro Stock victory.

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