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NHRA Point Standings
Through Las Vegas

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

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

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

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
Brown, Hight, Anderson lead Winternationals qualifying

Rain finally stops in Pomona
Sunday, February 8, 2009


POMONA, Saturday -- After two days of anxiously sitting idle in the pits while rain was the top eliminator, the NHRA Full Throttle Pros took to the fabled Auto Club Raceway at Pomona racetrack Saturday for their opening — and closing -- qualifying efforts at the 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals, the season opener for the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

The Pro teams got in only one very quick qualifying pass before rain returned late Saturday afternoon, setting the fields on the one effort. Antron Brown leads Top Fuel, and Robert Hight (4.037) and Greg Anderson (6.588) front the fields in Funny Car and Pro Stock.

Antron Brown

History repeated itself in Top Fuel when Brown powered his Brian Corradi- and Mark Oswald-tuned Mike Ashley Racing Matco dragster to the top of the field for the second straight season, but the 3.708 that came up on the scoreboards and an earlier 3.748 for Joe Hartley were later invalidated in part. NHRA officials released a statement that read "Due to a malfunction in the wiring system, it has been determined that the times recorded by Antron Brown and Joe Hartley were not correct. Those times have been determined to be invalid and will not be officially recorded. NHRA is confident that the two cars in question were among the 16 quickest cars, but because it's impossible to assign times, the ladder will remain intact. Also, NHRA will not be awarding qualifying points for this race for Top Fuel drivers."

"It was a phenomenal run," said Brown. "Our back-half numbers were unreal. It's always good when a 3.70 pops up on the board because it's good for the fans, and they really ate it up. This feels good for our team after what we went through in the off-season [the team was sold twice, and new crew chiefs Corradi and Oswald were brought in] and me not qualifying at the [2008 season finale].

"It feels great to start the season the way we have. The car went A to B on our first pass down the racetrack [in preseason testing] and got progressively better as we went along, so we had high hopes coming into here. Personally, I just wanted to go A to B on this run and get in the show anywhere after not qualifying here [in the fall]. I've been getting geared up for this all winter because I wanted to make a real run at this championship."

Until Brown's pass, Hartley was the talk of the Pomona grandstands as the independent runner and his father and tuner, Allen, are running the full schedule for the first time in their eight-year Top Fuel career. Cory McClenathan's Fram dragster, with new tuners Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler, sits No. 3 with a 3.851, and Brandon Bernstein rounds out the top four with a 3.866 in the Rob Flynn-tuned Budweiser dragster.

Newly licensed Steve Faria, a former Top Alcohol Dragster racer, holds down the final spot in the field and will face Brown in Sunday's opening round. Faria was joined in the field by fellow new licensees Del Cox Jr. and Shawn Langdon and fellow rookie Spencer Massey.

The biggest victim of the shortened qualifying is last year's championship runner-up, Larry Dixon, whose 6.32 was the slowest of the 18 drivers who attempted to qualify. Dixon, in Alan Johnson's new Al-Anabi dragster, experienced tire shake just off the line, which broke the ignition, and he was not able to get back into the throttle to save the run. "We came to Pomona with the same high expectations as everyone else, but sometimes parts break; there's nothing we could have done differently," said Dixon. "It's unfortunate, but NHRA awards the same number of points at Phoenix, and we'll be ready to go."

Robert Hight

Hight, who has two Funny Car wins and a runner-up in his last three Winternationals appearances, continued his Pomona love affair as he shoed his Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang to a track-record 4.037 to lead the Funny Car field. Teammates Ashley Force Hood and John Force were third and fourth, with Del Worsham sandwiched between them and Hight. Hight's run was quicker than the 4.07 registered by teammate Mike Neff at last year's Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona. No speed was recorded on the pass due to a speed-trap malfunction.

“I’ll tell you, it’s so much pressure on the whole team and the driver when you know you’re going to have rain-shortened sessions and maybe only get one shot,” said Hight. “My crew chief, Jimmy Prock, shoots for the moon every time, and that worries me sometimes, and especially with this run here. [After the Phoenix test], Jimmy Prock went back to Indy and got on our clutch dyno and just worked night and day and came here with a new setup, something that we’ve never run before. That’s really tough to do because there’s a learning curve with any kind of changes that you make with these cars, and to go out there and go to the top spot is unbelievable. It doesn’t give you a lot of confidence going into tomorrow, though, because, like [tuner] Austin Coil says, it takes 20 to 25 runs before you have a setup that you know works.

“Now that it’s 1,000 feet, when I shut the thing off at 1,000 foot and hit the parachutes, I glanced up and looked at the scoreboard. I saw 4.037, and I was so happy, but I didn’t know what Del [Worsham] ran. I knew he ran 4.03 with something, but I didn’t know if I was No. 1 or not. It’s just a great way to start, and tomorrow’s just going to be exciting.”

Worsham, who had been solidly in the low 4.0s in preseason testing in his new ride in Alan Johnson's Al-Anabi Racing Toyota, was just a tick behind Hight with a 4.038. Force Hood and her father are also in the 4.0s at 4.061 and 4.092, respectively.

Another Ford driver, Bob Tasca III, holds down the No. 5 spot with a 4.14 in the Quick Lane Shelby, just ahead of 2007 season champ Tony Pedregon's 4.164. Gary Densham (4.183) and Jack Beckman (4.197) round out the top eight.

Among those not in the field are last year's pleasant surprise, Tim Wilkerson, whose 5.14 was 17th quickest. Like Dixon in Top Fuel, his efforts were compromised by the abbreviated qualifying.

Greg Anderson

Former Pro Stock world champ Anderson, winner of the last three Winternationals, began his quest to regain his national title at a fast pace, breaking both ends of his own 6.615, 209.39 track records with a 6.58, 209.59 blast from his Summit Pontiac to end the first qualifying session atop the pack. Teammate Jason Line was a distant second with a 6.61.

"It's not been easy on us [waiting out the rain] because after a winter of working so hard, we want to get on this racetrack and see what you've got and see how you stack up, but I've had a good feeling all weekend," said Anderson. "We thought we'd have a good product when we got here, but you never know until you get on that racetrack what everyone else has got.

"It looks like we've made some gains from last year, and we've got a great hot rod, but I'm not thinking that everyone else is as far back as they showed today. I just think I did a little better job on a green racetrack, and it certainly helped to be the last pair out."

Allen Johnson, who last weekend won the Pro Stock Showdown in Las Vegas, continued to look good with a 6.625 from his Mopar Stratus, the fastest of the non-GM cars. Mike Edwards (6.628) rounds out the top four with his GXP.

Warren Johnson, who just a few weeks ago was planning on watching the season opener from home, showed newly signed sponsor K&N that it made a wise choice by racing his Pontiac to the No. 5 spot with a 6.629, 208.62 just ahead of reigning national champ Jeg Coughlin, whose identical e.t. had a marginally slower speed of 208.23. W.J.'s son, Kurt, is seventh, and rookie pilot Davd Beckley, in the Mountain View Dodge, rounds out the top eight at 6.650.

Ron Krisher anchors the 16-car field with a 6.832 in his Cobalt and will race Anderson in round one. Among those not making the field were chassis builder Jerry Haas, former Pro Stock Truck national champ Bob Panella Jr., and returning Erica Enders, in the field's lone Ford entry.

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