NHRA: Prock, Pedregon, Anderson, Smith close season with Auto Club Finals titles

Austin Prock, Cruz Pedregon, Greg Anderson, and Angie Smith closed out an incredible 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season on an upset-filled final day at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Three more Camping World champions were crowned on the last day of the season with Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) winning the season titles, though none of them ended up in the winner’s circle.

Top Fuel

Prock’s struggles throughout the early part of the season were erased with a season-ending victory in the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster as the team won two of the six final events on the tour, capping their win at the Auto Club NHRA Finals with a final-round victory over Antron Brown. The victory is the third of Prock’s young career.

Austin Prock

“I think it just showed our determination,” he said. “Even when we were beat up, we were still striving to get that success we needed. It was tough through the middle of the season, I wasn’t even enjoying being at the track, just because it was painful. I mean, we could have rolled in here like eighth or ninth [in points] in the Countdown and probably won this deal [the championship], so it just speaks volumes for how hard everybody was working. And, when we fixed it, you know, they knew we were here. And I enjoyed this Countdown so much. It was so much fun going rounds.”

Prock, who was runner-up at the season opener in Pomona and again in Dallas, qualified in the No. 5 spot and took down Shawn Langdon, Leah Pruett, and, in the semifinals, his world champion teammate Brittany Force, in the quickest side-by-side race in history, 3.642 to 3.676.

the race also was Prock’s last with legendary crew chief Rahn Tobler, who is retiring after this event.

“I’m so happy for Rahn Tobler,” said Prock. “I’ve had a blast working with him this year. He’s an absolute legend in the sport and they go out on his last race like he did tonight speaks volumes for what he’s done for the sport.. that [3.64] was the quickest run he’s ever made in history, and, and it was the last one too so it’s just a great way to end it with him.”

Brown raced to the final, the 130th of his career, and he started his raceday on a huge note as his first-round victory over Justin Ashely awarded the world championship to Force. He followed with wins over underdog Ron August Jr. and a narrow holeshot win by less than .001-second over Josh Hart. Brown’s great Sunday carried him from fourth place to second in the final standings.

Brittany Force wins Top Fuel Title

Brittany Force put a big Bowtie stamp on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season in the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Force, driving the Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac Chevrolet dragster, earned her second Top Fuel world championship in the season finale at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to become the fourth female in NHRA professional ranks to win multiple titles.

Brittany Force

“I want people to remember this day here in Pomona with this Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac team — David Grubnic, Mac Savage, every single one of my guys,” said Force, who also joined three-time champion Shirley Muldowney as the only female multiple titleholders in Top Fuel. “We have been working all season long, we never gave up, and then we struggled in the Countdown and we recovered when we needed to in Vegas and win it here today in Pomona.

“I have to thank every single one of my guys and our sponsors. We wouldn’t be here without them today, and I’m just so proud of everybody. It just seems surreal right now. I can’t believe it ended up this way.”

Force joined Erica Enders as Chevrolet champions in the pro ranks in 2022. Enders, driver of the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS, clinched the Pro Stock title two weeks earlier at Las Vegas – a pivotal event Force won to set up her championship chase.

“This year Brittany capitalized on momentum coming out of Las Vegas and her and her team rose to the occasion with speed at the right times all weekend long,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president, Performance and Motorsports. “We knew it would come down to the last race. When the pressure was on, Brittany and her team delivered in true championship form. It’s great to see Brittany in the Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac John Force Racing team clinch their second championship. We’re proud to race with them.”

Force’s victory in Las Vegas marked a career best fifth win for the 2013 rookie of the year. She won four events when she claimed the championship in 2017 to become the second woman to win in the premier division and the first to do so in 35 years

Funny Car

Pedregon, who hadn’t been to the semifinals this year since the season opener months ago at this track, went there and more at the season finale, powering his Snap-on to his first win in more than a year, since last year’s fall event in Las Vegas.

Pedregon’s final-round dash of 3.839 was another career-best pass on a weekend where he repeatedly ran under his incoming career-best, and put a small damper on Ron Capps’ championship season. Capps had mathematically clinched his third world championship the round previous but needed to contest the final without a centerline or guardwall infraction. He did that, but his 3.85 trailed Pedregon across the victory stripe. The victory is the 38th of Pedregon’s Funny Car career.


“I don’t use this cliche very often, but it fits this it’s this weekend feels surreal to me,” he said. “I’ve had some really good cars in my career but this is the best race car I’ve ever driven by a longshot. It says a lot for the team and I do want to point out that we did add Lee [Beard] to the team as a consultant but I want to give J.C. [John Collins] and the team that I had, that’s been grinding with me for two years now the credit.

“I was a little embarrassed by how we’ve done this year. . We really underachieve, I would say we never got on track you know what I mean? Like you don’t have people say to give them a group we never got any kind of groove until today or this weekend we got in a pretty good groove. I was getting congratulated by family friends left and right about the four consecutive 3.84s [in qualifying], but I thought you know what, if we screw this ever don’t win [the race], we’re gonna look like we’re gonna look like fools. So the fact that we’re able to close the deal today, that’s just pretty awesome.”

Pedregon worked his John Collins-tuned Snap-on Tools Dodge past Jason Rupert, John Force, and Alexis DeJoria to reach his 81st career final while Capps, the No. 1 qualifier, defeated Jeff Arend, Tim Wilkerson, and Bob Tasca III to reach the final round.

Ron Capps wins third Funny Car Title

Ron Capps completed a miraculous last-race comeback to win his third NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car world championship, becoming the first driver in 20 years to win the title back to back. As hard as it is to believe, Capps — who famously lost the 2012 season championship by two points to Jack Beckman — never led the points until the final day of the season, and he finished ahead of Robert Hight by just three points, 2,682 to 2,679.

Ron Capps

Capps entered the final race of the season trialing Hight by more than 60 points but, thanks to a stunning last-pass dash in qualifying that earned him the No. 1 spot, his fate was brought back into his own hands with an expected clash with Hight in the semifinals.

That titanic battle never took place as Bob Tasca III upset Hight in the second round and, after beating Tim Wilkerson in round two, Capps took the points lead – incredibly for the first time this season -– by defeating Tasca in the semifinals.

Ron Capps

That win put him mathematically in the lead by three points over Hight, but with the specter to a possible five-point penalty for crossing the centerline or hitting the guardwall in the final round a small but distinct possibility, Capps’ coronation had to wait until he safely kept it between the lines in his final-round race with Cruz Pedregon, which he lost to set the final margin.

“We talked about that run and how I should probably shut it off and not risk losing the points and losing the championship,” he said. “When you step on the gas in one of these cars it could go wherever. I mean, it’s scary. So that fed into ‘What are you gonna do? Are you gonna shut it off? Are you gonna run it down there?’ In the end, I made my longest burnout ever for the fans and just kept it close to the wall.’

“It’s like anybody in Amrica, anything you put your mind to, you can do with great people around you. I told you earlier I knew we deserved it because of the great group of people I have around me. I can’t even begin to say what it feels like right now. I mean, NAPA Auto Care people, all the NAPA Auto Care owners, 6000 strong and for everybody at home that puts on the Ron Capps NAPA jersey and watching on the couch there on Fox Sports, and GearWrench and Toyota coming on board – to give them a championship means so much. But my family and more than anything we have take on this role this year. That’s been unbelievable. I’m sure you’ve all seen me age quite a but in the last year or so. And I’m sure there were some upset people on the starting like including Slugger (Labbe, TRD) from Toyota and his guys. They thought I was going to shut it off and I planned on it, but I didn’t see Cruz (Pedregon) and I knew I couldn’t get across the centerline so I hugged the wall all the way down. I hope everybody appreciates that. I ran it to the finish line because that was a hard decision to make. For the fans, I did the longest burnout.”

Pro Stock

Greg Anderson closed out one of the most successful partnerships in the history of NHRA championship drag racing when he sent KB Racing team owner Ken Black into retirement with his 101st Pro Stock victory. Anderson won the Auto Club NHRA Finals title on holeshot when he stopped newly crowned world champ Erica Enders, 6.516 to 6.515. Anderson got off the starting line first with a .020 light and never looked back as he also moved to second place in the Camping World standings.

Greg Anderson

“Obviously this was emotional after 20 years with Ken Black,” said Anderson. “We’ve had a hell of a ride together. He’s made all my hopes and dreams come true and he’s like a second father to me. Honestly, I feel like a lottery ticket winner. Coming into this race, I knew we weren’t going to win the championship but I thought the only small way I could thank him was to win this race and hand him a final Wally.

“I think I did a good job driving and my race car was fast, so this was the best story I could write. It was just like Indy when I won my 100th race. Honestly, those are the two biggest wins of my career. Just two fantastic races. Beating Erica is always fantastic. I don’t win many on holeshots but somehow I found a way to get it done. When I handed Ken that Wally he was speechless. It was just a wonderful moment and a great way to pay him back. I have to thank Ken and [wife] Judy and [son] Kenny Jr. and the whole KB team. This wasn’t a bad year, but this is the way to end it.”

Anderson was dominant in 2021 when he won his fifth championship but struggled at times this season. He earned his landmark 100th win at the U.S. Nationals, but wasn’t able to gain ground on Enders during the Countdown to the Championship. Coming off a runner-up finish at the Las Vegas event, Anderson was rock solid in Pomona with a 6.509 in qualifying that that good for the No. 2 spot and round wins over Chris McGaha, Bo Butner, and Fernando Cuadra Sr.

Enders didn’t get her 11th victory of the season, but accomplished her main objective by winning her fifth championship in the Pro Stock class. The Elite driver put together an amazing 55-9 elimination record this year including her three Pomona wins against Mason McGaha, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Aaron Stanfield.

“I’m really disappointed in myself,” Enders said. “It’s just the way I released clutch pedal. I did the same thing in the first round. We got the championship but I‘m still mad at myself.”

Enders wins Pro Stock Title

Erica Enders earned her fifth Pro Stock title, tying Greg Anderson and Jeg Coughlin Jr. for third on the all-time list. Bob Glidden with 10 is the leader and Warren Johnson is second with six.

Erica Enders

“As a kid with big dreams, this makes me want to pinch myself,” said Enders, who also won titles with Chevrolet in 2014, ’15, ’19 and ‘20. “We have worked really hard to get here and we’ve sacrificed a lot. It’s nice to see all of those sacrifices paid off. I’m a blessed girl.

“I go back to the seven years that I drove Pro Stock without a win and just how challenging those years were. Driving for teams that we knew when we pulled on property that we weren’t going to qualify unless somebody broke or hit the wall or something. It was all of those valleys that make these peaks so enjoyable because when you’re going through that stuff, the view of the top where you want to be seems so distant so it’s just a testament to never give up and to do your best and surround yourself with the right people and that’s what I have at Elite Motorsports.”

Enders, seeking her 11th victory in 19 races, was runner-up to Anderson in the final. Anderson, driving the HendrickCars.com Camaro SS, won for the 101st time in his Pro Stock career and gave KB Racing team owner Ken Black a retirement Wally.

“This weekend is really for Ken Black; we want to celebrate him in every way we can, and it’s been a joyous weekend,” said Anderson, who has recorded 101 of Black’s 176 Pro Stock wins.

Camrie Caruso, driver of the Powerbuilt Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS in Pro Stock, was voted the NHRA Rookie of the Year.

“We achieved so many of my goals this season from qualifying No. 1 to getting to a final round to qualifying at every national event,” she said. “We didn’t check all the boxes, but I am very thankful. The competition is so tough out here and to be recognized as the Rookie of the Year is a tremendous honor. Every race this season I feel like we got better, and I am excited to get back on track next season.”


Matt Smith garnered most of the headlines this season by winning his sixth NHRA Pro Stock championship but it’s also hard not to notice the progress that has been made by his wife, Angie, who had one of the best seasons of her career aboard her Denso Buell. Mrs. Smith wrapped up the season by winning her third NHRA Wally, and did it in dramatic fashion with a holeshot victory over Joey Gladstone. Smith left first, 0.017 to 0.029, and won by a scant 0.002-second with a 6.749 to Gladstone’s 6.739.

Matt Smith

The win also solidified a third-place finish for Smith, the best of her career.

“This is just a relief. I wanted so bad to win a race this year,” said Smith. “I had a good year but this is just icing on the cake. I owe it to this entire Denso team. They have my back through all the downs and the ups. This one is for my papa, I know he’s watching from above.”

“Coming in here I knew I needed to qualify well and then turn on some win lights on Sunday and we did just what,” said Smith. “We’ve been creeping up on it for a while I I had a really good bike today. I had to race Jerry [Savoie], who has been a thorn in my side this year and I finally got him. I knew I had to make a decent run. Then I got a single run when Steve Johnson broke and the bike shook the tire a bit so [Matt] made a tune-up call. The last thing my guys told me before the final was ‘You got this’ and I did my job. To win on a holeshot is epic.”

Smith opened the season with a runner-up finish in Gainesville, the same event where she ran a then career best 6.72. Smith entered the Countdown to the Championship as the No. 7 seed but improved her stock with another runner-up finish in Reading. She also earned a semifinal finish at the most recent event in Las Vegas.

In Pomona, Smith qualified fourth with a 6.734 and rode a string of 6.7s in her wins over Fred Camarena, Jerry Savoie, and Steve Johnson. Smith ended the season with a solid 24-14 record in elimination rounds.

Gladstone may have missed out on his chance to win the Camping World NHRA championship in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but he left Pomona feeling optimistic after a season that included the first two wins of his career. Gladstone’s biggest win Pomona came in the semifinals when he put the brakes on Matt Smith, who earlier in the day clinched his sixth world title. In an epic side-by side race, Gladstone and Smith both ran 6.757, but Gladstone held a slight advantage off the starting line.

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