Two rain delays and a tough field of drivers at the Auto Club NHRA Finals weren’t enough to stop the inevitable title bout between Del Worsham and Jack Beckman.
Worsham entered Sunday’s elimination round in Pomona with a 36-point lead over Beckman, and his victory in their semifinal matchup with a time of 3.928 seconds was enough to clinch the funny car season championship. His extraordinary day didn’t end there, as he went on to win the Auto Club NHRA Finals against Tommy Johnson Jr., who finished third in the point standings. Worsham took four of the six Countdown to the Championship events and became the third driver in NHRA history to win it all in both top fuel and funny car classes.
“When I was getting out of the car out there, I was holding it together pretty good until I saw my wife, and she was just a wreck,” Worsham said. “She was crying and very emotional and excited … I’ve been in the hospital, I’ve been hurt, I’ve lost races I should’ve won. I went years between wins at one point. So for it all to come together like that, it takes its toll on anybody.”
Weather threatened to derail the conclusion of the NHRA season, with lengthy stoppages before and after the quarterfinals. In the second round of the pro-stock motorcycle eliminations, Jerry Savoie — who qualified first and needed 38 points to catch Andrew Hines — couldn’t get his bike going against Eddie Krawiec. Savoie’s defeat guaranteed the season title for Hines, who was next in line to race and immediately began celebrating with his team.
“There was such a crowd up there and I couldn’t see what was going on,” Hines said. “Once I saw my team jumping up and down and saw Eddie cross the finish line, that was phenomenal.”
Hines fell in the semifinals to eventual Pomona winner Krawiec, but he’s now a five-time champion and the youngest in NHRA history to achieve that feat.
“It was a long road all season long,” Hines said. “We had our struggles in the middle of the year, and that’s what makes this even more special. We were able to overcome the issues we were having and figure out a way to win again.”
Top fuel racer Shawn Langdon won at Pomona for the second time this season (as part of a different team than in February) after defeating Antron Brown with a final time of 3.715 seconds. Brown, however, had already been named the top fuel champion after building an insurmountable lead in the standings before this weekend.
“Didn’t have as much pressure as Del, but there’s a little bit of pressure on the line,” Langdon said. “You want to end the year on a good note. Anytime you’re racing the champ, you’ve got to step up your game.”
The pro stock final came down to Allen Johnson and Vincent Nobile, with Johnson emerging victorious. Erica Enders was knocked out in the semifinals, but like Brown, she had already won her category before Pomona. Johnson was mum afterward about whether he would be retiring.
“We’ve got our finger on something pretty good for next year,” Johnson said. “If it happens, it’ll be the best deal I’ve ever had. If it doesn’t, then we ended on a great note.”