Prior to the start of the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, Antron Brown made it clear that, despite having already clinched the top-fuel season championship, he’d be gunning for a victory to conclude the year.
After a day of qualifying at Auto Club Raceway, he’s proven he meant business.
“I can’t lie to you, when I get in the car and I put that helmet on … I go into that zone of, ‘we’re going to war out here,’” Brown said. “This is a battle, this is what we do. This is a gladiator zone, and I love getting into that zone.”
Brown, who clinched the third season title of his career on Oct. 30 in Las Vegas, had the quickest qualifying time in each session at Pomona on Friday, culminating with a 3.713-second run.
“At the end of the day, it’s for the love of this sport,” Brown said. “We’re just trying to set ourselves up right now to end the season not on a good note, but a great note.”
Steve Torrence, currently second in the top-fuel standings, qualified second at 3.716 seconds, followed by Leah Pritchett (3.726), Shawn Langdon (3.729), and Tony Schumacher (3.734). Doug Kalitta, just 11 points behind Torrence coming into the event, had a disappointing initial showing but qualified 16th out of 18 drivers.
Though Brown’s standing is safe for 2016, he believes the close competition at Pomona is a sign of what’s to come.
“The whole field is so tight right now, and this weekend is what you’re going to see all of next year,” Brown said.
Funny car points leader Ron Capps inched closer to his first championship with a strong first run, recording a qualifying time of 3.883 seconds. That was the quickest time of the session, which earned him three crucial bonus points.
Capps can clinch the title Saturday if he is ahead of second-place challenger Matt Hagan by at least 81 points heading into the elimination rounds. For now, he has an 89-point lead. Jack Beckman finished with the day’s best overall time in funny car, 3.865 seconds.
Fred Hanssen’s top-alcohol dragster crashed during his second qualifying session. The car flipped over multiple times and landed on its side. In a news release, the NHRA said Hanssen “exited the car under his own power, was alert and responding to commands. He was evaluated and released.”
Jerry Savoie entered Friday three points behind Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec in the pro-stock motorcycle standings but ended the day with a slim two-point lead. His time of 6.844 seconds was the fastest in his class.
Jason Line and Greg Anderson are first and second, respectively, in the pro stock points standings, and they qualified in that order Friday. Line had the best time, 6.565 seconds, with Anderson at 6.575. Line’s lead is 20 points heading into the weekend.
“I’m a boring guy and I’d like a 95-point lead right now,” Line joked.