November 11, 2017 , by Kay Presto, —

The competition tightened down further during the annual NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona.

But one person will breathe easier Sunday, and that is Eddie Krawiec, who captured his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle championship on Saturday simply by qualifying for the final race of the year. He took his Screamin’ Eagle Vance and Hines Harley-Davidson down the 1000-foot dragstrip with a low E.T. of 6.781 seconds to put that World Championship trophy on his shelf. Carrying 150 points into that round, he literally locked out LETonglet for that title.

“I can say I can appreciate this title a lot more,” Krawiec said, “as I get a lot older. You never know when the next one is going to be, so cherish the ones that you get. The work isn’t over yet, and I’m going to do the best I can to be in the Winner’s Circle tomorrow.”

Another driver who is breathing a little easier is Funny Car points leader Robert Hight, who had not qualified until Saturday’s final round, and just made it through with a 4.132, 236.80 Saturday pass, making him the No. 15 qualifier at Auto Club Raceway for the finale of the Countdown to the Championship. That put him eight points ahead of Capps.

“In some ways, you have to forget about where we’re qualified but learn. We’re learning from each run,” Hight said. “We have a car that can win this thing. It’s not like we’re lost. We just have to adjust to it and drive good.”

In Sunday’s first round, Hight will go up against Tim Wilkerson, and Capps competes against Gary Densham. Hight and Capps are both campaigning for their second world championship.

Jack Beckman, qualified first in Funny Car for Sunday’s eliminations with a 3.835,  334.98 pass, said he is definitely eager to win Sunday’s Final. That pass gave him four more points over Courtney Force.

Courtney Force was the No. 3 qualifier with a pass of 3.871 seconds in the Big Machine Records Chevrolet Camaro SS. Force, Despite being third in the standings,  Force is still mathematically eligible to earn her first pro title.

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force will make her title bid as the No. 1 qualifier. If she wins, Force will become the second woman to capture an NHRA World Top Fuel title.

“I’ve thought about that,” she said, “but right now I have to keep all my focus on winning tomorrow.”

Force’s Top Fuel track elapsed-time record run of 3.667 seconds in the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster in the second round of qualifications stood up in two subsequent sessions as the fifth-year John Force Racing driver claimed her second No. 1 honor of the season and eighth in 120 career races.

Force, who started sixth in the six-race Countdown, trails front-runner Steve Torrence by nine points. With the best elapsed times in two of the four sessions, Force picked up eight bonus points to one for Torrence, the No. 5 qualifier. She could face Torrence in the semifinals in a winner-take-all scenario.

“That was an awesome run, but I am a little overwhelmed right now. There is a lot going through my head,” said Force, who seeks to secure her first pro title. “I want Sunday morning to be here. I just want to get in my car and get ready. My team is going to throw down all day long. We want that No. 1 spot, and we are going to fight for it. This track is a little difficult, but I know we can run well. It’s not going to be easy, a lot of hard work, but if we achieve that, it will be worth it.”

Greg Anderson, driving the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS, registered his third top qualifying spot of the Countdown, sixth in the 24-race season, and 93rd of his career with a pass of 6.541 seconds. Anderson will carry a 53-point lead over KB Racing teammate Bo Butner (Jim Butner Auto Chevrolet Camaro SS) into eliminations as he seeks his fifth NHRA Pro Stock championship.

Anderson, who is tied with Bob Glidden for the most victories at Pomona with 12, has been to the final round 13 times. Mike Edwards, who joined KB Racing as a consultant for the Countdown races, is the only driver to prevent Anderson from visiting the winner’s stage at the track.

“The great thing is I have a great car. The bad thing is I have to race against every bit as good of equipment as is my car,” said Anderson, whose next final round will be the 150th of his career. “So, it’s going to be a white-knuckle, bare-knuckle brawl tomorrow and I can’t wait. It is going to come down to execution tomorrow by both the crew chief and the driver. Special emphasis on the driver, who is going to have to find some way to get it done on his own because the cars are going to be even.”

Teammate and reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) was the No. 2 qualifier and Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro SS) was third. Butner was fifth on the qualifying sheet.