race reports

NHRA Finals at Pomona, CA

The Champs are Winners, Too!

Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis and Pam Conrad

Matt Smith moved into the final round after a semifinal win over L.E. Tonglet (far lane).


For the first time in NHRA history, all of the winners at the Finals also were the season champions. Steve Torrence had clinched the Top Fuel championship at the previous event at Las Vegas; Tanner Gray took the Pro Stock championship just by qualifying in the top half of the field; J.R. Todd got the Funny Car title after Robert Hight was mathematically eliminated in the first round; and Matt Smith went all the way to the event final round before getting the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship.



Steve Torrence (far lane) took a holeshot victory over Tony Schumacher. 


Steve Torrence was striving for perfection in the six-race Countdown to the championship and he achieved it, completing a sweep of the playoffs by beating Tony Schumacher in the final round of Top Fuel.


His holeshot win was the capper to a remarkable season that saw him win 11 times. It was the sixth consecutive victory for the 35-year-old Texan, the first time a racer has swept the Countdown.


“To do what we’ve done, we’re the first ones to ever do it,” Torrence said. “We’re going to be in the history books. We wanted to come here and do this, we wanted to set that precedent and we have. It’s all because of the hard work those guys (crewmembers) have put in. Nobody can beat us, they can only tie us now. That’s a pretty cool stat to put behind your name.”


Torrence got past a troubled Cameron Ferre in the first round, beat his father, Billy Torrence 3.674/331.20 to 3.712/329.10 in the second and Brittany Force 3.705/328.78 to 3.708/332.18 in the semi. Torrence’s .029 RT made the difference as his 3.702/330.07 got to the finish line ahead of Schumacher’s quicker and faster 3.700/331.61.



J.R. Todd (near lane) got the Funny Car win over Tommy Johnson Jr. 


J.R. Todd, driver of the DHL Toyota Camry for Kalitta Motorsports, captured his first career Funny Car world championship at Auto Club Raceway Sunday afternoon to become the first African-American Funny Car champion in NHRA history.


Todd entered the final race of the 2018 NHRA season in Pomona with a 74-point lead in the standings over the defending world champion, Robert Hight. Todd officially clinched the championship when Hight was defeated in the first round of eliminations in Pomona, ensuring his points lead could no longer be overcome.



This is only the second year in a Funny Car for Todd, as he drove in the Top Fuel class for nine seasons where he racked up nine wins. Todd’s championship in his second season in the class marks the quickest championship run for a Funny Car competitor since Cruz Pedregon won the class title in 1992, his rookie season as a Funny Car pilot.


Todd got the first-round win over Jim Campell in the Mooneyes Dodge Charger, then defeated Bob Tasca 3.952/321.50 to 3.962/323.12 and Ron Capps 3.889/328.14 to 3.932/316.97. Todd’s 3.872 at 329.10 mph took the final-round win over Johnson’s 3.889 at 327.51.

Robert Hight’s bid to repeat as the NHRA Mello Champion was thwarted in the first round. Hight and his Automobile Club of Southern California team smoked the tires at the hit to cross the line at 5.383 seconds and 143.86 mph. The two-time champion’s loss to No. 12 qualifier Bob Tasca III brought a premature end to his duel with points leader J.R. Todd and relegated him to second place in points for the third time in his pro career. 



In the final, teammate Drew Skillman turned on the red light by -0.002. Note that Gray’s team has covered up the ‘5’ on his car, making him No. 1. It was the last Pro Stock event for both drivers. 


Second-year Chevrolet Pro Stock driver Tanner Gray became the youngest professional series champion in NHRA history by qualifying in to top half of the 16-car field for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway.


Gray (19 years, six months), driver of the Gray Motorsports/Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS, will seek to earn his eighth victory of the season Nov. 11 to close out a stellar year.


“It means a lot. It’s been a heck of a year,” said Gray, who takes a 97-35 elimination round record into his 48th race day. “We started pretty slow and I wasn’t quite sure we would be in this position. We were just able to find something, and everything just started clicking from there.


“We did so much testing and nothing seemed to be paying off. Then it seemed like a light switch flipped and everything started coming together. We had a strong run going there and can into the Countdown and executed on race day really well. I couldn’t be more grateful for the guys working on my car and everyone who contributed to this moment I get so much support from (crew chief) Dave (Connolly) and my parents and grandparents, too. I wouldn’t be here without them.”


Gray, who at 17 became the NHRA’s youngest pro event winner, was the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ top rookie in 2017 with five wins in the 24-race season. This season, he took over first place in the standings for good with a victory in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis. He’s claimed two of his class-high seven wins in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.


At Pomona he got past his father, Shane, in the first round with a 6.531/210.57 to 6.549/211.00, then defeated Erica Enders 6.563/210.73 to 6.562/211.33 and Jason Line, who was hit with tire shake shortly off the line.




Matt Smith secured his third NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship in the final round of eliminations. He powered his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR to a 6.765 at 201.22 national speed record pass to defeat defending world champion Eddie Krawiec, who was the nearest championship contender. Krawiec’s Harley turned in a 6.812 at 198.35 mph in the final.


In the first round his wife, Angie Smith, had to restart her motorcycle twice and then made a long burnout that lead to a third (and disqualifying) restart. She then watched as her husband got past Hector Arana Sr. (6.795/200.29 to 6.869/195.22) and LE Tonglet (6.766/200.02 to 7.128/156.28) en route to the finals to secure the championship and event title. This is his first world championship title since 2013.



“Man, we went through a lot today,” Matt Smith said. “With the air line breaking in the first round and in the second round the transmission broke on us going through the lights. My guys did their job and we fixed all of the stuff that broke and ended up putting up three 200-mph runs today. We are having the time of our life right now though.”


Smith’s championship season had four race victories with three wins during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. He secured five No. 1 qualifiers and had a single runner-up finish.

Eddie Krawiec (far lane) ran 6.862/197.22 to get past Hector Arana Jr’s  6.919/196.22 in the semifinal.




official DRO sponsors

 © 1999-2018 - Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source LLC - 607 Seib Drive, O'Fallon, MO 63366 Phone: 636.272.6301 - Privacy Policy


fficial ponsors