POMONA, Calif. – Fresh off two straight wins and still in championship contention, Matt Hagan kept his hot streak going by racing to the provisional No. 1 spot in Funny Car during qualifying on Friday at the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories for the season finale at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Hagan made the quickest run in both qualifying sessions, including a top pass of 3.872 seconds at 333.58 mph in his MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody to close out the final session on Friday. It gave the two-time world champ eight qualifying bonus points, pulling him closer to points leader Robert Hight.
Hagan, a two-time world champ who is racing for his second No. 1 qualifier this season and 35th of his career, entered the weekend 56 points back of Hight, but appears set on make things interesting.
“That run felt really good and obviously our car is running strong,” Hagan said. “We’ve had a great racecar the last couple races and we’ve been able to capitalize on it. We were able to capitalize on it again today during qualifying and I don’t really feel any pressure. For me, I’m just having fun. The car is running great and we’re just digging. These cars are humbling, so you just have to keep working hard. I believe in my guys and it’s just cool to see that hunger.”
Tim Wilkerson is second after a 3.876-second pass at 327.43 mph and Shawn Langdon is third after his 3.893-second pass at 330.80 mph. Jack Beckman, who was 46 points behind Hight entering the weekend, made the fifth-quickest run with a 3.949 seconds at 326.16 mph. John Force was 72 points back of Hight heading into the race and ran 10th with a 4.185-second pass at 292.65 mph. Hight is currently 12th.
Looking to end her season on a good note, Pritchett powered to the front in Top Fuel with a 3.694-second run at 322.88 mph in her MOPAR Dodge dragster. If it holds, Pritchett would earn her second straight No. 1 qualifier to end the season. Mike Salinas is second with a 3.699-second pass at 327.11 mph, while Billy Torrence, who was 86 points back of his son, points leader Steve Torrence, entering the weekend, is third after his 3.708-second pass at 330.63 mph.
S. Torrence went 3.985 seconds at 223.95 mph on Friday to qualify 13th. Brittany Force, who pulled to within 16 points of first after her Vegas win, is currently fifth with a 3.726-second run at 331.69 mph. Doug Kalitta is in the 10th spot with a 3.903-second pass at 325.61 mph. He entered the race 55 points back of Torrence.
Pro Stock’s Coughlin went to the top spot after posting a 6.533-second pass at 210.70 mph in his JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro. He’s after his third No. 1 qualifier this season and 32nd in his career, and is also trying to track down Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders on the final weekend of the year.
A five-time world champion, Coughlin trailed Enders by 92 points heading into the weekend at the points-and-a-half race. Enders was nearly as impressive in qualifying, going 6.538 seconds at 210.93 mph. She hasn’t qualified worse than second during the Countdown to the Championship. Jason Line is third.
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Smith kept up his impressive pace in qualifying, taking the provisional top spot on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/MSR EBR with a 6.815-second run at 197.33 mph. If it holds, it would give Smith his third-straight No. 1 qualifier and fourth in the last five playoff races. Smith would also earn his seventh No. 1 this year and 38th in his career.
Karen Stoffer is currently second with a 6.834-second run at 195.00 mph and Jerry Savoie is third after going 6.837 seconds at 193.35 mph. Points leader Andrew Hines, who is looking to clinch a sixth world championship and entered the weekend 115 points ahead of Savoie, is fourth with a run of 6.845 seconds at 196.22 mph.