Kalitta Wins, But Falls Short Of Elusive Title

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Doug Kalitta took home the Top Fuel Wally Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. (NHRA Photo)
Doug Kalitta took home the Top Fuel Wally Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. (NHRA Photo)

POMONA, Calif. – Doug Kalitta did everything he had to do on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, but it wasn’t enough for him to earn his first NHRA Top Fuel crown.

The veteran Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel pilot raced to his third Top Fuel victory of the season on Sunday during the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. Unfortunately he couldn’t prevent Steve Torrence from claiming his second-straight title.

Other event winners during the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals included Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Jianna Salinas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

RELATED: Hight, Torrence, Enders & Hines Earn NHRA Crowns

Torrence locked up the Top Fuel title by simply making a clean run down the track during the semifinals in a loss to Kalitta’s teammate Richie Crampton. Kalitta came up only three points short of Torrence, just missing out on his first Top Fuel world title.

In the final against Crampton, Kalitta went 3.716 seconds at 332.67 mph to win the event and sweep both races this year in Pomona, Calif. He knocked off Terry McMillen, Justin Ashley and Leah Pritchett to reach the final round.

“It was fun, for sure,” Kalitta said. “I was real proud of the effort we put in today. We gave it all we could and it’s definitely still on our list to win a championship. I was real proud of my guys today coming out of here with a win, and I love running here in Pomona. It’s a great team effort we got going on here, so I’ll keep digging.”

In Funny Car, Beckman picked up the victory after world champion Robert Hight’s car shut off after a massive burnout. After Hight’s car shut off, Beckman took advantage, going 3.920 seconds at 323.27 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge SRT Hellcat to close his year in style.

Beckman finished second in points with the win, eight behind Hight, claiming his second win this year and 30th in his career. Beckman reached the final round for the 63rd time overall thanks to round wins against John Hale, J.R. Todd and Blake Alexander.

“I’ve never won Funny Car at Pomona, so that was awesome,” Beckman said. “If you win at (the World Finals), the off-season is going to be fantastic. They’ve given me such a great racecar lately, and finished a solid second, ended the year with a win and we’ve got a phenomenal car. Things are awesome right now. I’m feeling on top of the world, to be honest with you.”

Jeg Coughlin Jr. picked up his second victory of the season in Pro Stock on Sunday. (NHRA Photo)
Jeg Coughlin Jr. picked up his second victory of the season in Pro Stock on Sunday. (NHRA Photo)

The Pro Stock Wally went to Coughlin, whose Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders claimed her third Pro Stock title Sunday.

Coughlin picked up the Pro Stock win over Fernando Cuadra with a 6.558-second pass at 210.54 mph in his JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro. It is Coughlin’s second win this year and 63rd in his career, capping off a memorable day for Elite Motorsports.

Coughlin, who was also the No. 1 qualifier, beat Joey Grose, Aaron Stanfield and Bo Butner to reach his 111th final round.

“It was a tough race day and there was a lot of emotions going on, but it was a great weekend,” Coughlin said. “It felt really good today to bring home the win, and a double win with Erica bringing home the championship and with us securing the No. 2 position. To have 2020 be the 50th year for Pro Stock, it’s going to be exciting. I think the class right now is looking extremely good.”

Salinas broke through in a big way in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final, upending Jerry Savoie to earn her first Wally in the process. The loss proved heartbreaking for Savoie, who needed to beat Salinas to claim his second Pro Stock Motorcycle world title.

Instead it was Salinas who went to victory lane on her Scrappers Racing Suzuki, going 7.464 seconds at 180.81 mph in the final round after Savoie broke. It capped off an unbelievable day for the rookie, which started with the win against eventual Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Andrew Hines after he went red.

She followed with wins against Steve Johnson, defending world champion Matt Smith, who broke after needing to win the race to clinch the title, to reach her first final round.

“On Saturday morning, I was just fighting to qualify and I never thought I would be able to pull this off,” Salinas said. “To be here right now in this moment, it’s not something I would ever thought would happen this soon. On raceday, anything can happen. Sometimes consistency is all you need to win, and I’m just there to race my race. I felt very lucky and when it’s your day, it’s your day.”