POMONA, Calif. – Top Fuel points leader Shawn Langdon raced to the qualifying lead Thursday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Adam Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the final playoff race of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Langdon posted a performance of 3.772 seconds at 322.27 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to edge title rival Antron Brown, who qualified second with a 3.787 at 323.74 in his Matco Tools dragster. With the performance, Langdon moved one step closer to securing his first Top Fuel world championship title.
“That run was critical to start off the weekend,” said Langdon, who holds a 103-point lead over defending world champ Brown. “It puts a little pressure on Antron (Brown). It’s an A-plus effort by the Al-Anabi team. There was nothing too tricky about it. We just made a good, clean run, and it was quicker than everybody else.”
Langdon, a native Southern Californian, needs to qualify well and win the first round of eliminations on Sunday to clinch the championship title.
“It’s an opportunity that I haven’t had before,” Langdon said. “I try to take some time to allow myself to soak it in a little bit. I try not to think about it too much to keep the nerves out of my system. It’s in our hands if we can qualify well and win first round.”
In Funny Car, defending world champ Beckman powered his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger to a 4.077 second run at 309.20 mph to lead the 8,000-horsepower category.
Beckman is trying to end his season with a victory to extend his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one win to eight. Although he enters this race third in points, he has been shut out of winner’s circle this season.
“If given the choice to win the race and not finish second, or not win the race and finish second, I would rather win,” Beckman said. “I want a Wally. I don’t care where we finish in the points. I want the trophy.
“You never know if your last win, is your last win. To close out the season with a win is huge. We’ve been consistent all year, we just haven’t closed the deal yet.”
Newly crowned world champ John Force qualified third in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang as he seeks his fourth consecutive victory to close out the season. Force clinched a record 16th Funny Car world championship two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
In Pro Stock, Edwards was quickest, covering the distance in 6.553 at 212.23 in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. Series points leader Jeg Coughlin is currently third in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger and his closest points challenger Jason Line is second in his Summit Racing Camaro.
Edwards, the 2009 world champ, is one of the contenders for the championship, now 78 points back of Coughlin. Line now trails Coughlin by 70 points. All three drivers earned qualifying bonus points today.
“Mathematically we are not out of it, but I like his chances,” Edwards said of Coughlin. “We accomplished our goal for the opening session. We wanted to get down the track with a good run, acquire some data, and hopefully use that to improve on our performance for the rest of the weekend. It’s been a roller-coaster Countdown for us, but we’re hoping to finish off the season with a win.”
Rookie rider Arana paced Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying with a performance of 6.888 at 195.28 on his ProtectTheHarvest.com Buell.
“We are starting to get some momentum back and I think it showed today in qualifying,” said Arana, one of the candidates for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, which recognizes the season’s top rookie. “It was great to start the weekend off like that. We made some adjustments after Vegas. We are going to look at the graph and see where we can improve for tomorrow’s session.”
Qualifying continues Friday with a session at 1:45 p.m. and Saturday with two sessions at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations start at 11 a.m.