Langdon, Hagan, Jones, Krawiec Winners at Pomona
Langdon beat out Doug Kalitta in the final round of Sunday’s 49th Annual Auto Club Nationals to claim his seventh win of the season, capping off his season just one day after clinching his first career Top Fuel title in the final event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona .
Jeg Coughlin, Jr. clinched the Pro Stock title for his fourth NHRA championship, joining fellow 2013 champions John Force (Funny Car) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) who clinched their titles in last month’s event at Las Vegas.
Langdon’s 2013 championship was the third in the last four seasons for Al-Anabi Racing, after winning the 2010 title with Larry Dixon and again in 2011 with Del Worsham.
Entering this weekend’s event with a 102 point lead over defending champion Antron Brown, Langdon needed only to out-qualify Brown to clinch the title and managed to race to a second-place qualifying effort during Saturday’s sessions, easily beating out Brown, who qualified fifth.
Not content to just rest on his laurels, Langdon showed up to win on Sunday, setting the low ET in two of the first three rounds with victories over Steve Torrence, David Grubnic and Clay Millican to advance to the money round for the tenth time this season.
Going up against Kalitta in the finals for just the second time in his career, Langdon was off the line first and never looked back, going 3.784 at 323.58 mph over Kalitta, who went 3.808, 323.04 but a car-length back at the finish line.
“This is the top of the cake this weekend,” said Langdon. “It’s an absolutely special weekend for everybody involved with Al-Anabi Racing. This is what I envisioned as a kid wanting to be a professional drag racer. When you’re living a dream and being part of something special, it almost puts you at a loss for words. I’m very fortunate to be a part of a great team. I still have to keep pinching myself.”
Jones, who has started in just 15 events this season, scored round wins over Matt Hartford, Greg Anderson and Buddy Perkinson to advance the final round for the first time this season and his first-career final round face off against Johnson, who was making his 44th final round appearance.
At the start of the finals, Jones hit a .015 light to get out front first and held it to the finish, running 6.584 at 210.28 mph over Johnson, who ran a quicker 6.581, 211.03 in a losing effort.
“Man, it was so emotional,” Jones said. "You work for something so long, driving the race truck across the country, and keep beating on it. This is what I’ve always wanted since I was racing junior dragsters when I was 10. It seemed like it took forever for the win light to come on, and when it did, there were so many tears in my eyes that I almost couldn’t see the turnoff road. To get my first win at the Finals at Pomona, which is one of the biggest races of the year, is really awesome.”
Coughlin, who entered the weekend with a 71-point lead over Jason Line, clinched the title after Line lost out to Perkinson in the second round, ending up finishing 58 points ahead of Johnson, who managed to jump past Line in the final standings.
“In this day and age, it is so tough to win out here. We've seen a lot of races won and lost by just a few thousandths of a second,” Coughlin said. “I think this is one of the tightest, and one of the most intense championships I've ever won. This ranks right up there with 2007 when we had the two cuts to the Countdown to One in the first year of our playoffs.”
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan spoiled John Force’s season-ending celebration with a victory over the newly-crowned 16-time champion in the final round, capping a month-long points battle between the two that has swung back and forth over the final three events in the Countdown.
Hagan, who lost the points lead to Force following Force’s win at Reading in early October, beat out Alexis DeJoria, Johnny Gray and Cruz Pedregon to face Force for their fifth-career final round matchup. It was the 225th-career final round for Force and just the 24th for Hagan.
Despite hitting an identical .047 on the tree, Hagan pulled out in front at the 60-foot mark and led the rest of the way, taking the win with a 4.018 at 320.66 over Force’s 4.057, 317.94.
The victory was the tenth-career NHRA victory for Hagan, who won despite the absence of crew chief Dickie Venables, who missed the race after being hospitalized earlier this week.
“I’m on cloud nine that our assistant crew chief stepped up and was able to fill some big shoes,” Hagan said. “Dickie Venables was sick this weekend, and Mike Knudsen has never tuned a race car and had to jump in here, and there hasn’t been a crew chief [from another team] up in our lounge. I mean, this guy has done a phenomenal job. It just shows you when something happens someone else can step up and take the reins and run with it.”
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Eddie Krawiec collected his second Wally of the season and 22nd of his career with a victory over Scott Pollacheck.
Making his sixth-straight appearance in the finals for this event, Krawiec rode his Harley-Davidson to a run of 6.918 at 192.41 mph over Pollacheck’s Buell, which ran 6.963 at 193.57.
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