POMONA, Calif. – Tony Schumacher won his fourth straight Top Fuel title Sunday, beating Bob Vandergriff in the final round of the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals to edge “Hot Rod” Fuller for the championship.
Matt Smith won the Pro Stock Motorcycle crown with final-round win, while Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon sweated it out until the semifinals before securing his second title. Jeg Coughlin wrapped up his third Pro Stock title in the quarterfinals.
For the second year in a row, Schumacher won on his final pass. This time, he beat Vandergriff with a run of 4.486 seconds at 328.30 mph.
Schumacher became the first Top Fuel racer to win four championships in a row. Entering this weekend in fourth place and needing help on many fronts, Schumacher danced his way through to the final and blistered Vandergriff’s rail 4.486 to 4.681 to win his fifth POWERade championship by just 19 points.
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“After the second round it was like deja vu,” Schumacher said. “My knees started shaking and I had that feeling like maybe we could do it again. The guys on this team are unbelievable when the pressure is on. They showed it again today.”
In the Funny Car final, Robert Hight beat fill-in teammate Phil Burkart when Burkart’s car lost traction 200 feet out.
In Pro Stock, Coughlin punctuated his title with his 38th career win, this one over first-time finalist Justin Humphreys. Smith beat fellow Buell rider Chip Ellis in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final.
Temporary teammates Hight and Burkart had little to race for in the final besides bragging rights and an event trophy as the Funny Car title had already been decided one round earlier when Hight couldn’t run quick enough to set a national record, depriving him of a chance at the 20 bonus points he would have needed to pass Pedregon.
Hight still shined in the final with the best pass of the weekend, a 4.731 at 326.71 mph in his Ford Mustang.
Two rounds after clinching his third NHRA title, Coughlin won his 38th national event by barely catching and passing Humphreys. The former NHRA Sport Compact champion was ahead of Coughlin at every timer except the finish line, but Coughlin’s Cobalt had just enough to win with a 6.638 at 207.98 mph to Humphrey’s 6.662 at 207.27 mph.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle championship came down to the final round and Smith was superb under the pressure, rocketing off the starting line on his Buell and beating Ellis with a 6.944 at 191.08 mph.
The championship was up for grabs after leader Andrew Hines rolled the lights in the quarterfinals and red-lighted. Had Hines won that round, he would have clinched his fourth straight title. Instead, he was relegated to second place.