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Auto Club NHRA Finals: Burning Questions

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Steve Torrence (1); Matt Smith Racing (2)

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ annual season-ending visit to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona closes the annual Countdown to the Championship, the six-race playoff that determines who goes home with this year’s major national titles. With Tanner Gray locking up the Pro Stock championship in qualifying, two of the three vacant championships coming into the weekend (Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle) remain up for grabs in today’s elimination rounds.

Sunday represents your last chance to see some of the most powerful cars and bikes in motorsport before the winter break, and with so many compelling storylines coming into the season finale, today’s action is not to be missed. Here are three of the top stories we’ll be looking out for:

Are we on the verge of witnessing NHRA history in Pomona?

We’ve given a lot of press to Steve Torrence over the course of his championship Top Fuel season, but it’s hard to ignore what may be one of the most dominant seasons in the history of motorsport. Having already clinched the championship a round early, Torrence qualified second for today’s eliminations in his pursuit of the first perfect Countdown to the Championship in the sport’s history. His path to the finals starts with Cameron Ferre in the first round, and could end with top qualifier Leah Pritchett.

Who’s your pick for the Pro Stock Motorcycle title?

Coming into Friday’s first round of qualifying, Matt Smith held a four-point lead over Eddie Krawiec for the top spot in the PSM standings. He extended that lead to nine after posting the best run in class history and qualifying first for today’s eliminations, but Krawiec still managed to qualify third. Hector Arana Jr. (starting second), LE Tonglet (fifth), and Jerry Savoie (sixth) are still mathematically eligible for the championship as well, but both Smith and Krawiec will need to go down early to open the door.

Will next year’s Pro Stock champion step up on Sunday?

Tanner Gray became the second racer to clinch one of this year’s major national titles, and the youngest champion in Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history, in Pro Stock qualifying this weekend. But Gray is giving up about 100 miles per hour next year as he moves to stock car racing. The entire Pro Stock class is caught in a period of transition coming into 2019, but a great first step towards next year’s title would be to come out with nothing to lose today in California and take a statement victory.

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