AutoMatters & More: 2022 NHRA Finals with thoughts from Brittany Force

Fans in the grandstands
Fans in the grandstands
(Jan Wagner)
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The 2022 Auto Club Finals at Pomona (California) were held at Auto Club Raceway. Before driver introductions began on Sunday, race day, Lucas Oil announced that they will be extending their sponsorship relationship with the NHRA through 2026, with a two-year option after that. Also before the racing began, fans walked the super-sticky race track.

There were 14 classes: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Competition Eliminator, Super Stock, Stock Eliminator, Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Sportsman, Top Dragster and the JDRL Shootout.

As the drag racers made their ear-piercing runs, you could literally feel the ground shake. In between runs, the teams went out to carefully check the track temperature.

According to Kelly Wade, writing on the NHRA website, Matt Smith earned his sixth Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, tying the late Dave Schultz and Andrew Hines as the only riders to have ever won as many titles. It takes a special kind of courage to drag race a Pro Stock Motorcycle, and Matt and his wife Angie both race. Their goals for the 2022 season were finishing first and second in the Championship points battle. They nearly accomplished that, with Matt winning the title and Angie finishing in third place — her career best finish.

Checking the track
Checking the track
(Jan Wagner)

In the post-race press conference, Brittany Force said that winning her second Top Fuel World Championship “doesn’t feel real yet. When they said ‘You’re the Top Fuel World Champion’ and I went up on stage, it was a very surreal moment, but looking back at our last Championship, it’s funny — we came out of Vegas, we went to the Finals, I lost in the Final on a red light. This season we won on a hole shot, so I came into this weekend feeling a little bit ahead of myself.”

“Vegas until Pomona was the longest week of my life. I just had a gut-ache, I felt sick and it was like this weekend couldn’t get here quick enough, and it just drug on.”

“Once I finally got out here and I got with my team, and the wonderful car, it was kind of just this calm feeling I had. Suddenly the nerves I’d been carrying all week long, all season long, since this countdown began, kind of just calmed down and I felt like, okay, look at our season, we’ve had a great season with this entire team, and I feel okay going into race day, going into this weekend.”

Pro Stock Motorcycles racing
Pro Stock Motorcycles racing
(Jan Wagner)

“It was such a strong season, start to finish. Right out of the gate, we came out strong. Five wins, ten number one qualifiers, the national mile-per-hour record … just an incredible season for us! Comparing it to last season, way ahead of ourselves. Just came into this weekend feeling confident, feeling strong.”

“The competition, I feel, gets tougher every single season. Coming into this season I knew it was going to be tough, and to be standing up on the stage this morning with all those drivers out there, and how close our points were — that was the biggest thing. We knew it was going to come down to Pomona. We weren’t going to be able to lock it up early, nobody was. We knew it was going to come down to not just two drivers, but there was a handful of us that could still win this thing — and that just shows you how close everybody is. Anything can happen, anything can change coming into Pomona, and it could be anybody’s win. Just to look down the line and look at all the tough competitors, and how we’ve battled it out all season long. … We were just lucky enough that we got there first.”

Close-up racing action
Close-up racing action
(Jan Wagner)

“It’s pretty cool because looking at my entire team, I think only one has won a Championship. … This was a first Championship for them, so it’s so cool to share that with them. Just outstanding. When I came back to the pits after we were crowned Champion, we were screaming, hollering, jumping up and down, excited … just surreal, such a surreal moment.”

Press photographers get closest to the ground-pounding action.
Press photographers get closest to the ground-pounding action.
(Jan Wagner)

To see the results, visit https://www.nhra.com/results/2022/nhra-camping-world-drag-racing-series/52106/winners.

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Copyright © 2022 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #773


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