POMONA, Calif. – Shawn Langdon won his first Top Fuel season title Saturday in the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals, and Funny Car champion John Force topped qualifying with a track-record time.
Langdon, a Southern California native, earned the title in front of a large contingent of family and friends by qualifying second for Sunday's eliminations. His closest challenger, Antron Brown, was fifth, giving Langdon a 104-point lead with a maximum of 100 points available Sunday.
"You want to clinch the title as soon as you can," Langdon said. "There's a lot of pressure. I've been in some pressure situations before in racing, but nothing like this. It's just the overall pressure of the Countdown. It's been a great journey, but this is all a learning experience for me."
Langdon had a run of 3.750 seconds at 327.03 mph. He has a season-high six event victories.
"When I think of an NHRA Top Fuel champion I think of Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstein, and Tony Schumacher," Langdon said. "To be mentioned in that group now is just unbelievable. When I think of myself I am still that young kid on the opposite side of the fence dreaming of one day getting the chance to do it. I hope to have the opportunity to do this again."
Brandon Bernstein topped qualifying with a 3.748 at 325.37.
The 64-year-old Force wrapped up his record 16th season title in the previous event in Las Vegas. He had the first 3-second Funny Car run at the historic dragstrip, finishing in 3.995 at 319.37 in a Ford Mustang. Force has won three straight events and four overall this season to push his record career total to 138.
Matt Hagan qualified second in a Dodge Charger with a 4.014 at a track-record speed of 320.20.
Mike Edwards topped Pro Stock qualifying and Hector Arana Jr. led the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.
Edwards finished in 6.530 at 212.23 in a Chevrolet Camaro. By claiming maximum qualifying points, Edwards moved into a tie for second with Jason Line, 70 points behind Jeg Coughlin.
Arana had a 6.818 at 195.31 on a Buell. Matt Smith wrapped up the season title in Las Vegas.