Jason Line won his 2nd Pro Stock title at Las Vegas - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
The National Hot Rod Association ends its 2011 season this coming weekend on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip. This is where the season starts; this is where it ends.
In three of four classes, how it ends is still up in the air.
While Jason Line claimed his second championship - and first since 2006 - results in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock are still TBD.
In fact, the only lead with any breathing room belongs to Eddie Krawiec, who's put his Harley-Davidson V-Rod up with a 69-point advantage (3-1/2 rounds) over Hector Arana Jr.'s Buell in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
In Top Fuel it's really a four-man race between a pair of teammates: Don Schumacher Racing's Spencer Massey is two points ahead of Al-Anabi Racing's Del Worsham, while Antron Brown (Massey's teammate) lies third, just 14 points behind Massey, while Worsham's teammate, reigning titleholder Larry Dixon is 44 points behind.
This one has see-sawed since the Countdown to the Championship began five races ago at Charlotte; Worsham led the "regular season" of 16 races but has had these three challengers breathing down his neck. One guy unaccustomed to being left out at this time of year, Tony Schumacher isn't in the fight; he's 136 points behind DSR stablemate Massey. Local driver Worsham is just waiting to earn his first title at home.
Funny Car is just as convoluted as the tour comes to an end. Matt Hagan came on in the post-season and has the lead with 2416 points. But some lead? DSR Dodge Charger R/T teammate Jack Beckman is one point back in this Schumacher rush for glory. But wait! There's Toyota Camry flopper driver Cruz Pedregon, looking for his third title after mounting a solid season, lurking 16 points behind Hagan.
And regular season steamroller Mike Neff? His Ford Mustang is now fourth, with 34 points to make up in the final contest of the year. All the mojo this tuner/driver built up kind of went south, but local boy Neff, who won this race two years ago, could easily go on a tear and ruin everyone else's party. His situation is similar to team owner and 15-time Funny Car champion, for whom Neff tuned last year. Force had to make up about the same number of points at Pomona and did to earn No. 15.
The weather could play a part in how all of this drama unfolds. Showers have been predicted for the area on Friday and Saturday - there's a single qualifying session on Thursday - so this race weekend could be quite the crapshoot. As Pomona abuts mountains, weather systems have a way of sticking around the area.
The season finale also marks the end of NHRA's 60th anniversary celebration, which has been a great display of historic cars and personalities at every single one of the 22 races on the docket. For the weekend, John Force will bring some of his most significant race cars to the Pomona facility for fans to enjoy.
© 2011 Anne Proffit