Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) close to wrapping up NHRA titles


While there are still two big championship battles to be decided in Funny Car and Pro Stock in this weekend’s 50th anniversary AutoClub NHRA Finals, there’ll still be some great end-of-season action in the Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.

In Top Fuel, Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher will likely capture his record eighth championship. Schumacher comes into the weekend with a massive 109-point lead over his closest challenger, Spencer Massey.

Others still mathematically in the running include J.R. Todd (-112 points), Shawn Langdon (-134), former points leader Doug Kalitta (-135) and Steve Torrence (-146).

“I feel great,” Schumacher said in an NHRA media release. “I’ve gone into this last event several times with either a one-point lead or behind the eight-ball, so it’s a good place to be.

“Obviously, we’ve talked a lot over the years about that moment when you have to win and all that. But when you come in with a big lead, you’ve won already, in a sense. You’ve done a great job and your car has done what it has had to do to get this lead.”

MORE: John Force in big fight to overtake Matt Hagan for record 17th NHRA Funny Car championship

History is on Schumacher’s side: he’s won the Auto Club NHRA Finals four times.

Schumacher has won five races this season, including three wins in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff. He could have locked up the title two weeks ago at Las Vegas, but was surprised in the first round by Billy Torrence.

“The Army car has won a lot of races and championships, and it makes people step up their game,” Schumacher said. “I’m a firm believer in earning it all the way. We obviously have a great lead, so it’s comfortable, but we would like to win the last one (race).

“Everyone who has anything to do with our performance on the racetrack is going to go all out and work to finish the job we have ahead of us at Pomona.”

Massey isn’t giving up hope that he could pull an upset of Schumacher, although he knows the longs are odd.

“Obviously anything is possible and we all remember watching Tony do it back in 2006,” Massey said, referring to Schumacher’s come-from-behind win in the final round of the World Finals, setting a national elapsed time record at the same time that proved to be the championship-deciding difference.

“It would be very tough, but it’s still possible,” Massey said. “Realistically, we want to stay No. 2 and if something happens to Tony and it opens the door for us, we want that championship. We just have to go out and try to win. That’s all you can do.

“The new car is running extremely well and if the door is open we’ll try to take advantage. I am extremely happy with how the car is running and I feel like we have a car that can win in Pomona and compete for a championship in 2015.”

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MORE: Erica Enders-Stevens ready to become first female NHRA Pro Stock champ

As for Pro Stock Motorcycle, it’ll be a battle between Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec for the championship.

Hines holds a 92-point edge over Krawiec, the only two PSM riders remaining with a shot at the crown. Both drivers are seeking their fourth world championship, respectively.

“I’m just focused on having a good event,” Hines said. “I’ve overthought things in the past and shot myself in the foot. Qualifying is going to be really big and I have to go in relaxed. … I will approach it as business as usual and hopefully we can keep rolling like we have been.”

Hines is seeking his first title in eight seasons, having earned six races this season, including two in the Countdown.

“It’s been a long road to get back to this point,” Hines said. “I won three championships when I was a naïve, young kid. You really realize what it takes to win a championship after all these years.

“This one would definitely mean the most if I got it. To break that tie and get my fourth, it would be very special. It is great to have the opportunity and to pull it off would be phenomenal.”

Winning the 50th anniversary Finals would be the cherry on the championship crown.

“You don’t get a chance to win these big annual races very often,” Hines said. “I missed out at the 50th U.S. Nationals a decade ago, so it would be great to win here.

“You win a 50th anniversary race, you get that special Wally (championship trophy) and it’s something that’s remembered for a long time. It would be nice to cap off the year with a win like that and I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”

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Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.