NHRA: Worsham (Funny Car), Hines (Pro Stock Bike) earn 2015 titles

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In Sunday’s season-ending Auto Club Finals in Pomona, California, Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joined previously-crowned Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) as 2015 champions.

Worsham earned his second career NHRA championship, but his first in Funny Car, making him only the third driver in sanctioning body history to earn championships in both nitro classes, Top Fuel and Funny Car.

Worsham won the Top Fuel crown in 2011. The other two drivers to have accomplished the rare feat in the past were Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi.

Worsham clinched the championship after defeating closest challenger Jack Beckman in the semifinals. Worsham then went on to win the race in Funny Car for an encore.

“When I put this trophy next to my other one at home it will be real,” said Worsham, who earned $500,000 from NHRA and Mello Yello for the championship. “Every time I looked up there was a (Don Schumacher Racing) car sitting there in my face.

“I was nervous about it. I was counting points. I am not going to tell you it was like any other race, because it wasn’t. I know the points are the same as the first round at Charlotte (the opening race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship), but the circumstances here were much greater.”

Some consolation for Beckman was that he set the national Funny Car elapsed time record (3.884 seconds).

“The cars were running so fast here this weekend that the record just became part of the equation,” Worsham said. “(Beckman) was making up points before we even started racing by setting the record. Today it came down to being head to head and I am grateful for the way it worked out.”

Hines, meanwhile, earned his second straight and fifth career Pro Stock Motorcycle championship. Hines clinched the title after his closest challenger, Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie, lost in the second round of Sunday’s eliminations.

Hines won $75,000 and becomes the youngest driver in NHRA history to win five championships.

“My outstanding Harley-Davidson team did a great job of keeping me focused and keeping the pressure off of me,” Hines said. “I guess we put the fear of Harley into them. Five championships is pretty awesome.”

Brown and Enders clinched their respective championships in the penultimate race two weeks ago at Las Vegas.

In addition to Worsham winning the Funny Car final round, other race winners were Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Langdon won the season-opening race at Pomona back in February and capped off a difficult season (lost primary sponsorship just before the 24-race schedule kicked off) with a win Sunday.

“I love this track,” said Langdon, the 2013 world champ who now has 11 career victories. “It has always had a special place in my heart.

“I grew up right around the corner (Mira Loma, Calif.). I was always out here watching my heroes race. I have so many great memories out at this track. Luckily I’ve had a good career here. It makes it sweet to share these special memories with your family and friends.”

In Pro Stock, Johnson claimed his second win of the season and 26th of his career.

“We had struggled during the entire Countdown, never winning more than two rounds a race and losing twice in the first round,” Johnson said. “We also struggled during qualifying and in eliminations. But right before the final, we discovered that a torsion bar was bent. We fixed that, and the car went straight down the track.”

Of note, Sunday’s race marks the final Pro Stock race that will feature carbureted engines. Next season, Pro Stock motors will include electronic fuel injection, as well as other significant changes including the elimination of hood scoops.

“This was a very special win because it will be remembered as the end of an era,” said Johnson, the 2012 Pro Stock world champ. “To do this today the way we did it by digging down deep and getting it done was very special.”

Krawiec, meanwhile, earned his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle win of the year.

“I’ve been to eight finals in a row here in Pomona, so this track has treated me well,” Krawiec said. “It is also a big deal for us to get the 75th win (in NHRA PSM) for Harley-Davidson.”

That puts a wrap on the 24-race 2015 season. The 2016 season (which has been reduced to 23 races) opens Feb. 12 right back at the same location as this past weekend’s finals, AAA Raceway in Pomona.

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Shawn Langdon; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Doug Kalitta; 4.  Richie Crampton; 5.  Steve Torrence; 6.  J.R. Todd; 7.  Billy Torrence; 8.  Clay Millican; 9.  Brittany Force; 10.  Larry Dixon; 11.  Terry McMillen; 12.  Troy Buff; 13.  Dave Connolly; 14.  Cory McClenathan; 15.  Tony Schumacher; 16.  Morgan Lucas.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Del Worsham; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3.  Ron Capps; 4.  Jack Beckman; 5.  Alexis DeJoria; 6.  Robert Hight; 7.  Matt Hagan; 8.  Cruz Pedregon; 9.  Courtney Force; 10.  Paul Lee; 11.  Chad Head; 12.  Gary Densham; 13.  Jeff Arend; 14.  Tony Pedregon; 15.  Tim Wilkerson; 16.  John Force.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Allen Johnson; 2.  Vincent Nobile; 3.  Greg Anderson; 4.  Erica Enders; 5.  Chris McGaha; 6.  Drew Skillman; 7.  Larry Morgan; 8.  Shane Gray; 9.  Jason Line; 10.  Bo Butner; 11.  Alex Laughlin; 12.  Kenny Delco; 13.  Matt Hartford; 14.  Richie Stevens; 15.  Jonathan Gray; 16.  V. Gaines.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec; 2.  Matt Smith; 3.  LE Tonglet; 4.  Andrew Hines; 5.  Karen Stoffer; 6.  Hector Arana Jr; 7.  Chip Ellis; 8.  Jerry Savoie; 9.  Hector Arana; 10.  Steve Johnson; 11.  Scotty Pollacheck; 12.  Angie Smith; 13.  Shawn Gann; 14.  Mike Berry; 15.  Jim Underdahl; 16.  Michael Ray.

FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel: Shawn Langdon, 3.715 seconds, 332.43 mph  def. Antron Brown, 3.732 seconds, 321.73 mph.

Funny Car: Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.900, 328.14  def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.023, 305.42.

Pro Stock: Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.541, 210.18  def. Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.540, 211.93.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.846, 192.58  def. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.888, 194.21.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Richie Crampton, 3.732, 317.49 def. Brittany Force, 3.759, 324.44; Shawn Langdon, 3.828, 318.24 def. Larry Dixon, 3.821, 316.82; Clay Millican, 3.871, 318.92 def. Morgan Lucas, 8.172, 90.46; Antron Brown, 3.725, 323.58 def. Cory McClenathan, 5.391, 128.81; Billy Torrence, 3.745, 328.46 def. Terry McMillen, 3.842, 316.08; J.R. Todd, 3.778, 329.91 def. Troy Buff, 3.845, 311.92; Doug Kalitta, 3.783, 274.33 def. Tony Schumacher, 5.732, 118.11; Steve Torrence, 3.720, 329.42 def. Dave Connolly, 4.018, 221.13;

QUARTERFINALS — Langdon, 3.749, 325.85 def. Millican, 8.515, 80.79; Kalitta, 3.747, 323.66 def. B. Torrence, 7.079, 83.34; Crampton, 3.718, 320.20 def. Todd, 3.739, 328.22; Brown, 3.728, 326.40 def. S. Torrence, foul;

SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 3.763, 327.19 def. Kalitta, 3.781, 314.31; Brown, 3.700, 323.58 def. Crampton, 10.354, 81.71;

FINAL — Langdon, 3.715, 332.43 def. Brown, 3.732, 321.73.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 5.744, 220.94 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 5.787, 270.59; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.902, 331.45 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.052, 316.38; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.944, 321.50 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.368, 255.97; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.897, 328.38 def. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.115, 248.66; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.039, 300.93 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.432, 227.61; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.010, 310.84 def. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.238, 228.11; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 6.604 def. John Force, Camaro, DQ, 113.66; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.978, 323.66 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.986, 325.14;

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 3.885, 326.87 def. DeJoria, 3.955, 325.14; Beckman, 3.884, 326.16 def. C. Pedregon, 8.101, 84.25; Johnson Jr., 3.926, 321.58 def. Hagan, 7.451, 86.63; Worsham, 3.896, 328.30 def. Hight, 5.255, 150.85;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson Jr., 3.891, 326.08 def. Capps, 4.052, 323.50; Worsham, 3.928, 327.35 def. Beckman, 4.088, 324.83;

FINAL — Worsham, 3.900, 328.14 def. Johnson Jr., 4.023, 305.42.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.527, 211.89 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.537, 211.89; Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.561, 211.43 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.550, 212.26; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.571, 209.23 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, foul; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.556, 211.06 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.556, 211.26; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.543, 211.79 def. Richie Stevens, Dart, foul; Shane Gray, Camaro, 8.316, 116.78 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, foul; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.536, 211.96 def. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.594, 210.01; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.526, 212.56 def. V. Gaines, Dart, broke;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.548, 209.82 def. S. Gray, 6.551, 211.76; Nobile, 6.533, 212.13 def. Skillman, 6.527, 212.23; Anderson, 6.515, 212.53 def. McGaha, 6.517, 211.99; Enders, 6.520, 212.43 def. Morgan, 6.548, 212.43;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.572, 209.17 def. Enders, 6.542, 211.56; Nobile, 8.523, 98.09 def. Anderson, foul;

FINAL — Johnson, 6.541, 210.18 def. Nobile, 6.540, 211.93.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.845, 195.90 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.107, 188.31; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.903, 193.18 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.703, 133.43; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.974, 191.00 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.023, 187.52; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.886, 191.87 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.972, 190.48; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 190.75 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.988, 189.63; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.905, 191.62 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 8.251, 112.78; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.914, 194.91 def. Angie Smith, 7.018, 188.33; Matt Smith, 6.884, 194.52 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.957, 193.10;

QUARTERFINALS — Krawiec, 6.955, 184.57 def. Savoie, no time; Hines, 6.879, 190.27 def. Arana Jr, 6.898, 194.35; Tonglet, 6.871, 194.16 def. Stoffer, foul; M. Smith, 6.870, 194.32 def. Ellis, 6.928, 192.06;

SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 6.882, 192.38 def. Hines, 6.917, 184.80; M. Smith, 6.896, 194.72 def. Tonglet, 6.892, 190.16;

FINAL — Krawiec, 6.846, 192.58 def. M. Smith, 6.888, 194.21.

SEASON-ENDING POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 2,692; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 2,461; 3.  Richie Crampton, 2,430; 4.  Larry Dixon, 2,412; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 2,388; 6.  Shawn Langdon, 2,387; 7.  Brittany Force, 2,363; 8.  Steve Torrence, 2,342; 9.  J.R. Todd, 2,307; 10.  Dave Connolly, 2,303.

Funny Car: 1.  Del Worsham, 2,664; 2.  Jack Beckman, 2,608; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,548; 4.  Ron Capps, 2,490; 5.  Matt Hagan, 2,418; 6.  Robert Hight, 2,370; 7.  John Force, 2,332; 8.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,313; 9.  Cruz Pedregon, 2,286; 10.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,259.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders, 2,712; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,492; 3.  Allen Johnson, 2,443; 4.  Chris McGaha, 2,442; 5.  Drew Skillman, 2,433; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 2,389; 7.  Larry Morgan, 2,376; 8.  Jason Line, 2,331; 9.  Shane Gray, 2,299; 10.  Jonathan Gray, 2,286.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,608; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,565; 3.  Jerry Savoie, 2,550; 4.  Matt Smith, 2,428; 5.  Hector Arana Jr, 2,419; 6.  Chip Ellis, 2,400; 7.  Karen Stoffer, 2,376; 8.  Hector Arana, 2,323; 9.  Jim Underdahl, 2,220; 10.  Scotty Pollacheck, 2,192.

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”