POMONA — Sunday is looking ugly.
That’s bad news for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) race teams and their thousands of fans who would love nothing more than to wrap up the NHRA’s season-opening weekend Sunday at Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway.
But rain is scheduled to move into the area early in the day, threatening to wash out final eliminations, possibly forcing the NHRA to postpone the 59th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals finals until Monday.
The weather cooperated Saturday, allowing the lineup to be set for the first final eliminations of the 2019 season.
Reigning Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence will try to make it seven in a row.
Torrence closed out the 2018 season with six straight victories, sweeping the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Torrence will start Sunday’s (or Monday’s) eliminations from the top of the ladder.
Torrence is Top Fuel's number one qualifier, Robert Hight qualified first in Funny Car and Rodger Brogdon sits atop the Pro Stock ladder.
Overnight rain ended early enough on Saturday to allow the third and fourth qualifying sessions to be held with only a 30-minute delay.
Torrence had the provisional No. 1 spot after Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying.
That quickly changed in Saturday’s third round.
Going head-to-head with 2018 champion Brittany Force, Force took over the top spot with a 3.696-second pass at 327.35 miles per hour.
But that didn’t last.
In the fourth round, Billy Torrence, Steve’s father, hit a 3.663-second/326.79 run to move into first.
A few minutes later, Force and Steve Torrence had another head-to-head match in the final run of qualifying.
Steve Torrence blasted off for a 3.657/331.61 run, dropping Billy Torrence to second.
If both win the first three rounds of final eliminations, father and son would meet in a winner-take-all final.
“It would be great to open the season that way,” said Steve Torrence. “It’s up to the crews to prepare our cars and then we both have to go out and do our jobs. But I’d love to meet my dad in the finals — and just go out and kick his butt.”
Antron Brown, who briefly held the top spot, fell back to third with Force fourth.
Mike Salinas, piloting the Alan Johnson tuned Scrappers dragster is fifth on the ladder.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight, driving the AAA sponsored Chevrolet Camaro, had a 3.871-second/329.67 pass in Friday’s opening round. The time held up through all four rounds, giving the two-time former champion the top spot on the ladder.
“This is my home track, Triple A’s track, but I don’t think that adds any more pressure,” said Hight. “I’ve got a lot of great people working with me and we all want to shine for Triple A and the fans.”
With Steve Torrence sitting by his side and handling most of the questions during the press conference, Hight added, “I wish I was coming off a six-race win streak (like Torrence’s). I’m just hoping to start my own winning streak here in Pomona.”
Fast Jack Beckman made the day’s biggest move, vaulting from the No. 11 seed all the way up to second with a fourth-round run of 3.900-seconds at 330.23 mph.
Tommy Johnson Jr. sits third with Matt Hagan fourth and San Luis Obispo native Ron Capps fifth.
J.R. Todd, the 2018 series champion is at No. 7 on the ladder.
Rodger Brogdon’s return to the Pro Stock ranks has paid off in only his second race weekend since 2015.
Brogdon opened Friday with the fourth best time, moved up to third later Friday and claimed the pole with a 6.522-second, 212.03 run Early Saturday.
That dropped former champions Erica Enders to second and Bo Butner to third.
Tanner Gray retired from drag racing at the age of 19 after winning the 2018 Pro Stock season title. Gray has moved to NASCAR where’s he’s getting set to run in the K&N Series.
The NHRA will try to get the final eliminations run on schedule Sunday but NHRA officials say they will move the finals to Monday if rain washes out Sunday’s plans.
“All I have to do is drive," said Steve Torrence. "I don’t worry about the weather so we’re going to make our plans, God is going to make his plans and laugh at ours but, God willing, we’ll be able to race on Sunday.