NHRA 2018 Season Concludes

Words: Anne Proffit, Ellen Richardson, Avery Finnivan
Images: NHRA Media

The 2018 NHRA season has concluded, and spectacularly so. With all category championships decided, an array of deserving winners have received their awards and can begin to prep for next year's competition, whether in NHRA racing or elsewhere.

The Top Fuel world championship went to Steve Torrence and his CAPCO Contractors family team, who can boast 10 event victories – five of them in the five Countdown to the Championship races at the prechampionship event in Las Vegas. Although he didn't need to win another final elimination round to earn his 2018 world championship, Torrence was back at his old tricks in Pomona. He made NHRA history after racing his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster to a holeshot win of 3.702-seconds at 330.07 MPH against NHRA’s winningest Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher, then swept all six playoff races during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship ultimately claiming the 27th Top Fuel win of his career and first at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

In contrast to Torrence, the 2018 Funny Car world champion entered his final race on pins and needles. Defending champion Robert Hight, who was sitting second in points going into Pomono, put up a formidable fight at this legendary track, but smoked his tires during the opening round of eliminations, leaving the door wide open for now six-time NHRA Funny Car event winner J.R. Todd to grab his first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world championship title during Sunday’s first round of eliminations. Todd also won the season ending event with a run of 3.872 at 329.10, taking down the defending two-time event champion Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T.

Pro Stock young gun Tanner Gray also took a win at Auto Club Raceway, leading to his first ever Pro Stock world championship. Gray drove past his father Shane Gray, Erica Enders and Jason Line before entering his second consecutive final round appearance at Pomona against Drew Skillman. With a run of 6.519-seconds at 211.86 MPH, Gray earned his eighth victory of the 2018 season as well as the NHRA world championship. This season is Gray's last with the NHRA, at least for now, as he intends to return to the world of circle-track racing.

Matt Smith, who also won in 2007 and 2013, rode his EBR Buell motorcycle to the title in the final round of a 16-race season and ended up taking home his third NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle (PSM) championship. The EBR rider had earned victory in three of the final six races – Gateway, Charlotte and Pomona. On Friday during the second round of qualifying, Smith became the third member of the PSM 200mph club, joining Arana Jr and Eddie Krawiec; Saturday’s round 3 of qualifying yielded a second 200mph marker, as Smith bounded past Krawiec to the top spot at 201.10mph. In the semis on Sunday, he put LW Tonglet on the trailer with his second 200-mph run of the afternoon; he did it again in the finals, besting Krawiec with his best lap of the weekend, 201.22mph, his fifth 200-plus run of the meeting.