2016 NHRA Mello Yello Champions Crowned

Brown, Capps, Line, Savoie win titles to cap off exciting year of drag racing

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JOLIET, Ill. -- After zig-zagging across the United States for the past nine months, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awarded the sport’s biggest prize to three champions this weekend at the season finale at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won their respective world championships.

Antron Brown, who won at Route 66 Raceway earlier this year and regards the facility as the “Gladiator Stadium,” didn’t want to save his best performance for last as he clinched his third NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship at Las Vegas’ The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. En route to his championship, Brown was victorious at Route 66 Raceway earlier this year.

Capps had high hopes of re-branding his image at the final stop of the tour. Known as the fastest driver to never have won a championship, Capps headed into Pomona with an 86-point cushion over Matt Hagan, but 16-time Funny Car title winner John Force also kept his hopes alive. Capps wanted to be known as a champion, not as someone whose finished second overall four times in his career and he did just that. Capps did finish second at Route 66 Raceway back in July when “Fast” Jack Beckman won his first race of the season.

Capps was well aware of the situation and where he stood in the championship hunt coming into the weekend.
“It’s certainly not a done deal,” said Capps, who has five wins and 10 final round appearances in 2016. “It's by far not over. We still need to get there and do our business and clinch it. I've seen some pretty miraculous things happen at Pomona over the years, and we definitely don't want to be one of those statistics.”

Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T, had a 92-point lead over second-place Matt Hagan when qualifying concluded and needed an 81-point lead to clinch. Before being crowned, Capps was the winningest driver, with 50 victories, to have not won a championship.

“I can’t even tell you how focused [crew chief] Rahn Tobler has been this year,” said Capps, who was the series runner-up in 1998, 2000, 2005 and 2012. “I almost gave up the chance of trying so hard and wishing so hard and just focused on winning races. With all the accolades I got this year – my 50th career win, passing some people I really looked up to in the sport with wins – that’s mind-boggling for me. This was the toughest Funny Car class ever and the 50th anniversary of the Funny Car, which was awesome. What a great, great season.”

In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson, who won at Route 66 Raceway this year, trailed his teammate Line by 19 points for the championship.

Line clinched his third Pro Stock world championship after he raced to victory in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro in the semifinal round, putting the points out of reach for second-place teammate Greg Anderson. 

“It’s been a great year and thanks to all of our competitors; they kept us honest and made us work hard right to the end,” said Line, who also won the world title in 2006 and 2011. “I have to thank all the Summit guys, Ken Black, and all of them. It has been an incredible season and I can’t believe I didn’t actually mess it up.  It is such an honor to be up here. We have had a great car all year. Greg [Anderson] and I have had probably the two best cars all year. If it had ended any other way, I would have been disappointed.”

The tightest race for the championship was Pro Stock Motorcycle, where Andrew Hines and defending champion Eddie Krawiec came into the final round knotted at 2509 apiece in the point standings. In a league of their own, Hines and Krawiec are joined by Savoie for the championship race. Savoie, who won in Las Vegas last weekend, will return home to Louisiana and continue to be a full-time alligator farmer with his sights set on next year’s title.

Savoie earned his first career world championship after he advanced to the semifinals while his nearest contenders, Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, were knocked out in the quarterfinals. Savoie, rider of the White Alligator Racing Suzuki, never led the points standings until he secured the title. 

“To only dream of winning one race and to come out here and put a deal together with the support of Vance & Hines and my crew and to win the championship is amazing,” said Savoie, who won two races and notched four runner-ups. “I went to church this morning and the word was encouragement and to get encouraged from the people that inspire you. I want to thank everybody, especially the fans. Without these guys, this would not be possible; you make our dreams come true, and those guys are my family.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Action returns to Route 66 Raceway in 2017 on July 6-9. Get your tickets now!

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