Ron Capps, top, and Jack Beckman, bottom, could be headed for a showdown… (Marc Gewertz / Associated…)
Jack Beckman and Ron Capps impressively stared down their moments of truth in NHRA qualifying.
Now, the funny car teammates have one last day at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona Raceway to decide who'll claim their first season points championship.
Capps moved within two points of Beckman on Saturday, using his fourth and final qualifying run to move from 16th place to first with a time of 4.007 seconds at 319.29 mph.
"This week has been a roller coaster just like our season," said Capps, a three-time points runner-up from Carslbad. "We got no breaks, there's no easy round ahead of us Sunday [in elimination races]. We've had everything thrown at us. I guess that's the way it has to be."
Beckman, from Norco, qualified third for Sunday's eliminations, relying on his top run of 4.25 and 319.75 mph Friday that came a day after enduring an in-car explosion.
"Pressure makes you think things you shouldn't think," Beckman said. "It won't change how I think. This is the gold medal, what everyone wants to accomplish."
In top fuel, points leader Antron Brown qualified 10th and can clinch the season championship by winning a second-round race.
In Sunday's first round, Brown is matched against one of two men who can catch him only by winning the event, third-place Spencer Massey.
Second-place Tony Schumacher trails Brown by 67 points, but has rallied from 68- and 42-point final-day deficits to win two of his seven top fuel titles. Schumacher qualified fourth and is matched against J.R. Todd.
Shawn Langdon used his final run Saturday to become the No.1 top fuel qualifier, at 3.730 seconds and 327.82 mph.
Capps will race No. 16 qualifier Tony Pedregon and Beckman is pitted against No. 14 Alexis DeJoria. If Capps and Beckman advance through the bracket, they'll face each other in the final race.
Capps hadn't posted a qualifying time before Saturday after aborting his Friday run. He said, "losing grip on the plan, I wasn't in a good place this morning," but credited crew chief Rahn Tobler for making fixes that set up Saturday's rally.
Two-time funny car champion Cruz Pedregon surged past Beckman's time in Saturday's first qualifying session, and he's on Beckman's side of the bracket.
"When these guys want to throw down, we always feel we can run with them," Pedregon said.
The day's most startling mishap came when the shell of Todd Lesenko's funny car exploded off the frame and flew about 50 feet upward as Lesenko kept the car from flipping.
Veteran former funny car champion John Force wobbled on his first Saturday run, but accelerated through and ended in 11th place. Force's daughter, Courtney, qualified fourth.
Also Saturday, pro stock veteran Allen Johnson clinched his first points title in his 17th season of racing, and Eddie Krawiec won the pro stock motorcycle season championship.