Making it to the Auto Club NHRA finals in Pomona, Calif. can often be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
But Mission’s Chris Stone is hoping the second time is the charm.
Stone earned a spot to compete at the event this November after beating out 109 other competitors at the Race of Champions drag racing pro division six finals, which took place at the Mission Raceway Park over the Labour Day weekend.
The Mission racer beat out competitors from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington, Oregon and Idaho to qualify for Pomona.
Stone is no stranger to the track in Pomona, as he also competed there in 2013. He said despite battling through rain delays in Mission that saw the local event stretch out from Sept. 3 to 5, he was pleased with his performance.
“Everything went right,” he said, of the qualifying event. “You have to be good and lucky and I was both that day.”
Drag racing has been a 20-plus year journey for Stone, as he first competed in 1995. He moved to Mission from Victoria mostly to be closer to the renowned racing track in Mission.
“I’m a big car guy and when I was younger I used to like to go fast,” he said. “The rush you get from racing is incredible. Drag racing is the easiest sport to race in. A novice can’t go and race on a NASCAR track but I have the ability to race by car against big names pretty easily.”
He said the machine does make a difference in the sport, but it’s the drivers who win or lose the races.
“You have to have a good car but you also need to be really focused,” he said. “Reaction time is very important. If you react badly, you lose.”
Stone, who works as a Dodge mechanic at Willowbrook Chrysler, made it to the second round in 2013. In Pomona, the top racers from all seven pro divisions across North America battle it out, along with a wildcard. He said he wants to bring what he learned from 2013 to this year’s race.
“I’m hoping to take what I learned in 2013 and get the job done this year,” he said. “You never know if or when you will ever go back. Winning would just be a huge thing for my pride and it would mean a lot. The winner also gets to have the #1 sticker on his car all year long.”
He said he believes he will be more comfortable competing in front of the huge crowd at Pomona this time.
“They really treat you like royalty there but it can be overwhelming,” he said. “There’s probably 60,000 people and you’re on ESPN. I’m hidden in my car so it’s not too bad for me but for my crew it can be daunting because they’re out there in front of everyone. There’s lots of pressure and the stakes are so high, it’s a very big deal.”
Stone and his team battle for drag racing glory from Nov. 10 to 13 at the historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.