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Jason Line: No pressure at Pomona

POMONA, Calif. -- Jason Line is set to spend a relaxing weekend in Southern California.

But for the rest of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series field, the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN3; 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2) will be anything but a vacation.

Line already clinched the 2012 Pro Stock championship -- the second season title of his career -- two weeks ago at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But the NHRA's top-tier Nitro categories are still in play, as is Pro Stock Motorcycle.

The most intriguing battle comes in the Funny Car class, where Don Schumacher Racing teammates Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman arrived at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona separated by just one point.

Meanwhile, Cruz Pedregon is 26 points behind Hagan, and John Force Racing stablemates Mike Neff and Robert Hight remain within striking distance.

Hight and Neff helped their cause by running 1-2 on the opening day of action at Pomona, with Hight's top run netting him three crucial bonus points.

If Hight or Neff can pull within 59 points of Hagan prior to Sunday's eliminations, the task ahead would become easier. With 20 points on offer for each round victory, cutting the deficit to below 60 points means they would have to win one fewer round.

But Hagan took back a point by setting the fastest time on Friday, edging Hight by the margin of 4.088-4.110.

"We need to be No. 1 in every single round of qualifying," 2009 Funny Car champion Hight said. "We dug ourselves a big hole in Vegas [a first-round exit two weeks ago] and it would be cool to cut this thing down to less than three rounds so that we don't have to rely on the top two guys going out in the first round. They haven't done that a lot."

Neff held the points lead for most of the season, including heading into the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship in September. But Hagan and Beckman have come on strong in the Countdown, swapping the points lead three times in the past three events.

Hagan came ultra-close to winning the Funny Car title a year ago before losing out at Pomona to 15-time category champion John Force.

"We just have to take this in stride and go race our race car," said Hagan. "We won't do anything above and beyond what has gotten us to this point. We went to the finals here during the first race of the season, so we are not afraid of the track."

Beckman is equally confident: "We've demonstrated throughout the year we are one of the best Sunday cars, so if we don't make it up in qualifying and retain our position, we'll have to go at least one round better than Matt to win the title. I have a ton of confidence in my guys."

Top Fuel is similarly close, albeit without so many championship contenders. Spencer Massey held a two-point lead when he arrived at Pomona, but Del Worsham took over the top spot by claiming three bonus points for fast time in first-round qualifying.

Antron Brown sits 14 points back, but Massey's Don Schumacher Racing teammate sits 22nd and non-qualified through two rounds at Pomona after suffering clutch problems.

"I hope it's going to be a sunny California day tomorrow -- that's what we came here for," Brown remarked. "But we don't have any control over the weather. Our car has been trying to run really, really good. It just hasn't been real friendly to us. She wants to rotate the earth, but the earth don't want to go!

"We should get at least one run in tomorrow, and if we do, we'll make one run to get into the show and then go for a higher qualifying position," he added. "There's no need to get all jittery or worried now. We did the hard work all year to get us into the position we're in now."

Remarkably, Tony Schumacher is seeking his first event win of 2012. Worsham dominated Top Fuel throughout the first 16 events of the season, but faltered during the Countdown.

But two weeks ago at Las Vegas, Worsham qualified No. 1 and parlayed it into a critical event victory.

"I'm excited that this whole Full Throttle championship is coming down to Pomona and that we have a chance win the championship," Worsham said. "I like our Al-Anabi team's chances. We won the last race in Las Vegas so we're coming in with some momentum, and I think the fans are going to get their money's worth this weekend."

If Schumacher's position holds through Saturday's final round of qualifying, it would be his fifth consecutive No. 1 qualifying performance at Pomona.

Rain has been forecast for Saturday, while cool but clear conditions are expected for Sunday's elimination rounds.

"Conditions were a little worse today than they were yesterday," Schumacher said. "Like to stay No. 1, obviously, and we want to try to win the race, too."

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. faces long odds in his attempt to best Ed Krawiec, who has an almost insurmountable 69-point lead.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing and other motorsports for ESPN.com.