Final round results from Sunday’s 8th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park, thirteenth race in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
TOP FUEL – Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco dragster, 3.797, 318.84 mph, def. Shawn Langdon, Brownsburg, Ind., Al-Anabi dragster, 4.982, 155.52 mph
FUNNY CAR – John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 4.113, 317.27 mph def. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., Napa Dodge Charger R/T, 4.135, 305.56 mph.
PRO STOCK – Erica Enders-Stevens, New Orleans, La., Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, 6.632, 210.14 mph, def. Dave Connolly, Mooresville, NC, Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro, 6.665, 207.56 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Andrew Hines, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley Davidson V-Rod, 6.901, 193.96 mph def. Hector Arana, Milltown, Ind., Lucas Oil Buell, 6.924, 195.53 mph
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JOHN FORCE GETS 140TH FUNNY CAR WIN AND FIRST IN NORWALK
NORWALK, OH — It took eight tries but Funny car legend John Force added another race track and NHRA national to his winning collection. Force raced to victory at the 8th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals securing his unprecedented 140th Funny Car win and moving into the No. 2 position on the Mello Yello Funny Car point standings.
“This win today was special to me. I had come to Norwalk decades ago for their Night of Fire events and match races but never won the NHRA event here, and I want to win every race. I came close a few times racing against Ashley and Courtney but I never won the big one at this place. I just couldn’t get a NHRA national event win here and I won them all with the exception of Epping so I really wanted this win,” said John Force.
Going into race day, John Forces Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang had qualified second with a thundering 4.016 second run at 322.04 that set the track speed record at Summit Motorsports Park. Crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of the team knew just how far they could push the track conditions without blowing away the massive Goodyear slicks under Force’s Mustang.
“That Jimmy Prock, I gotta give it to him. He works with the whole brain trust and calls were being made today and they were being made right. Jimmy always swings for the fences and we started out the season killing ‘em and setting national records. Then all of a sudden, our choke got stuck and had five straight first round losses but Jimmy made some changes and good calls today and now we’re back on track,” said John Force.
In the opening round, John was lined up with fellow Mustang Funny driver Tim Wilkerson. Even though John ran faster in qualifying and had lane choice, he knew Wilkerson is a tough competitor. John’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang left first and never looked back as it rocketed down the track with a 4.080 second run at 317.72 mph.
John Force then headed into the quarter-finals where he would face Chad Head. Head would have lane choice over Force but crew chief Jimmy Prock knew how much they could push the track conditions and not over power the surface with the 8000-horsepower BOSS 500 engine.
At the first hint of green from the Christmas tree, John’s Mustang blasted off the line and led all the way to the finish line. The scoreboards lit up with a 4.217 second run at 279.21 mph. Not the best run during eliminations, but enough to get Force to the semi-finals.
“He’s a great kid (Chad Head) but we knew he’d be gunning for us and he wasn’t going to back down. He wants to run fast so we let him give it to us. I we try to run the way we think in the heat, we’ll be dead. Head smoked the tires down track but so did I but we got the win,” said John Force.
The semi-finals would be an epic matchup between John Force and his arch rival Cruz Pedregon. These two diehard drivers have had the most head-to-matches in NHRA history, 93 to be exact. John knew Pedregon would be tough; therefore, he wasn’t going to leave anything on the table that would open the door for Pedregon to get around his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang.
Both drivers left the starting line with John Force having a slight starting advantage. The two Funny Cars motored down the track, side-by-side with headers flames shooting up over eight feet in the air.
When they crossed the finish line, it could have been anyone’s race but the scoreboard said it all as John ran a 4.149 second run to Pedregon’s 4.150 pass. This was Force’s closest run during eliminations and he expected nothing less from a competitor he has the highest respect for.
“We gave it all we had against Cruz because he is going to go for it and he has enough runs down tricky race tracks so he can get away with it. Cruz knows the drill in being a competitive racer and that’s why you know he’s giving you everything he’s got,” said John Force.
In the final round, John would go up against Ron Capps. Another formidable competitor, John knew he’d be tough as these two have battled it out a total of 73 times with 16 of those matchups in final rounds. Despite John’s 9-7 record against Capps, he wasn’t going back down one bit and be denied a long awaited victory at today’s race.
Both cars left the starting line with nearly identical reaction times but by mid-track, the John’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was beginning to pull away. As the smoked cleared the win light in John’s lane illuminated and the scoreboards told the rest of the story, 4.113 second pass to Capp’s 4.135 performance.
“Good day and great weekend for John Force Racing but luck is a big part of this game. I’m just glad I could share it with the fans and my family. When your heart’s right, you drive your best. If you go out there and get all jacked up with pressure and it takes over, the body doesn’t respond and then you’re junk. But when you’re happy and the heart’s right, the mind does everything right,” said John Force.
While the team owner was racing to victory the rest of JFR was battling tough competition and seeing positive results. Brittany Force drove her Castrol EDGE Dragster to a quarter-final finish. In a classis rematch from last week, Brittany lost a close one to reigning Top Fuel Mello Yello champion Shawn Langdon as both cars fought it out on the tricky track surface. Even though this 27 year old is in her sophomore year driving a 10,000 horsepower Top Fuel car, Brittany’s primed for a trip to the winner’s circle.
“We came out today swinging and ran some great numbers. Even though I would’ve liked to have gone to the finals again, I couldn’t be more proud of my guys and how this Castrol EDGE Dragster has run throughout this weekend,” said Brittany Force.
In the opening round, Brittany Force was paired against Spencer Massey. She knew he would be a tough opponent as these two have faced each other in competition eight times in the past with Brittany only winning three of those matches. She was looking to even the score but with lane choice going to Massey, both her and the Castrol EDGE crew had their work cut out for them. With her and Massey being the last pair of dragsters to run, Brittany’s crew made some final adjustments in the staging lanes and it paid off.
Both dragsters fired off the starting line like guided missiles with a slight reaction advantage going to Massey. However, Brittany’s machine got out on Massey and charged right down the groove for the win. The Castrol EDGE Dragster lit up the scoreboards with a 3.753 second pass at a career best 329.83 mph that was also the top speed for round one and a career fastest speed.
“I’m very excited on how we ran this weekend as the Castrol EDGE Dragster is running pretty consistent and to come out in the first round and outrun all of our qualifying passes with that 3.75 second run at 329.83 mph is awesome and I was very pumped and excited. That’s that Castrol EDGE team, putting together a fast race. My crew chiefs Todd Smith, Dean Antonelli and the guys have really worked hard and we needed that to get past the first round and trust me, the first round is always the toughest,” said Brittany Force.
Now armed with lane choice going into the quarter-finals, Brittany would face the number one qualifier, Shawn Langdon. Ironically, Brittany had raced him in the quarter-finals a week earlier at the Route 66 Nationals. She knew Langdon would want to avenge his loss from last Sunday.
With track conditions changing due to the rising temperature, crew chief Todd Smith didn’t deviate from his game plan and put the Castrol EDGE Dragster back in the left lane. Brittany’s dragster catapulted off the line and she was neck-to-neck with Langdon. It was around the 700-foot mark on the track that the 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster began to lose traction and Langdon was able to drive away from Brittany for the win.
“I could feel my car starting to haze the tires and I could see Langdon right out my window and right next to me so I knew there was no time to pedal it. I just kept my foot in the throttle and even if it smoked the tires all the way to the finish line with the engine blowing up, I didn’t care, I was trying to get that win,” said Brittany Force.
The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year will leave the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals still in seventh place with 690 points. Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE team will have next weekend off before heading to the NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Denver to begin the Western Swing.
Courtney Force got her Traxxas Ford Mustang qualified in the No. 12 spot this weekend with a 4.106 ET at a huge speed of 321.42 mph and went up against Ron Capps in the opening round on Sunday. Force’s hotrod pulled the tires loose and went 4.439 ET at 209.95 mph to Capps’ 4.104 ET at 315.19 mph.
“We had a rough weekend here in Norwalk. It’s been a great four-week stretch with back-to-back races for my Traxxas team. I think we definitely got a good kick-start up in the points. We struggled a little bit this weekend, but I think we’ve got a good car for this championship hunt and I’m excited,” said Force.
Force will stay No. 6 in the NHRA Funny Car point standings after the four-race-swing. This is the fifth straight race that Force has kept a hold on the No. 6 spot in points.
“We fell back a little bit during the race this weekend, but we didn’t fall back in points and that’s the most important thing. As long as we can stay up there in the top 10 to lock into that championship chase, that’s all that matters. It’s a little bit of a bummer this weekend, but we’ll keep our heads held high. We’re going into the Western Swing in a couple weeks and hopefully make some big improvements,” said Force.
It was a tough weekend for the Mello Yello Funny Car points leader Robert Hight. As the No. 6 qualifier it would stand to reason that the No. 12 qualifier might be a lesser opponent. Not so in the modern era of Funny Car as Hight faced Cruz Pedregon, a two-time Funny Car world champion and winner of the Toyota Summernationals, in the first round. The Auto Club Ford Mustang was charging away for victory when it lost two cylinders on the left side drastically forcing the Funny Car to the right. The headers scuffed the retaining guardwall just before the finish line giving Hight an immediate DQ for the race.
“I lifted as soon as I felt a problem and I was just trying to keep it in the groove. We just barely grazed the guardwall and bent the headers a little bit. I will tell you what Mike Neff has this Auto Club Mustang flying and it was charging on that run. We were out in front and pulling away. I am proud of my guys for qualifying No. 6 and we got a tough draw in the first round,” said Hight, a four-time winner in 2014. “There are no easy round wins. I am glad we still have the Mello Yello points lead heading into an off weekend. My guys earned some time off but I know most of them will probably be in the shop most of the week. We will be ready for the Western Swing and I think we can do some damage at those three races.”