A First at Phoenix!
NHRA Drag Racing produced it’s 14th female Professional Winner when Alexis DeJoria raced to her first career Funny Car victory during the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Arizona’s Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park….
Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also were winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at the multi-purpose motorsports facility near Phoenix.
DeJoria powered her Patron XO Cafe Toyota Camry to a winning performance of 4.043 seconds at 309.63 mph to defeat Robert Hight, whose Auto Club Ford Mustang lost traction. DeJoria raced past Jeff Arend, Del Worsham and red-hot event top qualifier John Force to advance to the final.
DeJoria, in her third season at the controls of an 8,000-horsepower Funny Car for Kalitta Motorsports, becomes the fourth female to win an NHRA Funny Car race and the 14th female in history to win a Mello Yello Series race.
“When we won the finals, I couldn’t believe it,” said DeJoria, daughter of famed entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria and wife of noted television personality Jesse James. “Actually, I can because I know we can do it, but it’s such a shock at the same time. It’s surreal. It’s really amazing. I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep.”
DeJoria’s win gave the Phoenix crowd a chance to see the well-known Kalitta Motorsports mosh pit celebration. DeJoria pointed out that the support of the whole organization made the win much more rewarding.
“I can’t wait to see the video of the Kalitta guys on the starting line,” DeJoria said. “I don’t care what anybody says; that’s badass. We all root for each other, and it’s really a team effort over there.”
Force now leads Hight by 66 points and DeJoria moves to third overall with the win, 69 points back.
In Top Fuel, Brown defeated Brittany Force with a run of 3.755 at 324.20 in his Matco Tools dragster to her 3.793 at 322.04 in her Castrol Edge dragster. A Don Schumacher Racing/John Force Racing final in Funny Car is normal, but this was the first Top Fuel final between the two NHRA super-teams.
It was the 2012 Mello Yello Top Fuel world champ’s third career victory at Phoenix and his 26th career Top Fuel win. He defeated Australian Richie Crampton, defending world champ Shawn Langdon and No. 1 qualifier Doug Kalitta before edging Force in the final.
“We love coming to Phoenix,” Brown said. “They revamped it and did a phenomenal job. We’ve had bad mishaps and tragedy here and some wins here. This place really holds a special place in my heart for what we’ve been through and what we’ve accomplished here.”
Force, last season’s top rookie, was appearing in her first Top Fuel final and her team performed consistently
throughout the weekend, with most passes in the low 3.8-second range and her final pass in the 3.7s. Brown was quick to point out Force’s consistency and knew it would take a perfect run to claim the Wally.
“She’s at a young stage in her career, and you can tell that she’s getting better and better,” Brown said. “She was consistent all day to get those round-wins. None of these teams come out here to play games. It’s not recess no more. School is in, and you better have your thinking caps on and be ready to do the work. I look at her as a tough, top competitor. They stepped up in the final. You look at her car and see Castrol on the side, and that’s John Force Racing. We go after them like we go after everyone else.”
With his semifinal appearance, Kalitta takes over the Top Fuel series lead, 26 ahead of Pomona winner alBalooshi.
Strong Rebound for AJ!
Johnson, also a 2012 series champ, scored his 21st career Pro Stock win and second at Phoenix by defeating V Gaines with his final round effort of 6.543 at 212.23 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
“We fought the car all weekend,” said Johnson, who qualified sixth and beat Jimmy Alund, Jason Line and Dave Connolly en route to the win. “I’m only here because we have a great crew. I can’t say enough about my guys. They worked and got it right, and this is a great way to send this Mopar Express Lube Dodge Avenger out on a winning note.”
Johnson was happy to rebound from a disappointing weekend at Pomona two weeks ago, where he lost in the first round of eliminations.
“Pomona was probably the worst performance by me in 18 years in Pro Stock,” Johnson said. “It made me want to get it right this time. I still didn’t do my best here. I was responsible for one round-win, and my crew was responsible for the other three.”
Not only was the Mopar final round showdown a fitting way to say farewell to the Dodge Avenger which will be retired following this event to make room for a new Pro Stock Dodge premiering at the next NHRA event in three weeks, but it came exactly 50 years after the first introduction of the GEN II 426 Race HEMI with a win by Richard Petty at NASCAR’s 1964 Daytona 500.
“Congratulations to Allen [Johnson] for a great win in Phoenix with the HEMI-powered Dodge Avenger,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “Allen and the Mopar Express Lane team haven’t stopped working and building on the successes of last two years and have set the bar even higher this season. What better way than to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary 426 race HEMI engine than to drive it to the winner’s circle in defense of our championships amid tough competition this year.”
With his event finish, Gaines moves into the series points lead in the factory hot rod category for the first time in his 21-year career with his back-to-back final round appearances.
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues in Gainesville, Fla. with the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, March 13-16. The event will feature the season debut of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
Event Essentials: 30th Carquest Arizona Nationals – Chandler AZ (Feb. 21-23th, 2014)
|TOP FUEL||Name||ET||MPH||Career Win|
|Low ET:||Doug Kalitta||3.735|
|Top Speed:||Doug Kalitta||327.74|
|FUNNY CAR||Career Win|
|Low ET:||John Force||3.990|
|Top Speed:||John Force||317.79|
|PRO STOCK||Career Win|
|Low ET:||Chris McGaha||6.530|
|Top Speed:||Allen Johnson||212.23|
|Super Stock||Dan Fletcher||10.29||121.41|
|Super Comp||Shane Thompson||8.916||169.13|
|Super Gas||Aaron Kinard||9.903||160.75|
|Super Street||Kevin Kleineweber||11.00||143.26|
|Top Sportsman||Ed Olpin||7.366||187.13|
|Top Dragster||Val Torres Jr.||6.694||198.55|
Lucas Oil Lowdown – Sportsman Racing Summary
Ed Olpin and Val Torres Jr. each scored victories at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park this weekend as Olpin grabbed his 4th NHRA national event win and Torres his 3rd.
Olpin, Pleasant Grove, Utah, was off the line first in his ’68 Camaro and won a close double break out Top Sportsman final against Paul Mitsos, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Olpin crossed the finish line in 7.366 seconds at 187.13 mph to Mitsos’ quicker 7.355, 185.08.
Torres, Chino Hills, Calif., took the Top Dragster trophy in 6.694 seconds at 198.55 mph as he held off Phil Unruh, McPherson, Kan., 6.548, 210.77. Torres took the early lead and was better at the finish line for the win.
Dan Fletcher continued to add wins to his resume picking up his 88th national event trophy out of Churchville, N.Y. His familiar ’69 Camaro faced off with Scott Pearson, Stewartville, Minn., and his ’70 AMX. Pearson left early with a foul start handing the win to Fletcher.
Tacoma, Wash., resident Mark Faul also added to his win total taking his 16th as he faced off with Robert Pond, Riverside, Calif., in Stock Eliminator. This was Pond’s first final round
Shane Thompson, Aaron Kinard and Gary Reust rounded out the weekend winners as Thompson, Las Vegas, was near perfect out of the box with a .001 second reaction time which forced Chad Langdon, La Mirada, Calif., to break out, running too quick as he tried to chase down Thompson.
Kinard, Temecula, Calif., used a .015 package to secure his win over Craig Anderson, Waxahachie, Texas, in a battle of new school vs old school Corvettes. Kinard’s ’63 out dueled Anderson’s ’05 running 9.903 seconds on the 9.90 dial.
Reust, Pahrump, Nev., won his second in Super Street right off the start when David Gotts, Corona, Calif., left too soon. Reust clocked in at 10.943, 125.55 for the win.
Results posted by: NHRA Communications, Pat Caporali & Eric Lotz
Photos by: Auto Imagery, Gary Natase & Bruce Biegler