Once again legendary Funny Car driver John Force rose to the occasion and came up big when it mattered the most…..
Facing Tommy Johnson Jr., the No. 1 qualifier and arguably the most consistent Funny Car on the property, Force raced his Peak Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS to victory at the 3rd annual New England Nationals held last weekend at Epping NH.
For the 2nd week in a row Greg Anderson won in Pro Stock while Top Fuel’s “Sarge” Tony Schumacher roared to victory in Top Fuel.
As the No. 3 qualifier Force defeated Dave Richards, Matt Hagan and Cruz Pedregon to reach his 240th final round and secure his 143rd win over Johnson Jr.
“I raced here 38 or 40 years ago before most of you were born to come back and have one race on the circuit that I couldn’t win; I needed this race win. One of these days I am going to go out and it is going to break my heart but I ain’t leaving until I win all of them and now I’ll try and win all of them twice. This was a great day,” said Force from the winner’s circle stage. “My daughter (Courtney Force) spanked me in the inaugural race and I tried to screw her up in the first race but I couldn’t do it. I taught her too well. I am giving this trophy to Peak Antifreeze and Coolant and BlueDef. They were the first ones to take a chance on me last year. Lucas Oil and Chevrolet joined us and now Monster Energy is with us. We have Auto Club, Mac Tools and Traxxas and all these great companies share in this win.”
In the final Force racing in the left lane cruised to victory with a winning time of 4.160 seconds his second quickest elapsed time of the day to outrun Johnson Jr’s 4.195 second time. Force now has won at 25 different race tracks including all those presently in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The win in New Hampshire brings Force’s win total to 20 different states and Canada. This was the seventh time Force has defeated Johnson Jr. in a final round.
“They told me Tommy Johnson Jr. was going to rip my throat out today. I said that is bad because not only is he going to rip my throat out but he might whip me on the starting line too. His car was outrunning everybody and we got into the smack talking game and had some fun. He is a good guy and a great racer,” said Force. “I want to thank my crew chief brain-trust from Jon Schaffer to Mike Neff along with Ron Douglas, Dan Hood, Todd Smith and Ronnie Thompson. We are starting all over and rebuilding but we are having a ball doing it.”
This is the 24th season that Force has multiple wins and he has won at least one race in 28 of the last 29 years.
In the second round Force ran up against his toughest foe in the past four years, Matt Hagan. The pair of drivers have won the past four Mello Yello Funny Car championships and have a growing friendly rivalry. Today Hagan had lane choice on the strength of a quicker elapsed time in his first round win but if didn’t matter to the 16-time Funny Car champ. As the Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car rolled up to stage Force went into game mode and left the starting line with a .051 reaction time. At the finish line Force took the win light on a mini hole-shot 4.186 to 4.182 seconds.
After the round win Force was pumped up and ready for a semi-final match-up with Cruz Pedregon.
“We are struggling a lot of places but we are learning. They (DSR) can only drag one race car up to the starting line at a time. They tell me I have Hagan this round and that guy gets up there and rips the throttle out of the car. I had to get up for him and I probably rolled in deep but my car ran fast,” said Force. “At the end of the day he is a great racer and I love to race him. He is a great champion and I got another round win and I will take them any way I can get them even if it is dumb luck.”
The final round win was significant for Force and more importantly John Force Racing considering Johnson Jr. was denied a win that would have locked up one of the last two available slots in the Traxxas Nitro Funny Car Shootout. Both Robert Hight and Courtney Force are close to winning their own races this season and securing spots in the $100,000 to win specialty race.
Johnson Jr. was appearing in his first final of the season. The No. 1 qualifier for the weekend, Johnson Jr. leaves Epping still searching for his first win since Bristol last June. He is now fifth in Funny Car points.
In Top Fuel, Schumacher went the distance as the No. 1 qualifier, running a 3.809 at 321.35 in his U.S. Army dragster during a final round win over three-time world champ Larry Dixon, who finished in 3.881 at 319.60 in his C&J Energy Services dragster. Schumacher, the defending and eight-time world champ, secured his second win of the season, second in a row at Epping and 79th of his career. The victory propels Schumacher to second in points.
“[Crew chiefs] Mike [Green] and Neal [Strausbaugh] did an outstanding job today,” said Schumacher. “I felt like I drove well today. Together as a team we went out and won. We did a great job, what a battle.”
Dixon, whose last win came in 2011 at Phoenix, was appearing in his third final of the season and first at New England Dragway. He is now fifth in points.
Anderson drove his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro to a 6.512 at 214.72 in the final round, defeating 2012 Pro Stock world champ Allen Johnson, who trailed with a 6.530 at 213.50 in his Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart. The win was Anderson’s third of the season and 77th of his career. Anderson, a four-time world champ who won last weekend at Englishtown while also beating Johnson in the final, has now won back-to-back races for the first time since 2011.
“My car has been fantastic,” said Anderson, who is now three for three in final rounds this season. “I’m absolutely having a ball. I’ve got a great race team behind me and they are doing a great job. I can’t wait to go to the next race.”
Driving his Mopar, Allen Johnson appeared in his second consecutive final of the season and he moved to fifth in points with the runner-up finish.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Two Canadian Racers earn Victory Lane
Canadian drivers Al Kenny and Tinna Duncanson were victorious in NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Sportsman racing action during the NHRA New England Nationals.
And Peter Luciano, Keith Mayers and Zac Biron all captured their first NHRA national event wins during the exciting weekend event held at scenic New England Dragway.
Luciano, Malvern, Pa., faced off with Willow Grove, Pa., racer Steve Szupka in the final of Comp Eliminator taking the early lead and holding off Szupka for the win. Luciano clocked in at 8.573 seconds at 144.88 mph in his ‘10 Cobalt to hold off the quicker Szupka and his ’05 dragster at 8.144, 158.80.
Mayers, Middletown, Del., drove his ’85 Porsche to the win in Super Street and Biron, Weare, N.H., won for the home state in Top Dragster in his ’09 dragster. Mayers, in his second final round appearance, ran down Chris DePascale in 10.914 seconds at 151.48 mph to DePascale who ran too quick by .003 seconds at 9.897 in his ’74 Vega. Biron met up with Michael Galofaro in his final round taking the .030-second hole-shot and holding on in a double break out win for the NHRA Wally trophy.
Three former NHRA Lucas Oil National Champions visited the winner’s circle led by Joe Santangelo in Super Stock. Santangelo, Marlborough, Conn., used a .020 second package to force Lincoln Morehead to run too quick and break-out. The 2011 Stock National Champion Santangelo went 8.861 at 135.82 for the win in his ’12 Camaro.
Canada’s Alan Kenny, who won the ’12 Super Comp Championship, defeated Jason MacNeil for his seventh national event trophy running 8.870 at 180.77 I Super Comp. MacNeil was in his first final round and recorded a perfect .000-second reaction time but ran too quick, breaking out and handing the win to Kenny.
Sawyer earned his 5th win taking the early lead over Alan’s son Jason Kenny, and holding on with a .024 second package in the Super Gas final. Sawyer, Acton, Mass., crossed the finish line in his ’02 Camaro in 9.911 seconds at 170.39 mph.
Rounding out the winners were Donald Pires and his ’72 Nova in Stock Eliminator and Tiina Duncanson, Acton, Ont., in Pro Stock Snowmobile. Pires, Sumerset, Mass., went seven rounds to take home the trophy after beating Jim Roberts, Portsmouth, R.I., and Duncanson overcame a big starting line advantage by Heath Smith to win in 8.112 seconds, 159.17 mph on her ’10 Ski-Doo.
To view DragRaceCanada’s New England Nationals event photo gallery – click: HERE
Posted with files by: Elon Werner, Chris Lawyer, Eric Lotz & Bruce Biegler
Photos by: Steve Embling & Gary Nastase