John Force’s JFR team continued their season domination of NHRA fuel Funny Car class racing when John Force himself won during the 3rd and final race of NHRA’s demanding “Western Swing” of events…
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also emerged victorious following the conclusion of the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals held near Seattle.
At Seattle’s Pacific Raceway, John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang entered the winner’s circle for the 141st time in his incredible career. It was also John Force’s third win of the season and fourth consecutive final round appearance. Not only that, the Castrol backed John Force Racing Funny Cars can also claim a Western Swing sweep, as Robert Hight’s win at Denver, Courtney Force’s victory in Sonoma and now John’s success at Seattle have rewritten the NHRA record books.
Going into race day, John Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car had qualified in the No. 1 spot with an impressive 4.057 seconds at 307.86 mph. It was John’s fourth No.1 final qualifying position of the season, sixth at Pacific Raceways and the 150th of his career. Ten years ago Force won this race from the No. 1 position as well.
“I paced myself today and it was it was good day for Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, Traxxas, Peak and all my sponsors. It was a great Western Swing having my grandchildren up here. I think they’re bringing us luck,” said John Force.
Even though crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of the team took advantage of the great weather conditions on Friday night, they knew to dial back the ground pounding 8000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine for Sunday’s eliminations. The team knew just how far they could push the racing surface before the warmer weather conditions would blow away the massive Goodyear slicks or hurt the engine on John’s Mustang.
“I’m excited, as Jimmy Prock was on his game and gave me a great hot rod. Whatever I try to do to screw it up, like making calls on changing the clutch in which I don’t have a clue, Jimmy just gets it right,” said John Force.
John Force faced Jeff Diehl in the opening round of eliminations and even though Diehl qualified in the 16th spot, John Force wasn’t taking him lightly. These two competitors have faced each other three times in the past and just recently, two weeks ago at the start of the Western Swing at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver.
As the lights transitioned from yellow to green on the Christmas tree, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang left the starting line first. Diehl gave chase from the starting line and could not keep up, as John Force crossed the finish line first with a 4.102 second run at 307.58 mph to Diehl’s trailing 4.354 second pass at 282.36 mph.
John Force then headed into the quarter-finals where he would face nemesis Cruz Pedregon. These two fiercely competitive Funny Car drivers have squared off against each other 93 times in competition with John Force winning 63 of those match-ups. Knowing Pedregon was going to be a tough opponent; John Force had his game face on when he staged his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang.
Once again as the Christmas tree flashed green, John Force left first and went trucking straight down Pacific Raceways. Pedregon gave it everything he had, but the times said it all. John Force ran a 4.161 second pass at 302.48 mph to Pedregon’s losing 4.184 at 296.37 mph.
The stage was now set for a semi-final battle between John Force and Alexis DeJoria. These two drivers are no strangers, as they’ve battled each other 16 times before. With John winning ten of those races, he wasn’t going to throttle back one bit because he knows Alexis is a great driver and her Funny Car is running very strong. As in the previous rounds, he carefully staged his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and again, he left before his opponent.
However, unlike the previous runs in which John’s Mustang went down the Pacific Raceways groove, his Mustang starting hazing the Goodyear slicks just past the 600 foot mark. DeJoria was right there to snatch the win from John, but then her Funny Car started to loose traction. It was John’s massive holeshot and great reaction time of 0.075 to DeJoria’s 0.170 that allowed him to get the win despite running a slower 4.301 second pass to her 4.252 run.
John Force did lose lane choice as he went into final round against another seasoned veteran and old teammate Gary Densham. These two drivers first raced each other 24 years ago in Montreal and over the years, they’ve raced each other a total of seven times in prior final round match ups with John getting four wins. Crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of the team had done their homework and carefully examined each run leading up the final match up. They made sure the lane John was in would be prime time and offer the best traction for his Funny Car.
Once again, John’s Mustang leapt off the starting line first, ahead of Densham and without missing a beat, crossed the finish line first with a 4.173 second run at 302.48 mph to Densham’s tire smoking 5.808 second at 120.44
“I raced Densham 40 years ago at this track and we were having so much down there in the staging lanes. I know we’re supposed to be serious, it’s race day but when you’re racing a friend (Densham) and he comes up here on a budget and look how good he does, steps it up and races with these guys, and after only being out here few times all year and to get in the final is awesome for him. I always that I don’t mind losing to a teammate like Robert (Hight) or Courtney (Force) and when I’ve lost to Gary, I don’t mind as I feel he’s still a teammate,” said John Force.
Today’s win, his 78th in a Ford Mustang Funny Car, tied Force with NHRA Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden as the winningest Ford sponsored driver in any motorsports series.
Kalitta recorded his second win of the season in Top Fuel, defeating Antron Brown when he powered his Mac Tools dragster to a winning pass of 3.844 at 318.84 to the 3.887 at 311.70 for Brown’s . This is the 35th career win for Kalitta, which ties him with Don Garlits for fifth on the all-time Top Fuel wins list.
“I’m real proud of [crew chief] Jim [Oberhofer] and my crew; they’ve given me a consistent car and I just try to do the best I can do,” said Kalitta who also has six runner-up finishes this season. “The competition out here is tough; it’s really something to even make it to a final. We’ve been banging on the door trying to get another win. Beating Antron for this one was big for us. We’ve just been trying to win rounds but Antron’s been winning a lot, too. He’s got five wins this year, so I’m glad we were able to get another one here today. We’ve got some momentum going into the next few races.”
Tony Schumacher, who qualified No. 1 was defeated in the semifinals by teammate Brown, but was able to secure his berth in the Countdown to the Championship. He was the only Top Fuel driver to clinch a position in the playoffs at the event.
In Pro Stock, Line ousted teammate Greg Anderson in the finals to claim his third career win at Seattle. Line, in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro, defeated Anderson on a holeshot with a run of 6.611 at 210.67 to Anderson’s losing effort of 6.608 at 210.54. Anderson, on the strength of his runner-up finish moved into the Top 10 in the Countdown to the Championship point standings for the first time this season. Anderson missed the first five events of 2014 recuperating from open heart surgery.
“It was a very good day for KB Racing,” Line said. “We got both cars to the final and Greg got in the top 10. He’s not going to look back from there. He’s got a great car. I was good when I needed to be today. The car wasn’t great, but it was good enough. I guess the racing gods owed me one today. It feels good to get another win. I’ve never won three races in a row though, so we’ll see what happens at Brainerd.”
Pro Stock drivers Shane Gray and Vincent Nobile also secured positions in the Countdown during the event.
Event Essentials : O’Reilly Northwest Nationals (August 1-3rd, 2014) Kent WA
|Low ET:||Shawn Langdon||3.787|
|Top Speed:||Doug Kalitta||320.36|
|Low ET:||John Force||4.057|
|Top Speed:||John Force||308.07|
|Low ET:||Allen Johnson||6.535|
|Top Speed:||Shane Gray||211.96|
|Bump Spot:||N/A (15 cars)|
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Aug. 14-17 with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Brainerd, MN.
Lucas Oil Lowdown
Joey Severance and Doug Gordon took home big wins this weekend in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series at Pacific Raceways for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Severance, Woodburn, Ore., met up with Chris Demke, Tujunga, Calif., for what would be a great final round matching up numbers 1 and 2 in the national points standings for Top Alcohol Dragster as well as the one and two qualifiers for the event. Severance had been running in the 5.20’s all weekend, as was Demke other than a 5.31 in his round 1 win over Johnny Ahten. Severance then ran low e.t. of the event in the final posting a 5.238 second lap at 273.11 mph to Demke’s 5.251 which was his event best as well. The win moved Severance closer to Demke who held on to the top spot in the points.
Gordon, out of Paso Robles, Calif., scored his fifth NHRA national event win and his third at Pacific Raceways taking out Sean Bellemeur in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final. Bellemeur, Tustin, Calif., qualified third as was out front of Gordon, the No. 1 qualifier, but Gordon ran him down crossing the finish line in 5.609 seconds at 256.55 mph to Bellemeur’s 5.650, 254.38.
In Comp Eliminator, it was local runner Brandon Huhtala, Puyallup, Wash., picking up his first win as did second generation driver Tim Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y., in Stock. It was Huhtala’s third final round appearance as he posted a run of 7.600, 146.89 in his Pontiac GXP to beat Ryan Warter, Olalla, Wash., and his Chevy Camaro. This was Fletcher’s first final round as he was better at both ends of the track to close the deal on Mike Alley, Eagle, Idaho, with a run of 11.148, 110.09.
Marc Heritage, Spanaway, Wash., and Kyle Colletti, Snohomish, Wash., also scored their first NHRA national event wins this weekend with Heritage beating Rodger Comstock, Las Vegas, in a double breakout in Super Comp and Colletti winning over John Ermish, Renton, Wash., in Super Street. Heritage was out first then broke out by just .001 seconds with Comstock running 8.884, breaking out by .016. Colletti went 10.899 at 147.52 mph after Ermish rolled the beam with a red light foul start.
Mike Shannon rounded out the list of winners as he bagged his second win in his third final at the Seattle event. Shannon, Kelowna, B.C., CAN., drove his Chevy Corvette to a 9.920 at 145.66 to end Sparks, Nev., racer Tanner Hiatt’s day who ran 9.914 at 159.51 in his losing effort. Shannon won here back in 2009 as well.
Posted with files from Elon Werner, NHRA Communications & Eric Lotz
All photos by: Gerry Frechette