NHRA winning propensities were featured during Denver’s high altitude national event touchdown….
Also during the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the two winningest drivers in their respective classes in NHRA history, John Force and Tony Schumacher, scored historic victories.
Johnson (Pro Stock) was also joined by Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in victory lane at the event’s conclusion which featured for the first time in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history live television coverage on a national broadcast network.
Johnson continued his long run of success at Bandimere Speedway as he won the event for a record seventh time in his 10th consecutive final round appearance here, also a record in his category.
When it seems all the cards are stacked against you, that is when some of the most incredible outcomes come to fruition. Coming from the bottom half of the field in the No. 10 spot, Johnson and his Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing team pulled together and became the first non-KB Racing team to take home the Wally in the 2016 season. This win marks his 10th straight final and seventh win at this race located at Bandimere Speedway.
In the first round, Johnson had a matchup against Drew Skillman. Johnson and Skillman were identical on the tree with .032-second reaction times and Johnson was able to outpower Skillman to take the win. Johnson clocked in with a 7.000-second pass at 196.59 to Skillman’s 7.047, 197.74.
Second round, Johnson raced fellow Mopar driver Erica Enders. Johnson showed his Dodge Dart was a bracket car when he ran another 7.000 at 196.53 and advanced to the semifinals over Ender’s 7.006, 195.62.
Johnson then found himself in a semifinal round matchup against Greg Anderson. Anderson only had lane choice by .002-seconds over Johnson but he knew it was possible to turn on another win light with his driving and the tuning calls made by crew chief Adam Hornberger. At the launch, Johnson had .050-seconds advantage over Anderson and with that difference, Johnson crossed the finish line with a huge holeshot win and a ticket to the final round. Johnson clocked in with a 6.986, 196.42 over Anderson’s 6.968, 197.19.
For the first time all day, Johnson had his choice of lane against Vincent Nobile in the finals and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Johnson’s Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart powered all the way down Bandimere Speedway with a 6.982, 197.39 taking out Nobile’s 7.037, 196.82.
“I thought we had about a 1% chance at winning this race today,” Johnson admitted. “You know what? This team dug deep down and we got better every run and we just hung right in there. We maybe had a break or two today but the magic is just on our side up here for some reason. We’ve done it for Mopar for many years and now we get to do it for Marathon Petroleum. Mopar is still with us and to win for Marathon and Mopar makes this win feel twice as good.”
With this win, Allen Johnson ties Bob Glidden for most wins at this race with seven a piece. Also, this win doubles as a birthday present to crew chief Hornberger that celebrates his birthday today.
“It’s awesome to get a win for Marathon on live national television,” Johnson smiled. “That’ll pay huge dividends for Marathon and hopefully that’ll keep them with us for years to come.”
In the nitro classes — it was the first win of the season for both legendary drivers John Force and Tony Schumacher, who have earned the most world championships and victories in Funny Car and Top Fuel, respectively.
Force defeated his daughter Courtney in a close Funny Car final. In a battle between Chevy Camaros, he finished in 3.965 seconds at 319.45 mph in his Realtree Peak Antifreeze Camaro to her performance of 3.963 at 314.75 in her Traxxas Camaro.
It was the elder Force’s first win of the season, seventh at Denver and 144th of his career. Force hadn’t won a race since June 2015 in Epping, N.H.
“I didn’t have a monkey on my back, it was a gorilla,” said Force, the 16-time world champ who at age 67 becomes the oldest driver in NHRA history to win a Funny Car race.
“Let’s face it, the competition is the best I’ve ever seen,” Force continued. “It’s tough to race my little girl there and it was a close one. I can do this game. I love it. I don’t have anywhere to go. I am going to keep doing this. I want to keep building this sport.”
Force, who also made history earlier in the weekend by clocking the first three-second Funny Car run ever at Bandimere Speedway, outran Jeff Diehl, Matt Hagan and defending world champ Del Worsham to advance to the final. In the final against his daughter he said he needed to totally forget who was in the opposite lane.
“I needed this real bad,” Force said. “I told Courtney I love her, but I am giving this everything I’ve got. Let’s face it, we’ve been getting beat up lately by the Schumacher and Kalitta teams. It’s a great day to come here and look like we know what we’re doing.”
Schumacher, an eight-time world champ, also busted out of a lengthy winless streak and claimed his first win of the season, third at Denver and 82nd of his career. He outran the defending world champ, Antron Brown, in the final round with a run of 3.802 at 324.28 in the U.S. Army dragster. Brown’s Matco Tools dragster slowed near mid-track and finished in 5.199 at 144.75. Schumacher, who climbed to fifth in the points order with the victory, hadn’t won since July 2015 in Chicago.
“To win one of these trophies you have to beat some bad dudes, and we beat a bunch of them today from Doug Kalitta to Antron Brown,” said Schumacher, who outran Kalitta in round one, top qualifier Steve Torrence in the quarterfinals and Clay Millican in the semis to advance to the titan final round meeting with Brown. “I’ve enjoyed great moments in racing during my career, but coming back from a huge deficit when people have counted you out like we have done this weekend is the most satisfying to me.”
With the runner-up finish, his sixth final round of the season, Brown maintained the points lead, 57 over second place Kalitta.
Hines became the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in history, capturing his 45th career win by outrunning teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final round. Hines took his third win of the season and fourth at this event by posting a track record time of 7.134 at 188.33 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to hold off Krawiec’s Screamin’ Eagle Harley, which trailed with a 7.148 at 187.21.
It was the third consecutive final round appearance for five-time and defending world champ Hines, who defeated Scotty Pollacheck, Cory Reed and LE Tonglet to advance to the final.
“It doesn’t get much better racing up here in the mountain with the thin air requires a different setup,” said Hines, who trimmed Krawiec’s points lead to 109. “Coming back to win on the mountain, it means a lot. My team has had my motorcycle really dialed in right now. It is our third final in a row and I am just riding the wave. I don’t think I’ve ever put eight runs like that together in a weekend. The bike is such a joy to ride right now.”
Posted with files by Sadie Floyd and NHRA Communications
All photos by Randy Anderson
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Three first time winners made trips to the winner’s circle this weekend along with a few repeat winners at Bandimere Speedway for the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
In Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com it was John Baker taking home his first NHRA Wally trophy driving his Cobalt to victory with a 7.205, 194.02 pass on his 7.18 dial over Nick Johanns. Johanns broke out by just .013 seconds in his Camaro running 8.297, 165.27
Joining Baker as first time winners in their first final round appearance were Kris Whitfield and John Bianco in Super Comp and Super Street respectively. Whitefield won on a close double break out with Gary Wamboldt 9.472 to a 9.459 and Bianco took out Jason Schade with his Chevy in another double break out, 11.442 to an 11.425.
Four racers returned to the Bandimere Speedway winner’s Circle lead by Lou Ficco Jr. in Comp Eliminator and former NHRA Lucas Oil World Champion Jackie Alley in Super Stock. Ficco, who won up on the mountain back in 2008, scored his eighth national event win when Clint Neff left early with a red light foul start. Ficco ran it out to a 7.664, 178.21 in his Pontiac GXP. Alley has all three of her national event wins here at Bandimere winning back in 2011 and then again in 2014. She added 2016 to the list in knocking out veteran racer Dan Fletcher in a battle of Camaros. Alley clocked in at 10.380 at 130 mph after Fletcher fouled at the start.
Kevin Moore and Ryan Montford returned to the winner’s circle this year as Montford was better at both ends of the track against Norman Warling in Stock Eliminator. Montford’s Camaro went 9.887, 128.33 to Warling’s 13.110, 99.96 in his Catalina. Montford was defending his title from a year ago while Moore has four national event wins including his 2007 win here in Denver. Moore beat Craig Maddox running 10.501 on the 10.50 dial for the Super Gas title.
Steve Johnson rounded out the list of winners using a .003 second reaction time and a pass of 6.471 at 213.23 mph to end Larry Piper’s day who posted a 6.694 at 202.85 in the Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com. This was Johnson’s first win in Top Dragster to go along with his win in Super Comp.