J. Force, Wilkerson Reach Semifinals At Arizona
By Team Ford Racing Correspondent
PHOENIX -- A treacherous left lane eventually proved to be too much to overcome Sunday although John Force used all of his 38 years of driving experience to at least make things interesting for the Ford faithful at the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
After watching Ford Racing teammate Tim Wilkerson succumb to left lane traction woes in the first Funny Car semifinal, Force found a way to tiptoe down the self same left side in his 10,000 horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang only to lose at the finish line by a scant .055 of a second to eventual runner-up Matt Hagan.
Hagan, who lost the series championship to Force on the final day of the 2010 season before coming back to win it all the following year, stopped the 1,000 foot timers in 4.049 seconds; Force trailed in 4.105 seconds after grabbing a narrow advantage at the start.
“My Mustang ran pretty good,” said the 15-time series champion, who left the race with a track record for speed at 316.82 mph. “We ran 4.04 in the first round and on that last run, I cheated the (starting) light. It probably really ran 4.04 again. Bottom line, I have a car I can race with. Mike Neff and Jon Schaffer are doing a great job and I can’t wait to get to Florida (for the 44th annual NHRA Gatornationals, March 15-17).”
Although the NHRA Safety Safari crew is the best in the business and usually can work magic to equalize the lanes, the right side was hands down the lane of preference Sunday – at least for the Funny Cars. As a result, lane choice was a much bigger issue than it was at the season-opening O’Reilly Winternationals.
Everyone didn’t have problems on the left side, but the Fords sure did. All five Mustangs exited from the left lane and Force’s was the only one that got to the finish line under power -- and with at least a chance of getting a win light.
The first round was a portent of things to come.
Courtney Force, the 24-year-old phenom who won the season-opener, couldn’t translate a stellar qualifying performance into race day success and lost to unheralded Todd Lesenko when her Traxxas Ford Mustang lost traction at virtually the instant she hit the throttle in a left lane that had not yet revealed its true personality,
The youngest of Force’s daughters had been the No. 3 qualifier -- but what worked on Friday and Saturday didn’t on Sunday. The 2012 Rookie-of-the-Year was disappointed but philosophic about the loss, which also cost her the points lead.
“Man, you know, things happen,” she said. “We stumbled in the first round. It’s definitely a tricky race track. It blew the tires off. I pedaled it, but I couldn’t get around him. Congratulations to Lesenko and his team. We were a little surprised, but we learned something from it. We’re going to just have to get after it in Gainesville.”
Although Courtney was the only Ford casualty in the first round, two more Mustangs went to the sidelines in the second and the final two in the semis.
Hagan took out Bob Tasca III and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang the second round and Wilkerson directed his Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford to the finish line ahead of the still struggling Auto Club Ford Mustang of 2009 champion Robert “Top Gun” Hight.
Hight, who hasn’t advanced beyond the second round in 11 straight races, got a first round gift this time when No. 1 qualifier Johnny Gray experienced traction problems of his own and nicked the right side guardwall with is Pitch Energy Dodge, annulling what otherwise would have been a winning run.
In Round 2, though, Hight’s Auto Club Ford lost traction in the left lane and Wilkerson sped to an easy win in 4.102 seconds.
Of course, 4.10 wasn’t quick enough to allow him to pick his lane in the semifinals and, as it turned out, he probably should have just thrown in the towel. While he was slipping and sliding down the left lane in 10.942 seconds at only 85.73 mph, eventual race winner Ron Capps was unleashing a back-breaking 4.037 at 316.67 mph in the right.
Brittany Force, the 26-year-old rookie driver of the Ford-powered Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster, also was a first round, left lane casualty, but she believes she benefitted from the experience.
“That first round was the first time I stepped on (the gas) and had to pedal it (feather the throttle),” she said. “It was a good experience for me since I had never done that before (and) that’s not something you can test. I stepped on the gas twice and it got a little close to the wall so I lifted.”
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PHOENIX -- Final round results from Sunday’s 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway:
FUNNY CAR -- Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge Charger, 4.064, 314.90 mph, def. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, 4.158, 300.00 mph.
TOP FUEL -- Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 4.606, 213.20 mph, def. Morgan Lucas, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO Powersports dragster, 4.652, 258.67 mph.
PRO STOCK -- Erica Enders-Stevens, New Orleans, La., GK Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.538, 211.89 mph, def. Mike Edwards, Coweta, Okla., Penhall/I Am Second Chevrolet Camaro, 6.520, 213.74 mph.
TOP DRAGSTER -- Chuck Hawk, Tucson, Ariz., Ford dragster, def. Moe Trujillo, Happy Valley, Ore., dragster.
TOP SPORTSMAN -- J.R. Lobner, Gardner, Kan., 2005 Chevy S-10 truck, def. Ted Carli, Temecula, Calif., 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt.
SUPER STOCK -- Harry Doolittle, Wickenburg, Ariz., 2002 Pontiac Firebird, def. Mike Graham, Tempe, Ariz., 2000 Ford Mustang.
STOCK -- Zack Torres, El Paso, Texas, 1986 Chevrolet Camaro, def. Matthew Hawk, Tucson, Ariz., 1988 Ford Mustang.
SUPER COMP -- Jack DeRencin, Buena Park, Calif., dragster, def. Jim Berry, Dexter, N.M., dragster.
SUPER GAS -- Brad Pierce, Riverside, Calif., 1958 Chevrolet Corvette, def. Russ Ginger, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1979 Plymouth Aspen.
SUPER STREET -- Kevin Kleineweber, Phoenix, Ariz., 1994 Chevrolet Lumina, def. Ryan Giacone, Phoenix, Ariz., 1988 Ford Thunderbird.
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PHOENIX -- Unofficial pro points following Sunday’s 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, second race in the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
FUNNY CAR – 1. Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge, 210; 2.Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 165; 3. Matt Hagan, Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge, 151; 4. Bob Tasca III, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 124; 5. Johnny Gray, Pitch Energy Dodge, 122; 6. Cruz Pedregon, Snap-on Tools Toyota, 117; 7. John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 106; 7.Tim Wilkerson, Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 106; 9. Todd Lesenko, Uni-Select Dodge, 102; 10. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 83.
TOP FUEL – 1. Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster, 228; 2. Shawn Langdon, Al-Anabi dragster, 149; 3. Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster, 148; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, Al-Anabi dragster, 131; 5. Morgan Lucas, GEICO Powersports dragster, 124; 6. David Grubic, Optima Batteries dragster, 112; 7. Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools dragster, 103; 8. Spencer Massey, Schumacher Electric dragster, 100; 9. Brandon Bernstein, Protect the Harvest dragster, 93; 8. Larry Dixon, Rapisarda Autosport dragster, 86; 9. Leah Pruett, Dote Family Racing dragster, 84.
PRO STOCK – 1. Vincent Nobile, Mountain View Tire Dodge, 151; 2. Mike Edwards, Penhall/K&N Chevrolet, 133/153; 3. Jeg Coughlin Jr., JEGS.com Dodge, 129; 4. Vieri Gaines, Kendall Oil Dodge, 122; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, GK Motorsports Chevrolet, 115/135; 6. Greg Stanfield, MAV TV Chevrolet, 104; 7. Jason Line, Summit Racng Chevrolet, 99; 8. Allen Johnson, Mopar Dodge, 89; 8. Greg Anderson, Summit Racing Chevrolet, 89; 10. Tie, Shane Gray, Gray Motorsports Chevrolet, and Chris McGaha, Harlow Sammons Dodge, 83 each.
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PHOENIX -- Round-by-round results from Sunday’s 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway:
Round 1 – 16. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang, 5.703, 150.77 mph, def. 1. Johnny Gray, Artesia, N.M., Pitch Energy Dodge Charger, disqualified, boundary violation; 2. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, 4.078, 310.27 mph, def. 15. Phil Burkart Jr., Yorktown, N.Y., Plueger Racing Chevrolet Impala, 4.389, 285.47 mph; 14. Todd Lesenko, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, Uni-Select Dodge Charger, 5.206, 191.92 mph, def. 3. Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 11.228, 49.10 mph; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, 4.094, 289.76 mph, def. 13. Jeff Arend, LaVerne, Calif., USD, Inc., Chevrolet Impala, 12.595, 66.51 mph; 5. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Parts Dodge Charger, 4.061, 313.54 mph, def. 12. Tony Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., American Racing Wheels Toyota Camry, 4.097, 299.06 mph; 6. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.047, 316.82 mph, def. 11. Alexis DeJoria, Venice, Calif., Tequila Patron Toyota Camry, 4.164, 305.22 mph; 7. Bob Tasca III, Cranston, R.I., Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 4.336, 221.78 mph, def. 10. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger, 6.342, 111.57 mph; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 4.252, 245.94 mph, def. 9. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., DHL Toyota Camry, 5.295, 165.07 mph.
Round 2 – Capps, 4.059, 310.55 mph, def. C. Pedregon, disqualified, centerline violation; Hagan, 4.259, 254.76 mph, def. Tasca, 6.845, 97.60 mph; J. Force, 8.107, 74.04 mph, def. Lesenko, broke; Wilkerson, 4.102, 309.06 mph, def. Hight, 6.937, 97.81 mph.
Semifinals – Capps, 4.037, 316.67 mph, def. Wilkerson, 10.942, 85.73 mph; Hagan, 4.049, 311.13 mph, def. J. Force, 4.105, 315.56 mph.
FINAL – Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge Charger, 4.064, 314.90 mph, def. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, 4.158, 300.00 mph.
Round 1 – 16. Spencer Massey, Fort Worth, Texas, Schumacher Electric dragster, 3.774, 326.00 mph, def. 1. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster, 3.756, 329.67 mph; 2. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, 3.798, 321.96 mph, def. 15. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Oil dragster, 4.752, 156.15 mph; 3. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 3.806, 313.80 mph, def. 14. Sidnei Frigo, Deerfield Beach, Fla., Artivinco dragster, 9.965, 80.81 mph; 4. David Grubic, Ennis, Mont., Optima Batteries/Candlewood Suites dragster, 5.580, 198.38 mph, def. 13. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol EDGE dragster, 5.841, 115.95 mph; 12. Morgan Lucas, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO Powersports dragster, 4.074, 211.99 mph, def. 5. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster, 4.073, 256.89 mph; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.770, 325.85 mph, def. 11. Bob Vandergriff Jr., Alpharetta, Ga., C&J Energy Services dragster, broke; 7. Leah Prewitt, Cherry Valley, Calif., Dote Family dragster, 4.522, 234.25 mph, def. 10. Shawn Langdon, Loma Mira, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 5.466, 141.30 mph; 9. Larry Dixon, Indianapolis, Ind., Rapisarda Autosport/Santo’s Cranes dragster, 4.942, 283.13 mph, def. 8. Brandon Bernstein, Zionsville, Ind., MAV-TV dragster, 4.991, 168.66 mph.
Round 2 – Lucas, 3.773, 327.43 mph, def. Grubnic, 9.378, 62.38 mph; Brown, 3.786, 307.93 mph, def. Pruett, 7.773, 81.33 mph; Massey, 3.750, 324.05 mph, def. Dixon, 5.151, 149.03 mph; Schumacher, 3.747, 329.91 mph, def. alBalooshi, 5.172, 154.78 mph.
Semifinals – Lucas, 3.860, 316.08 mph, def. Massey, 5.137, 141.82 mph; Schumacher, 3.765, 327.82 mph, def. Brown, 3.752, 325.42 mph.
FINAL – Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 4.606, 213.20 mph, def. Morgan Lucas, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO Powersports dragster, 4.652, 258.67 mph.
Round 1 – 1. Mike Edwards, Coweta, Okla., Penhall/I Am Second Chevrolet Camaro, 6.541, 212.83 mph, def. 16. Steve Kent, Lottie, La., Kent Trucking Chevrolet Pontiac, 6.592, 210.21 mph; 2. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger, 6.564, 212.06 mph, def. 15. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, 6.713, 182.85 mph; 3. Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.554, 212.83 mph, def. 14. Deric Kramer, Sterling, Colo., American Ethanol Dodge Avenger, 6.609, 209.79 mph; 4. Greg Anderson, Mooresville, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.543, 212.63 mph, def. 13. Matt Hartford, Phoenix, Ariz., Total Seal Dodge Avenger, 6.608, 210.73 mph; 5. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Mopar Parts Dodge Avenger, 6.540, 212.79 mph, def. 12. Chris McGaha, Odessa, Texas, Harlow Sammons Dodge Avenger, 6.576, 211.36 mph; 6. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, JEGS Mail Order Dodge Avenger, 6.537, 212.49 mph, def. 11. Rodger Brogdon, Tomball, Texas, Protect the Harvest Chevrolet Camaro, 17.529, 46.85 mph; 7. Erica Enders-Stevens, New Orleans, La., GK Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.561, 212.39 mph, def. 10. Shane Gray, Denver, N.C., Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, 6.652, 188.44 mph; 8. Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, N.Y., Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger, 8.750, 109.09 mph, def. 9. Greg Stanfield, Bossier City, La., MAV TV Chevrolet Camaro, foul.
Round 2 – Enders-Stevens, 6.553, 212.79 mph, def. Gaines, 6.553, 211.83 mph; Edwards, 6.505, 213.77 mph, def. Nobile, 6.582, 210.73 mph; Anderson, 6.556, 211.86 mph, def. A. Johnson, 6.549, 212.53 mph; Line, 6.538, 212.79 mph, def. Coughlin, 6.581, 212.59 mph.
Semifinals – Enders-Stevens, 6.563, 212.18 mph, def. Line, 6.619, 212.76 mph; Edwards, 6.652, 213.50 mph, def. Anderson, 7.552, 132.32 mph.
FINAL – Erica Enders-Stevens, New Orleans, La., GK Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.538, 211.89 mph, def. Mike Edwards, Coweta, Okla., Penhall/I Am Second Chevrolet Camaro, 6.520, 213.74 mph.