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FEB 9, 2014 | Pomona, Calif.

Force Starts 2014 With Win in Grand Fashion

Force_WIns

by Team Ford Racing Correspondent

John Force applied one exclamation point after another to one utterly sensational opening weekend, breaking the once impenetrable 4.00 second Funny Car barrier almost at will in a Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in which he also qualified No. 1, set NHRA national records for time and speed (324.12 miles per hour) and ultimately won the 54th annual Circle K Winternationals.

The coup d’gras was a final round victory over arch rival Matt Hagan, the man who less than three months ago spoiled the Hall of Famer’s 16th championship celebration with a final round victory in the season-ending Auto Club Finals also contested at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

The numbers last fall were 4.018 seconds at 320.66 mph for Hagan’s Mopar Dodge and 4.057 at 317.94 mph for Force’s Ford. Sunday, it wasn’t nearly as close as Force lowered the national record for the second time during the weekend (3.965 at 323.58 miles per hour) while Hagan slowed to 6.613 seconds after losing traction.

"I’ve got a good race car,” Force said in a massive understatement, considering his Ford Mustang has won four times in its last five starts. “(Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and the whole brain trust are working together. I’m back in the game and we’re excited. Everything is just going right (and) what a good time to flex your muscles.

“We all know Hagan is turning into a body builder,” Force said of Hagan, against who he evened his career record at 9-9 and his final round record at 3-3.  “He looks great but this ain’t no beauty contest.  I always believed in Santa Claus and I still do. I believe in Superman and all that stuff. I see all those movies.

“Bottom line, I’m not flexing my muscles, but Jimmy Prock just flexed his. My old hot rod is fast. I’m proud of it and I love it.”
 
In winning for the 139th time in his career and for the 16th time on his home track, the 64-year-old drag racing icon assumed his customary position atop the driver standings, the 21st season he has been the Funny Car points leader.  His four-run sequence on Sunday (3.989, 4.020, 4.025 and 3.965) was the quickest since the implementation of 1,000 foot racing in 2008.

Force attributed his recent resurgence to his improved focus and the help of Hight who, as President of John Force Racing, has taken on more and more responsibility.

“I am guilty of running around like a wild man,” admitted the 16-time Auto Racing All-America selection, “but I am turning more stuff over to Robert.  I have enough on my plate. I need to focus on this car. This is a critical year, probably the most critical since my accident."

It was Force’s third win in five years at the Winternationals and his team’s fifth straight Funny Car victory in the second oldest event on the NHRA’s Mello Yello tour.

Force, who now has won an NHRA tour event in 27 of the last 28 seasons, showed no ill effects from a three-month hiatus.  In fact, he extended his personal streak of consecutive final round appearances to six and his team’s streak to eight.

It was a mixed bag for the remaining Ford drivers.

Bob Tasca III, who struggled just to make the 16-car starting field, found some answers on Sunday and took his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang to the semifinals before running into the Force buzzsaw.  Robert Hight, who recorded a personal best time of 3.986 in a first round win over Tim Wilkerson, lost a heartbreaker to Hagan one round later by .005 of a second and Courtney Force, the defending Winternationals champion, surrendered any chance at a repeat when she fell to Hagan in the opening round.

“I’m so proud of my guys,” Tasca said. “We were a little bit down on Friday and Saturday but we came out swinging on Sunday. I said coming into this race that I wanted to get this team off to a fast start. We had pressure on us to do that. I feel really good going to Phoenix.”

Hight, who coaxed a pair of sub-4.00 second rounds out of his Auto Club Mustang during the weekend, was disappointed with the result but excited about the performance.

“That first round win was great,” enthused the 2009 series champion.  “It ran just what (crew chief Mike) Neff thought it would run. That was a tough loss (to Hagan), but a great race. You want to put on a show for the fans and side by side Funny Cars at 320 mph and 4.03 seconds is a good show. This race will motivate us for Phoenix. We have a great team here with Auto Club and it was great to see John go on and get the win.”

Wilkerson, who opted not to attend the official pre-season test in Florida, admitted that he and his crew were doing a lot of catching up during the weekend.

"We pride ourselves on being able to do way more with far less,” said the owner, driver and crew chief on the Levi, Ray and Shoup Mustang, “and being able to learn fast and adapt fast is a skill we have. Winning is great, and it's what we're out here for, but learning is kind of essential, too, if you know what I mean.

“To run as well as we're going to need to run this year, with all these great teams we're up against, the crew chief, the driver, and the crew all will have to be on top of it.  We're way better right now than we were on Friday and we learned a lot on Saturday, too, but there are obviously still some little things we have to work out.  We'll just take all that and get ready for Phoenix. We'll be smarter when we get there, and hopefully we'll be ready to win."

In Pro Stock, Larry Morgan, driver of the Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, got off to a solid start that sends him to Arizona as a Top 10 driver. The veteran from Newark, Ohio, used his starting line skills to get a big-time upset win in round one over 2012 NHRA Champion and No. 2 qualifier Allen Johnson and the Mopar Dodge Avenger.

"For the most part, I'm just glad to get my car into the second round," Morgan said. "Our guys worked awful hard to get to that point.  We're excited, but we just have to get the car working better and everyone working together. I'm pretty optimistic about this season and think we will be alright."

******

Final round results from the 54th annual Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
TOP FUEL – Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.974, 324.36 mph, def. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster, 5.368, 143.40 mph.
FUNNY CAR – John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 3.965, 323.58 mph, def. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger, 6.613, 117.88 mph.
PRO STOCK – Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.526, 212.06 mph, def. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Avenger, 6.533, 212.56 mph.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER – Chris Demke, Tujunga, Calif., TAD, 5.251, 275.00 mph, def. Don St. Arnaud, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, A/FD, 5.328, 276.46 mph.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR – Brian Hough, Junction City, Ore., 2009 Ford Mustang, 5.571, 257.93 mph, def. Sean Bellemeur, Anaheim, Calif., 2002 Chevy Camaro, 5.646, 257.78 mph.
COMPETITION – Mike DePalma, Glendale, Ariz., 2000 Chevy S-10 truck, def. Alan Ellis, Mapleton, Utah, 1923 Ford T-roadster.
SUPER STOCK – Don Keen, Palmdale, Calif., 1965 Ford Mustang, def. Dave Bridgewater, Devore, Calif., 2012 Chevy Camaro.
STOCK – Paul Cannan, Devore, Calif., 1969 Chevy Camaro, def. Michael Iacono, Wading River, N.Y., 1967 Chevy Camaro.
SUPER COMP – Don Meziere, Escondido, Calif., dragster, def. Steve Casner, Sheridan, Calif., dragster.
SUPER GAS – Val Torres Sr., Valinda, Calif., 1963 Chevy Corvette, def. Thomas Bayer, Fontana, Calif., 1957 Chevy Corvette.

*****

Unofficial Mello Yello points following Sunday’s 54th annual Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
TOP FUEL – 1. Khalid alBalooshi, Al-Anabi dragster, 113; 2. Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools dragster, 107; 3. Tie, Spencer Massey, Schumacher Electric dragster, and Steve Torrence, Capco Contractors dragster, 75 each; 5. Shawn Langdon, Al-Anabi dragster, 65; 6. Richie Crampton, GEICO dragster, 52; 7. Tie, David Grubnic, Optima Batteries dragster, and Clay Millican, Parts Plus dragster, 51 each; 9. Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster, 40; 10. Bob Vandergriff Jr., C&J Energy dragster, 36.  Also, 11. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE Ford dragster, 33.

FUNNY CAR – 1. John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 144; 2. Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Dodge Charger, 94; 3. Del Worsham, DHL Toyota Camry, 76; 4. Bob Tasca III, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 71; 5. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 61; 6. Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger, 55; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Make A Wish Dodge Charger, 54; 8. Gary Densham, Lawson Rock and Oil Dodge Charger, 51; 9. Alexis DeJoria, Patron Toyota Camry, 39; 10. Cruz Pedregon, Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, 38.  Also, 11. Jack Beckman, Valvoline Dodge Charger, 34; 12. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 33; 13. Tie, Chad Head, Head Construction Toyota Camry, and Jeff Arend, Mooneyes Equipment Dodge Charger, 32 each; 15. Tim Wilkerson, Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 31.

PRO STOCK – 1. Jason Line, Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 118; 2. Vieri Gaines, Kendall Dodge Avenger, 96; 3. Vincent Nobile, Mountain View Tire Camaro, 86; 4. Shane Gray, Denver, Charter Communications Camaro, 73; 5. Tie, Erica Enders-Stevens, Elite Chevrolet Camaro, Dave Connolly, Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, and Jeg Coughlin Jr., JEGS.com Dodge Avenger, 55 each; 8. Larry Morgan, Lucas Oil Products Ford Mustang, 51; 9. Allen Johnson, Mopar Dodge Avenger, 45; 10. Rodger Brogdon, Protect the Harvest Chevrolet Camaro, 33.

*****

Round-by-round results from Sunday’s 54th annual Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona

TOP FUEL
Final qualifying – 1. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster, 3.713, 328.38 mph; 2. Shawn Langdon, Mira Loma, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.746, 328.79 mph; 3. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, 3.731, 326.00 mph; 4. Bob Vandergriff Jr., Alpharetta, Ga., C&J Energy dragster, 3.743, 328.14 mph; 5. Spencer Massey, Ft. Worth, Texas, Schumacher Electric dragster, 3.768, 324.51 mph; 6. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster, 3.773, 329.02 mph; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., al-Anabi dragster, 3.774, 322.73 mph; 8. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol EDGE dragster, 3.778, 326.24 mph; 9. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO dragster, 3.786, 320.28 mph; 10. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 3.793, 322.73 mph; 11. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Instigator dragster, 3.806, 323.66 mph; 12. Leah Pritchett, Avon, Ind., Gumout dragster, 3.817, 320.05 mph; 13. David Grubnic, Ennis, Mont., Optima Batteries dragster, 3.830, 321.96 mph; 14. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster, 3.843, 307.86 mph; 15. Troy Buff, Spring, Texas, Bill Miller Engineering dragster, 3.850, 309.36 mph; 16. Sidnei Frigo, Deerfield Beach, Fla., Artivinco dragster, 3.872, 313.58 mph.

Round 1 – 1. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster, 3.725, 329.42 mph, def. 16. Sidnei Frigo, Deerfield Beach, Fla., Artivinco dragster, 4.035, 243.58 mph; 2. Shawn Langdon, Mira Loma, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 4.420, 299.40 mph, def. 15. Troy Buff, Spring, Texas, Bill Miller Engineering dragster, 7.173, 85.89 mph; 14. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster, 3.797, 312.28 mph, def. 3. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, 4.076, 266.53 mph; 13. David Grubnic, Ennis, Mont., Optima Batteries dragster, 4.200, 319.57 mph, def. 4. Bob Vandergriff Jr., Alpharetta, Ga., C&J Energy dragster, 7.862, 58.52 mph; 5. Spencer Massey, Ft. Worth, Texas, Schumacher Electric dragster, 3.783, 320.51 mph, def. 12. Leah Pritchett, Avon, Ind., Gumout dragster, 3.850, 321.27 mph; 6. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster, 3.788, 323.66 mph, def. 11. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Instigator dragster, 3.993, 260.41 mph; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.760, 324.20 mph, def. 10. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 3.847, 321.50 mph; 9. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO dragster, 3.747, 322.88 mph, def. 8. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol EDGE dragster, 4.617, 279.50 mph.

Round 2 – Torrence, 3.792, 324.98 mph, def. Millican, 3.822, 316.08 mph; Massey, 3.782, 320.81 mph, def. Grubnic, 9.924, 73.80 mph; alBalooshi, 3.739, 322.58 mph, def. Langdon, 3.768, 322.19 mph; Kalitta, 3.729, 330.15 mph, def. Crampton, 3.764, 324.67 mph.

Semifinals – alBalooshi, 3.783, 318.69 mph, def. Torrence, 3.804, 323.66; Kalitta, 3.758, 327.82 mph, def. Massey, 3.790, 322.96 mph.

FINAL – Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.974, 324.36 mph, def. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster, 5.368, 143.40 mph.

FUNNY CAR
Final qualifying – 1. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 3.966, 324.12 mph; 2. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang, 3.996, 317.94 mph; 3. Alexis DeJoria, Austin, Texas, Patron Toyota Camry, 3.997, 318.32 mph; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, 4.001, 311.49 mph; 5. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge Charger, 4.014, 304.67 mph; 6. Del Worsham, Villa Park, Calif., DHL Toyota Camry, 4.040, 317.27 mph; 7. Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 4.046, 320.13 mph; 8. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline Dodge Charger, 4.049, 312.86 mph; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Make A Wish Dodge Charger, 4.069, 316.82 mph; 10. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Dodge Charger, 4.077, 316.01 mph; 11. Chad Head, Columbus, Ohio, Head Construction Toyota Camry 4.079, 303.23 mph; 12. Jeff Arend, La Verne, Calif., Mooneyes Equipment Dodge Charger, 4.097, 309.06 mph; 13. Bob Tasca III, Cranston, R.I., Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 4.132, 311.20 mph; 14. Gary Densham, Bellflower, Calif., Lawson Rock and Oil Dodge Charger, 4.147, 301.67 mph; 15. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 4.150, 316.23 mph; 16. Paul Lee, Orange, Calif., McLeod Clutches Dodge Charger, 4.162, 271.41 mph.

Round 1 – 1. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 3.989, 319.90 mph, def. 16. Paul Lee, Orange, Calif., McLeod Clutches Dodge Charger, broke; 2. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang, 3.986, 318.69 mph, def. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 6.526, 111.15 mph; 14. Gary Densham, Bellflower, Calif., Lawson Rock and Oil Dodge Charger, 4.826, 234.41 mph, def. 3. Alexis DeJoria, Austin, Texas, Patron Toyota Camry, 6.074, 136.24 mph; 13. Bob Tasca III, Cranston, R.I., Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 4.076, 316.30 mph, def. 4. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, 4.832, 156.72 mph; 5. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge Charger, 4.035, 317.79 mph, def. 12. Jeff Arend, La Verne, Calif., Mooneyes Equipment Dodge Charger, 4.092, 309.16 mph; 6. Del Worsham, Villa Park, Calif., DHL Toyota Camry, 4.024, 320.26 mph, def. 11. Chad Head, Columbus, Ohio, Head Construction Toyota Camry, 5.358, 142.54 mph; 10. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Dodge Charger, 4.036, 322.73 mph, def. 7. Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 4.083, 320.84 mph; 8. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline Dodge Charger, 4.048, 320.81 mph, def. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Make A Wish Dodge Charger, 4.071, 309.56 mph.

Round 2 – Hagan, 4.035, 322.04 mph, def. Hight, 4.033, 316.15 mph; Worsham, 4.056, 317.87 mph, def. Densham, 4.131, 281.54 mph; J. Force, 4.020, 321.27 mph, def. Johnson, 4.021, 322.73 mph; Tasca, 4.035, 317.12 mph, def. Capps, 4.378, 210.31 mph.

Semifinals – Hagan, 4.030, 318.32 mph, def. Worsham, 4.055, 321.42 mph; Force, 4.025, 322.27 mph, def. Tasca, 5.007, 195.51 mph.

FINAL – John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 3.965, 323.58 mph, def. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger, 6.613, 117.88 mph.

PRO STOCK
Final qualifying – 1. Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, N.Y., Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro, 6.510, 212.73 mph; 2. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Mopar Dodge Avenger, 6.512, 212.96 mph; 3. Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.514, 212.63 mph; 4. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Avenger, 6.515, 212.83 mph; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, New Orleans, La., Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro, 6.516, 212.29 mph; 6. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, 6.519, 211.53 mph; 7. Shane Gray, Denver, N.C., Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro, 6.528, 211.89 mph; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, JEGS.com Dodge Avenger, 6.531, 212.39 mph; 9. Rodger Brogdon, Tomball, Texas, Protect the Harvest Chevrolet Camaro, 6.541, 211.79 mph; 10. Jimmy Alund, Norrkoping, Ostergotland, Sweden, Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.546, 211.86 mph; 11. Chris McGaha, Odessa, Texas, Harlow Sammons Chevrolet Camaro, 6.552, 211.69 mph; 12. Deric Kramer, Sterling, Colo., American Ethanol Dodge Avenger, 6.566, 211.20 mph; 13. Greg Stanfield, Bossier City, La., Sun Litho Chevrolet Camaro, 6.567, 210.60 mph; 14. Matt Hartford, Phoenix, Ariz., Total Seal Piston Rings Dodge Avenger, 6.574, 209.79 mph; 15. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Lucas Oil Products Ford Mustang, 6.589, 209.75 mph; 16. Shane Tucker, Helensvale, Queensland, Australia, Auzmet Architectural Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.594, 210.50 mph.

Round 1 – 1. Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, N.Y., Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro, 6.524, 212.29 mph, def. 16. Shane Tucker, Helensvale, Queensland, Australia, Auzmet Architectural Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.594, 210.27 mph; 15. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Lucas Oil Products Ford Mustang, 6.568, 209.65 mph, def. 2. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Mopar Dodge Avenger, 6.567, 211.36 mph; 3. Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.548, 211.43 mph, def. 14. Matt Hartford, Phoenix, Ariz., Total Seal Piston Rings Dodge Avenger, 6.615, 209.30 mph; 4. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Avenger, 6.531, 211.89 mph, def. 13. Greg Stanfield, Bossier City, La., Sun Litho Chevrolet Camaro, 6.560, 210.24 mph; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, New Orleans, La., Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro, 6.540, 212.13 mph, def. 12. Deric Kramer, Sterling, Colo., American Ethanol Dodge Avenger, 6.554, 210.37 mph; 6. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, 6.527, 211.89 mph, def. 11. Chris McGaha, Odessa, Texas, Harlow Sammons Chevrolet Camaro, 7.943, 123.91 mph; 7. Shane Gray, Denver, N.C., Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro, 6.584, 211.69 mph, def. 10. Jimmy Alund, Norrkoping, Ostergotland, Sweden, Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, foul; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, JEGS.com Dodge Avenger, 6.568, 211.66 mph, def. 9. Rodger Brogdon, Tomball, Texas, Protect the Harvest Chevrolet Camaro, 7.147, 148.30 mph.

Round 2 – Gray, 6.533, 211.99 mph, def. Morgan, 6.572, 209.85 mph; Gaines, 6.527, 212.29 mph, def. Enders-Stevens, 6.544, 211.66 mph; Line, 6.536, 212.06 mph, def. Connolly, 6.544, 212.06 mph; Nobile, 6.534, 212.06 mph, def. Coughlin Jr., 6.568, 211.30 mph.

Semifinals – Line, 6.527, 212.23 mph, def. Gray, 6.541, 211.79 mph; Gaines, 6.543, 212.09 mph, def. Nobile, 6.541, 212.16 mph.

FINAL – Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.526, 212.06 mph, def. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Avenger, 6.533, 212.56 mph.

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