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JUL 28, 2014 | Sonoma, Calif.

Courtney Grabs Win in All-Force Sonoma Final

Courtney_Force_Sonoma

(Courtesy: Ford Racing Correspondent)

John Force clinched a spot in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship by taking his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang to the final round for the third straight event, but it was youngest daughter Courtney who hoisted the hardware Sunday at the 27th annual Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

The NHRA’s 44th all-John Force Racing final round wasn’t particularly pretty – Courtney getting her Traxxas Mustang to the finish line first in an almost pedestrian 4.253 seconds; her dad slowing in the heat to 4.405 – but it did underscore Ford Racing’s season-long dominance in the Funny Car division.

In fact, it was the ninth win in 14 races this year for Ford Racing and the fifth time that JFR Mustangs lined up for the payoff round side-by-side.  Ford can complete a sweep of the rigorous three-race Western Swing this week at Seattle, Wash.

“I was outrunning her at half-track by a car and then it rattled,” John Force said of the final.  “It drove through that little bit of rattle but then it blew the tires off.  I still thought I had her, but she went by me right at the finish line.”

For Courtney, it was an emotional victory – and not just because it came against her father.  It also enabled her for the first time to celebrate a victory at the Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social that convenes each year at the conclusion of eliminations.

The fete is named in honor of former JFR driver Eric Medlen, a native of nearby Oakdale, Calif., who was an early mentor to Courtney and her sisters before losing his life in a March 2007 testing accident in Gainesville, Fla.  Medlen won the 2006 Sonoma Nationals, his only win on his home track.

“It just turned out to be a great day,” Courtney said. “It definitely wasn’t what I expected after qualifying and not having a completely consistent car.  

“I saw dad out my window the whole way down track and we were able to get around him and get that win. I think I saw puffs of smoke. I don’t know if it was his car or mine.  I felt like mine was trying to spin the tires,” said the 2012 NHRA Rookie of the Year.

“The pressure was actually off (in the final round) because I was already celebrating after I won the semis,” she said.  “I knew one of us was going to be in the winners’ circle.  One of us was going to win and, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who it is.  But dad has 140 wins right now and I was thinking I’d really like to just get five.”

It was the first time that Courtney’s boyfriend, Graham Rahal, had seen her win.

“It’s kind of cool that he’s here because he doesn’t get to come to a ton of my races,” she said, “but any that he did come to my team started looking at him as bad luck (but) it’s kind of cool that Graham got to celebrate the win with me and now my guys can’t give him a hard time anymore.

“I think our entire team is definitely gelling better. Every year I’ve had the same crew chief since the start of my rookie season and the great thing about John Force Racing is we all stick together as a team and we’re not over here trying to move our guys around left and right.

“I like to keep my same routine. It makes me comfortable and I think it makes everybody else comfortable. I actually put a lot more pressure on myself now in my third season because now I’m looking at, well, maybe we do have a championship car.

It was the first Funny Car win at Sonoma for a woman driver and it propelled Courtney to new status as the winningest woman in Funny Car history.  She and older sister Ashley Force Hood previously had shared that distinction with four wins apiece.

“I’ve just had my eyes set on Ashley for a while. She did a great job and I looked up to her. I knew she had four wins and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job if I can do half as well as she did.  It’s cool but I’m only as good as my team. I owe it all to them.”

The 26-year-old, a spokesperson for Ford’s Driving Skills for Life initiative, won from the No. 1 qualifying position for the third time in two years.  Nevertheless, after putting up the event’s best numbers on Friday (4.045 seconds, 319.22 miles per hour),  she admittedly struggled on Sunday.

She won her Sunday rounds with times of 6.631, 4.276, 4.235 and, finally, 4.253.  By comparison, en route to her May victory in Topeka, Kan., she stopped the timers in 4.108, 4.114, 4.154 and 4.148 seconds. Nevertheless, Sunday’s win was no less sweet.

As good as things were for JFR in the final round, the day didn’t begin that well.

First, Brittany Force was upset in the first round after qualifying No. 1 in the Ford-powered Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster.  Then, Funny Car points leader Robert Hight was guilty of a rare foul start at the wheel of the Auto Club Ford Mustang.

“I don’t know what happened,” Hight said.  “I wasn’t nervous. I have one of the best cars out here, I got a good night’s sleep and I was ready to go some rounds.  I just rolled up there, got staged and the next thing you know my foot just went.  

“(Crew chief) Mike Neff and these guys gave me a great race car,” said the man who has won five races this year and led the points the last 12 races.  “We ran strong in the heat yesterday and I thought we would have a great day.  I just have to focus better. I’ll be ready for Seattle and I’m going to put this race behind me.”

It was a little bit better for Tim Wilkerson and Bob Tasca III who both survived the first round – but not the second.

Wilkerson stunned No. 4 qualifier Jack Beckman to reclaim the No. 10 position in points while Tasca shook off a lengthy slump and drove his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Ford past the Toyota of former Top Fuel World Champion Del Worsham.

Unfortunately, neither was able to go any further.

"I have a suspicion that we're going to be tussling right up to race day at Indy,” Wilkerson said of his battle with Beckman for one of the last transfer spots into the Countdown.  “It's so tight out here and there are so many good cars all around us, but if we both get going, maybe we both end up in the playoffs and we knock someone else out.

“It's like trying to put two gallons of water in a one-gallon jug,” the owner, driver and tuner on the Levi, Ray and Shoup Mustang said, “because there are more good teams than there are playoff spots. We're going to have to grind it out, lap after lap.

"We're looking forward to Seattle already and I'm always feeling good when we go there. It's a great place, the fans are great, and the track is a bit quirky being out in the woods like it is, but we've run so well there over the years we roll in there feeling like we have a good chance.”

As a result of making the final round, John Force joined Hight as teams who have secured a playoff spot, insuring a record 30th straight Top-10 finish.

“When the cars are running like this you get the mental attitude that you can win,” Force said of his resurgent Mustang.  “That means you can beat anybody and that stays with you through the day.”

 *****

Final round results from Sunday’s 27th annual Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway
TOP FUEL – Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.912, 309.42 mph, def. Chad Langdon, Avon, Ind., Al-Anabi dragster, 4.008, 271.35 mph.
FUNNY CAR – Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 4.253, 296.24 mph, def. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang, 4.405, 237.05 mph.
PRO STOCK – Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.548, 211.73 mph, def. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Dart, 6.564, 211.30 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Eddie Krawiec, Englishtown, N.J., Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod, 6.854, 193.99 mph, def. Gerald Savoie, Cut Off, La., Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki, foul.
COMPETITION – Alan Ellis, Mapleton, Utah, 1923 Ford T-Roadster, def. Dan Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y., 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt.
SUPER STOCK – Jeff Taylor, Sellersburg, Ind., 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, def. Tommy Gaynor, Battle Ground, Wash., 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier.
STOCK – Dan Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y., 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, def. Brent Calvert, Lancaster, Calif., 2014 Ford Mustang.
SUPER COMP – Chad Langdon, La Mirada, Calif., dragster, def. Matt Constant, Stockton, Calif., dragster.
SUPER GAS – Thomas Bayer, Fontana, Calif., 1957 Chevrolet Corvette, def. Michael Miller, Moriarty, N.M., 1927 Ford T-Roadster.
TOP DRAGSTER – Bobby Ray McMahan, Lodi, Calif., dragster, def. Andy Spiegel, Acton, Calif., dragster.
TOP SPORTSMAN – Ted Kellner, San Jose, Calif., 2001 Pontiac Firebird, def. Curt Geise, Auburn, Wash., 2008 Pontiac GTO.

*****

Unofficial Mello Yello points following Sunday’s 27th annual Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma, Raceway
TOP FUEL – 1. Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools dragster, 1223; 2. Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster, 1177; 3. Shawn Langdon, Al-Anabi dragster, 1065; 4. Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster, 911; 5. Steve Torrence, Capco Contractors dragster, 867; 6. Spencer Massey, Schumacher Electric dragster, 862; 7. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 824; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, Al-Anabi dragster, 801; 9. Richie Crampton, GEICO dragster, 752; 10. J.R. Todd, Optima Batteries dragster, 741.

FUNNY CAR – 1. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford, 1216; 2. John Force, Castrol GTX Ford, 1097; 3. Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge, 957; 4. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford, 941; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Make A Wish Dodge, 938; 6. Alexis DeJoria, Patron XO Café Toyota, 883; 7. Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Dodge, 868; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Snap-on Tools Toyota, 840; 9. Del Worsham, DHL Toyota, 816; 10. Tim Wilkerson, Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford, 762.  Also, 11. Jack Beckman, Valvoline Dodge, 743; 12. Bob Tasca III, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, 569.

PRO STOCK – 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Elite Chevrolet, 1229; 2. Allen Johnson, Mopar Dodge, 1107; 3. Jason Line, Summit Racing Chevrolet, 1074; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr., JEGS.com Dodge, 1073; 5. Dave Connolly, Charter Communications Chevy, 1023; 6. Shane Gray, Gray Engineering Chevrolet, 931; 7. Vincent Nobile, Mountain View Tire Chevrolet, 926; 8. Vieri Gaines, Kendall Dodge, 688; 9. Chris McGaha, Harlow Sammons Chevrolet, 686; 10. Jonathan Gray, Gray Motorsports Chevrolet, 568. Also, 11. Greg Anderson, Summit Racing Camaro, 550; 12. Larry Morgan, Lucas Oil Products Ford, 489.

*****

Final qualifying order and round-by-round results from Sunday’s 27th annual Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway
TOP FUEL
Final qualifying order – 1. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol EDGE dragster, 3.762, 325.53 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster, 3.792, 324.20 mph; 3. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 3.793, 323.43 mph; 4. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, 3.796, 319.60 mph; 5. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO dragster, 3.799, 324.05 mph; 6. Bob Vandergriff Jr., Alpharetta, Ga., C&J Energy dragster, 3.806, 319.60 mph; 7. J.R. Todd, Indianapolis, Ind., Optima Batteries dragster, 3.818, 316.82 mph; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., al-Anabi dragster, 3.828, 316.52 mph; 9. Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster, 3.886, 314.31 mph; 10. Shawn Langdon, Avon, Ind., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.890, 313.37 mph; 11. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster, 3.898, 314.24 mph; 12. Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Scrappers Racing dragster, 3.905, 290.44 mph; 13. Spencer Massey, Ft. Worth, Texas, Schumacher Electric Battery Extender dragster, 3.913, 302.48 mph; 14. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Instigator dragster, 4.061, 301.60 mph; 15. Steven Chrisman, Anaheim, Calif., Nitro Fish dragster, 4.164, 260.81 mph; 16. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster, 4.293, 200.00 mph.

Round 1 – 16. Clay Millican, Drummonds, Tenn., Parts Plus dragster, 3.921, 305.63 mph, def. 1. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol EDGE dragster, 3.909, 308.28 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster, 3.832, 320.97 mph, def. 15. Steven Chrisman, Anaheim, Calif., Nitro Fish dragster, 4.762, 162.06 mph; 3. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 3.795, 324.20 mph, def. 14. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Instigator dragster, 4.816, 155.78 mph; 13. Spencer Massey, Ft. Worth, Texas, Schumacher Electric Battery Extender dragster, 3.796, 322.72 mph, def. 4. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, 4.522, 182.58 mph; 5. Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO dragster, 3.808, 325.68 mph, def. 12. Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Scrappers Racing dragster, foul; 11. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster, 3.818, 323.80 mph, def. 6. Bob Vandergriff Jr., Alpharetta, Ga., C&J Energy dragster, 4.173, 256.66 mph; 10. Shawn Langdon, Avon, Ind., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.839, 314.90 mph, def. 7. J.R. Todd, Indianapolis, Ind., Optima Batteries dragster, 5.931, 111.57 mph; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., al-Anabi dragster, 3.775, 323.27 mph, def. 9. Billy Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster, 3.868, 318.23 mph.

Round 2 – Langdon, 3.864, 300.13 mph, def. Kalitta, 3.948, 308.50 mph; Crampton, 4.269, 255.92 mph, def. Massey, 5.417, 140.17 mph; alBalooshi, 3.878, 309.77 mph, def. Millican, 8.691, 64.15 mph; Schumacher, 3.874, 318.99 mph, def. S. Torrence, 5.266, 140.66 mph.

Semifinals – alBalooshi, 4.066, 271.73 mph, def. Crampton, 4.126, 267.37 mph; Langdon, 4.274, 244.74 mph, def. Schumacher, 6.123, 127.41 mph.

FINAL – Khalid alBalooshi, Los Angeles, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.912, 309.42 mph, def. Chad Langdon, Avon, Ind., Al-Anabi dragster, 4.008, 271.35 mph.

FUNNY CAR
Final qualifying order – 1. Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 4.045, 319.22 mph; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, 4.051, 311.92 mph; 3. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.070, 313.73 mph; 4. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline Dodge Charger, 4.075, 314.83 mph; 5. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Dodge Charger, 4.075, 307.30 mph; 6. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang, 4.088, 310.48 mph; 7. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge Charger, 4.093, 314.61 mph; 8. Del Worsham, Villa Park, Calif., DHL Toyota Camry, 4.098, 312.57 mph; 9. Bob Tasca III, Cranston, R.I., Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 4.125, 309.98 mph; 10. Alexis DeJoria, Austin, Texas, Patron Toyota Camry, 4.129, 307.37 mph; 11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Make A Wish Dodge Charger, 4.158, 300.93 mph; 12. Tony Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., American Racing Wheels Toyota Camry, 4.185, 298.01 mph; 13. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 4.214, 292.33 mph; 14. Paul Lee, Orange, Calif., McLeod Clutches Dodge Charger, 4.246, 283.01 mph; 15. Gary Densham, Menifee, Calif., Densham Motorsports Dodge Charger, 4.321, 285.20 mph; 16. Peter Russo, Colton, Calif., PRR Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 6.248, 99.36 mph.

Round 1 – 1. Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 6.631, 96.06 mph, def. 16. Peter Russo, Colton, Calif., PRR Chevrolet Monte Carlo, broke; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, 4.076, 314.46 mph, def. 15. Gary Densham, Menifee, Calif., Densham Motorsports Dodge Charger, 8.221, 92.76 mph; 3. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.100, 311.34 mph, def. 14. Paul Lee, Orange, Calif., McLeod Clutches Dodge Charger, 4.163, 306.12 mph; 13. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 4.094, 311.92 mph, def. 4. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline Dodge Charger, 4.443, 207.85 mph; 5. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Dodge Charger, 4.140, 305.91 mph, def. 12. Tony Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., American Racing Wheels Toyota Camry, 4.320, 234.25 mph; 11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Make A Wish Dodge Charger, 4.105, 310.77 mph, def. 6. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang, foul; 10. Alexis DeJoria, Austin, Texas, Patron Toyota Camry, 4.119, 308.85 mph, def. 7. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge Charger, 4.533, 220.51 mph; 9. Bob Tasca III, Cranston, R.I., Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 4.130, 310.62 mph, def. 8. Del Worsham, Villa Park, Calif., DHL Toyota Camry, 4.151, 307.86 mph.

Round 2 – J. Force, 4.137, 307.23 mph, def. Johnson, 5.034, 159.95 mph; DeJoria, 4.160, 300.80 mph, def. C. Pedregon, 4.743, 180.87 mph; Hagan, 4.159, 296.80 mph, def. Wilkerson, 5.944, 118.14 mph; C. Force, 4.276, 293.15 mph, def. Tasca, 4.666, 197.85 mph.

Semifinals – J. Force, 4.418, 262.90 mph, def. DeJoria, 12.042, 79.86 mph; C. Force, 4.235, 293.86 mph, def. Hagan, 6.067, 118.00 mph.

FINAL – Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 4.253, 296.24 mph, def. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang, 4.405, 237.05 mph.

PRO STOCK
Final qualifying order – 1. Shane Gray, Denver, N.C., Gray Manufacturing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.539, 212.13 mph; 2. Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.541, 211.53 mph; 3. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Magneti-Morelli Dodge Dart, 6.547, 210.97 mph; 4. Greg Anderson, Mooresville, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.551, 211.93 mph; 5. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, JEGS.com Dodge Dart, 6.552, 212.03 mph; 6. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro, 6.564, 209.85 mph; 7. Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, N.Y., Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro, 6.567, 211.30 mph; 8. Chris McGaha, Odessa, Texas, Harlow Sammons Chevrolet Camaro, 6.582, 210.97 mph; 9. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Dart, 6.583, 209.98 mph; 10. Jonathon Gray, Mooresville, N.C., Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, 6.593, 210.54 mph; 11. Matt Hartford, Phoenix, Ariz., Perfect Seal Dodge Avenger, 6.613, 211.00 mph; 12. Deric Kramer, Sterling, Colo., American Ethanol Dodge Avenger, 6.613, 209.56 mph; 13. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, 6.660, 208.75 mph; 14. Tommy Lee, Statesville, N.C., Larry Morgan Racing Ford Mustang, 6.680, 208.01 mph; 15. Joey Grose, Lodi, Calif., Skyler Electric Chevrolet Camaro, 6.896, 199.64 mph.

Round 1 – 1. Shane Gray, Denver, N.C., Gray Manufacturing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.522, 212.36 mph, bye; 2. Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.520, 212.46 mph, def. 15. Joey Grose, Lodi, Calif., Skyler Electric Chevrolet Camaro, 6.861, 199.35 mph; 3. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Magneti-Morelli Dodge Dart, 6.521, 211.79 mph, def. 14. Tommy Lee, Statesville, N.C., Larry Morgan Racing Ford Mustang, foul; 4. Greg Anderson, Mooresville, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.537, 212.33 mph, def. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, 6.693, 206.64 mph; 5. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, JEGS.com Dodge Dart, 6.527, 212.16 mph, def. 12. Deric Kramer, Sterling, Colo., American Ethanol Dodge Avenger, 6.597, 210.31 mph; 6. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro, 6.571, 211.56 mph, def. 11. Matt Hartford, Phoenix, Ariz., Perfect Seal Dodge Avenger, 6.593, 210.83 mph; 10. Jonathon Gray, Mooresville, N.C., Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, 6.561, 211.93 mph, def. 7. Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, N.Y., Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro, 6.571, 211.16 mph; 9. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Dart, 6.547, 212.23 mph, def. 8. Chris McGaha, Odessa, Texas, Harlow Sammons Chevrolet Camaro, 7.409, 140.93 mph.

Round 2 – Coughlin, 6.558, 212.23 mph, def. Anderson, 6.563, 211.73 mph; Connolly, 6.545, 212.23 mph, def. Johnson, 11.535, 92.77 mph; Gaines, 6.552, 212.29 mph, def. S. Gray, 16.692, 48.82 mph; Line, 6.545, 212.03 mph, def. J. Gray, 6.611, 211.59 mph.

Semifinals – Gaines, 6.556, 211.89 mph, def. Coughlin, 6.790, 187.44 mph; Line, 6.535, 212.66 mph, def. Connolly, 16.915, 47.85 mph.

FINAL – Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.548, 211.73 mph, def. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Kendall Dodge Dart, 6.564, 211.30 mph.