Final round results from Sunday’s 37th annual Mopar Mile High NHRA Nationals, fourteenth race in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
FUNNY CAR – John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Realtree PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS, 3.965, 319.45 mph def. Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 3.963, 314.75 mph.
TOP FUEL – Tony Schumacher, Austin, Tex., US Army dragster, 3.802, 324.28 def. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco/US Army dragster, 5.199, 144.75 mph.
PRO STOCK – Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Marathon Dodge Dart, 6.982, 197.39 mph def. Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, NY, Mountainview Tires Chevrolet Camaro, 7.037, 196.82 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCE – Andrew Hines, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley Davidson V-Rod, 7.134, 188.33 mph def. Eddie Krawiec, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley Davidson V-Rod, 7.148, 187.21 mph.
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HISTORIC WIN FOR JOHN FORCE AT DENVER’S MILE HIGH NATIONALS
DENVER, CO --- John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, continued to add to his legendary body of work winning for the 7th time at the Mopar Mile High NHRA Nationals in ten final round appearances and for the unprecedented 144th time. This is the 29th season Force has won at least one Funny Car national event, an accomplishment unequaled in all of motorsports. The 16-time Funny Car champion had to defeat his youngest daughter and NHRA superstar in her own right, Courtney Force, in the final round to get the win.
In the final round Force turned a slight starting line advantage into a win light when his Realtree PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Camaro got to the finish line in front of Courtney’s Traxxas Camaro with a winning elapsed time of 3.965 seconds at 319.45 mph. It was a spectacular side by side three second final with Courtney recording her third three second run of the day in a losing effort.
“It feels real good. All those records you set in the past….I was runner-up here the past two years to (Jack) Beckman and Robert Hight. At the end of the day, I am young. I will fight this thing until I drop. But I have got new sponsors like PEAK and with Realtree camouflage and Chevrolet. We went and tested and Courtney (Force) was there helping me, Robert (Hight) was there helping me. We got through it, we came on this hill and we found a little bit of magic. If you go look at the whippings we have been taking from Schumacher (Racing) and Kalitta (Racing) all year. Everyone on the team has been winning except me. I needed this real bad and I told Courtney, ‘Hey, you are my baby, I love you and I know you want to do good for Traxxas, but I am giving this everything I got,’” said Force.
“I give credit to Mike Neff, who heads my program in Funny Car and Jon Schaffer that runs my Funny Car with a bunch of kids. Have to thank Daniel Hood that runs Courtney’s car too. I brought on Alan Johnson, Jason McCullough and Brian Husen and I turned it all over to them. We got to get out of the dragster business, get back into the Funny Car business. John Force Racing is back in business,” added Force.
The win by Force evened his final round record at 2-2 with his youngest daughter and moved him within 34 points of seventh place in the Mello Yello point standings.
Force started the day as the No. 2 qualifier and defeated Jeff Diehl, Matt Hagan, and Del Worsham to reach his 243rd final round. The win was Force’s seventh at Bandimere Speedway and his 13th in a Chevrolet. This was the first win by John Force Racing in the new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car.
Force introduced a national audience on FOX TV to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for the first time. The winners of all four NHRA pro classes today have a combined 30 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
“That is pretty cool. You look at (Tony) Schumacher and he hasn’t won either, but he is 30 years younger than me. He is still climbing that hill with all of those championships. You look at me and I have already climbed that hill. I am at the PEAK, like this shirt says. And I am hanging on. So it was good for me to get a win. But it (being on FOX) is awesome. I am already getting calls from people saying that it’s awesome what is being done. I thank (NHRA president) Peter Clifford and his staff and everybody who worked so hard on this thing.”
This was Force’s 22nd win on the Western Swing and puts him in position heading to the Toyota Sonoma Nationals to win the Western Swing sweep for the second time. Force is the only Funny Car driver to ever win all three Western Swing races.
“I just love racing. I was giggly with my kid and she was like ‘What is wrong with you and why aren’t you serious?’. Because that is how I play the game. Everyone has their own deal and my deal is to try and find my heart, go up there, get my kid out of my mind and I completely forgot I was racing her. I needed to get rid of that, because that will slow me down,” confessed Force. “I have won a lot of championships and I am going to win more races and I am going to win some more championships. What I am saying is I know that father time is going to get me but I am stuck for five more years. But the point is this. I love doing it. I can still do this game. And that is why I love it.”
Force’s last win came last season at the New England NHRA Nationals in Epping, New Hampshire. In the 29 races since that win Force has appeared in two additional final rounds including this race last season. His second year crew chief Jon Schaffer continued to work tirelessly to give Force a consistent race car that would propel him to victory today.
“This PEAK team came together. That is a good team over there, Courtney’s Traxxas team, but we stepped it up and just went for it and it worked. I set it up like Q1 and that is what it ran Q1. I am just happy and proud of this John Force Racing and John Force. It’s been a long time due and we got it,” said Schaffer from the starting line after Force’s win.
Courtney Force qualified in the No. 1 position, advanced to her 16th final round in Funny Car and moved up to the No. 2 position in the NHRA Mello Yello point standings this weekend at Bandimere Speedway. She dismissed Jim Campbell, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Robert Hight before losing a blower belt and ultimately losing one of the closest side-by-side three-second races all weekend.
“We had a great weekend out here starting off the Western Swing at the Mile High NHRA Nationals in Denver. This is one of the most challenging race tracks and I’m so proud of my team because I definitely think that we turned things around in a huge way coming to this track. We did quite a bit better than we have in the past and it definitely goes to show the type of team that I have working on my car. My crew chiefs, Danny Hood and Ronnie Thompson, they’ve given me a consistent race car round by round,” said Force.
The 28-year-old picked up eight bonus points throughout qualifying and posted a low ET of 3.917 seconds at 318.39 mph to claim her tenth career No. 1 qualifier. She has four wins from the top spot in her nine previous starts.
In the opening round on race day Force matched up with Jim Campbell for the first time in her career. He was her 34th different opponent since her 2012 debut in the Funny Car ranks. She made an excellent pass to dismiss Campbell in round one. Her 3.972 ET at 315.42 was low of the round and she advanced to the quarterfinals.
Force’s 3.972 in the first round granted her lane choice against competitor Tommy Johnson Jr in the second round. This was their fourth match-up this season, but their first time racing each other at Denver. It was also the fifth time they have met in the second round. The pair left the starting line with almost identical reaction times and Force was out to an early lead. The Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car fell six thousandths of a second behind at 330 foot mark, but had made it up and jumped ahead by the 660 foot mark. She raced straight down the groove to get the second round win with a 4.016 at 315.56 mph to Johnson Jr.’s 4.032 ET at 315.71 mph. It was an extremely close race with a margin of victory at .0154 seconds, approximately seven feet. Force is now 7-4 against Johnson Jr. in eliminations.
Force missed out on lane choice going into the semifinals against her teammate and President of John Force Racing, Robert Hight. She was 7-10 to Hight going into the semifinals. It was the fourth time Force has raced Hight this season and the third time they have lined up at Denver. It was only the third time ever they have met in the semifinals.
Force launched with a .052 reaction time and ran low of race day with a 3.937 second pass at 322.04 mph. Hight left the starting line -0.021 too early and fouled out, which left Force sailing on to the final round with lane choice over her father, 16-time Champion John Force.
“I’m so proud of my guys. We moved up to second in the points in this Traxxas Chevy Camaro. We were one of the fastest on the mountain for the Fastest Name in Radio Control cars. I’m really proud of all they did this weekend. I’m bummed we weren’t able to go home with the win against my dad in the final round, but excited that it was on the FOX network. I think that’s huge for our sport.”
“I’m proud of my dad for getting that win. We were right there. He was right out my window the whole way down. I actually thought we had him. We had a little bit of trouble with the belt on the car. It kind of shredded up right at the finish line and he went by me for the win. He’s done a great job all weekend in his Realtree PEAK Camaro and he definitely snuck up on me with that camo, so great job to him and his team, but our Traxxas team is going to be ready for Sonoma,” said Force.
For the third race in a row Robert Hight and the Auto Club of Southern California raced to the semifinals. The No. 5 qualifier had one of the most consistent race cars all weekend and he took out Cruz Pedregon and then John Hale before running up against Courtney Force.
The two round wins today combined with the strong qualifying effort moved Hight up to a tie for the No. 5 position in the point standings and the 2009 Funny Car champion is only four points out of 4th place in the Funny Car standings.
The Auto Club Camaro was the second quickest Funny Car of the first round with a solid 3.992 second run and it was the quickest of the second session with a 3.997 second run. In the semis Hight crossed the finish line with a powerful 3.984 second run.
“This Auto Club Camaro has been great this weekend. I knew I was going to need everything in the semifinals against Courtney. We made three three second runs in the heat today and I am excited to get to Sonoma. There is more performance in this Chevrolet and I know Mike Neff will give me an awesome race car for the rest of the Western Swing and season. This was a huge day for John Force Racing and the NHRA. There was a lot of excitement around the FOX national broadcast and I am proud of everyone on this team for representing all our sponsors so well,” said Hight.
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster took out Terry McMillen in the first round. This was the fourth time Force has defeated McMillen this season. Force took a starting line advantage and drove the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster to victory with a winning time of 3.829 seconds in front of McMillen’s 5.689 seconds.
“(The win) feels good. We had a late night last night. Getting that win makes it all worth it. These Monster Energy guys are giving me a great race car and hopefully we’ll keep going rounds,” said Force, from the top end after first round win.
Force’s winning time was one of the quickest of the first round but she will give up lane choice against veteran Clay Millican in the second round. The fourth year driver also had the second quickest reaction time of the session a stellar .054 to just the jump off the starting line.
The clouds that rolled over Bandimere Speedway for the first round of eliminations cleared up hours later for the second round which sent all the crew chiefs scrambling for tune up adjustments. Against Clay Millican in the second round Force took a starting line advantage but overpowered the track at about 300 feet. The two-time 2016 winner had to watch as Millican pulled away.
“Yeah, I think it’s just a tough track here and we tried to step it up knowing what was ahead of us in knowing what everyone has been running. So we tried to step it up and it was a little too much and we smoked the tires. I pedaled it and got after it and Millican made a good pass and took the win light. We obviously want the win but we will just have to go after it at the next race in Sonoma,” summed up Force.
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MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. Ron Capps, 1120; 2. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 998; 3. Jack Beckman, 976; 4. Matt Hagan, 881; 5. Robert Hight, Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 877; 5. Del Worsham, 877; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr, 855; 8. John Force, Realtree PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS, 821; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 793; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 733
TOP FUEL – 1. Antron Brown, 1145; 2. Doug Kalitta, 1088; 3. Steve Torrence, 982; 4. Brittany Force, Monster Energy dragster, 953; 5. Tony Schumacher, 916; 6. Shawn Langdon, 800; 7. JR Todd, 799; 8. Clay Millican, 681; 9. Richie Crampton, 660; 10. Leah Pritchett, 553
PRO STOCK – 1. Jason Line, 1548; 2. Greg Anderson, 1466; 3. Bo Butner, 955; 4. Allen Johnson, 885; 5. Vincent Nobile, 758; 6. Drew Skillman, 753; 7. Chris McGaha, 661; 8. Shane Gray, 658; 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr, 613; 10. Alex Laughlin, 595
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Eddie Krawiec, 742; 2. Andrew Hines, 633; 3. Angelle Sampey, 534; 4. Jerry Savoie, 500; 5. Chip Ellis, 386; 6. Hector Arana, 375; 7. LE Tonglet, 364; 8. Matt Smith, 290; 9. Steve Johnson, 268; 10. Michael Ray, 262
JOHN FORCE, 67, Realtree/PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 3.935, 320.43 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +5 (quickest of Q1 and 2nd quickest of Q2)
Race results: Beat Jeff Diehl, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Courtney Force
ROBERT HIGHT, 46, Auto Club 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 5th at 3.975, 315.86 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (3rd quickest of Q1, quickest of Q3)
Race results: Beat Cruz Pedregon, John Hale; Lost to Courtney Force
COURTNEY FORCE, 28, Traxxas 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.917, 318.39 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +8 (quickest of Q2, 2nd quickest of Q3 and quickest of Q4)
Race results: Beat Jim Campbell, Tommy Johnson Jr, Robert Hight; Lost to Courtney Force
BRITTANY FORCE, 30, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 4th at 3.813, 316.30 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
Race results: Beat Terry McMillen; Lost to Clay Millican