TEAM JFR RACE REPORT
24th of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Series
Final race in Countdown to the Championship
52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Nationals
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
November 11-13, 2016
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Final round results from Sunday’s 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Nationals, final race of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
FUNNY CAR – Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Make-A-Wish Dodge, 3.918, 320.51 mph def. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS, 3.918, 321.81 mph.
TOP FUEL – Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., MacTools dragster, 3.745, 326.63 def. JR Todd, Indianapolis, Ind., Sealmaster dragster, 3.704, 327.90 mph.
PRO STOCK – Greg Anderson, Mooresville, NC, Summit Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS, 6.580, 210.24 mph def. Jason Line, Mooresville, NC, Summit Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS, 6.570, 211.43 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Matt Smith, King, NC, Victory Racing Nitrofish Gunnr, 8.044, 117.34 mph def. Angelle Sampey, Mathews, La., Precision Service Equipment Buell, red-light DQ.
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POMONA, CA --- Today John Force raced through a greatest hits line-up of foes and long-time challengers on the way to his 247th final round and 100th runner-up finish of his legendary career. The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champion was racing for his ninth Auto Club Finals title but unfortunately the driver of the PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro came up .005 seconds short of defeating Tommy Johnson Jr. for the second time in the Countdown. The winningest driver in NHRA history outran some of his toughest competitors today, starting with Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps and Jack Beckman to set up another epic final round.
“Our race cars are fast. We’re running right there with them and we’re excited about next year where we’re going. We turned the corner this year and we’re moving ahead,” said a determined John Force. “We are going to be OK. I have the fire to win more championships. We are getting stronger with our sponsors and I am giving it my all to be the best driver I can be. I am proud of these young guys and we gave them a good fight today at the Auto Club Finals.”
John Force was racing Cruz Pedregon for the 101st time and it was Force picking up his 68th round win over the two-time champion. Pedregon jumped the start but Force’s 3.964 second run would have been too much for the No. 13 qualifier. The win put Force in position to race the newly crowned Funny Car champion Ron Capps in the second round.
Force had lane choice and he rolled the nose of the PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro deep into the starting line beam giving up a little elapsed time to get a starting line advantage. When the tree activated both Force and Capps took off and Force was first off the line .051 to .061 and 1000 feet later it was Force getting the win light by a nose with a winning elapsed time of 3.940 seconds to Capps’s 3.938. The math worked out to give Force a margin of victory of .008 seconds at over 320 mph. It was Force’s 51st round win over Capps in 81 meetings.
The semifinal race was a tough race for Force when you consider he was facing one of the few drivers he has a losing career round win record against, Jack Beckman. In 39 meetings Beckman holds a decisive advantage with a 28-11 winning record but Force had the upper hand at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona at both the Winternationals and today. Force had a nearly psychic reaction time against Beckman off of the starting line with a .038 to .072 starting line advantage. As Force was powering down the track to a winning elapsed time of 3.932 seconds Beckman was coasting to the finish line with a time of 9.012 seconds.
As Force rolled up to the starting line for the last round of eliminations against Tommy Johnson Jr. it was Force in the final round at the Auto Club Finals for the third time in the past four years and Johnson Jr., looking for his first win at the historic event in three attempts. Both racecars launched simultaneously with Johnson Jr getting and edge of .046 to .041 and that turned out to be the difference as both cars lit up the scoreboards with 3.918 second runs. Force closed out the Countdown with three final round appearances over the last six races and two wins.
The fans at the Auto Club NHRA Finals narrowly missed seeing another John Force versus Courtney Force all JFR Chevrolet Camaro final round. This season the elder Force has defeated his youngest daughter in the final round of the Denver national event and two weeks ago at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Courtney Force was ousted in the semifinal by eventual winner Tommy Johnson Jr. when he executed a nearly perfect reaction time, of .009, and he rode that advantage to the finish line getting the win with a 3.929 second run to Force’s quicker 3.916 second pass.
“We had a great race car this weekend in going rounds. To have that semifinal round matchup, we should have won it. I believe (Tommy Johnson Jr.) got away with luck on that one,” said Force. “I still think we were on a pretty good run and would have been able to outrun him, so we’re just going to have to look on to next season. All in all, our Traxxas Chevy Camaro team is feeling really good out the season and coming out pretty strong this weekend. I feel really good about the car we have and excited to see what we can do next season.”
Courtney Force came into race day as the No. 2 qualifier on the strength of her 3.869 second qualifying pass and in the first round she got the win when Jim Campbell red-lit. It was a lucky break for the Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner as she had to pedal her Traxxas Chevy Camaro to a 4.137 second winning elapsed time.
In the second round giving up lane choice to Jeff Arend, who was filling in for Alexis DeJoria, Force was back to her dominant ways posting a winning time of 3.922 seconds at 319.75 mph to set up the semifinal race with Johnson Jr. The strong finish moved Force up to No. 6 in the Mello Yello point standings.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Camaro had their race day cut short by Tommy Johnson Jr in the second round. Hight’s Camaro took a starting line advantage and a solid 3.921 second pass at an eye opening 330 mph to the finish line but it wasn’t enough for a 3.897 second run in the other lane.
“We had a great race car today and we just came up a little short,” said Hight. “That was a very close race in the second round and our Auto Club Chevy did everything we wanted it to with a 3.92. It took the quickest run of the day to beat us. This Auto Club Chevy has been great and I wish we could have gotten the win. No one is hanging their heads over here. The performance improvements we have seen this season will carry over into next season. I am going to start working towards another championship very soon.”
The Auto Club Camaro had the second quickest run of the first round, 3.929 seconds, in his win over veteran Paul Lee. Hight finished the season No. 8 in the Mello Yello point standings.
Brittany Force’s season ended in the first round today with an upset loss to Richie Crampton. Force had improved every session of qualifying but the No. 8 qualifier smoked the tires just past the 100 ft. mark as Crampton raced to the first round win. Eventhough the race did not go Force’s way she did finish the season with three wins and a career best No. 6 in Mello Yello point standings finish.
“It’s a tough way to end the season, but when you look back overall it was my best season yet. Three wins in a season is pretty strong. It’s challenging in Top Fuel; the competition is definitely tough. Going into next season I think we have a lot to work off of just with how strong our season was this year – constantly qualifying well, constantly going rounds, and also getting that monkey off our back with that first win,” said Force.
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS
Funny Car - 1. Ron Capps, 2605; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr, 2553; 3. Matt Hagan, 2493; 4. John Force, PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2486; 5. Jack Beckman, 2480; 6. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2414; 7. Del Worsham, 2406; 8. Robert Hight, Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2368; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2314; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2184
Top Fuel - 1. Antron Brown, 2663; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2533; 3. Steve Torrence, 2482; 4. JR Todd, 2455; 5. Shawn Langdon, 2443; 6. Brittany Force, Monster Energy dragster, 2399; 7. Leah Pritchett, 2389; 8. Tony Schumacher, 2387; 9. Richie Crampton, 2279; 10. Clay Millican, 2264
Pro Stock - 1. Jason Line, 2639; 2. Greg Anderson, 2636; 3. Shane Gray, 2492; 4. Bo Butner, 2453; 5. Vincent Nobile, 2449; 6. Drew Skillman, 2424; 7. Chris McGaha, 2327; 8. Allen Johnson, 2277; 9. Erica Enders Stevens, 2239; 10. Jeg Coughlin Jr, 2208
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 1. Jerry Savoie, 2595; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2571; 3. Andrew Hines, 2564; 4. Angelle Sampey, 2495; 5. Chip Ellis, 2415; 6. Matt Smith, 2389; 7. LE Tonglet, 2372; 8. Hector Arana Jr, 2315; 9. Cory Reed, 2313; 10. Hector Arana, 2279
JOHN FORCE, 67, PEAK Antifreeze 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 4th at 3.879, 330.96 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (2nd quickest of Q2 and Q3)
Race results: Beat Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps, Jack Beckman; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
ROBERT HIGHT, 47, Automobile Club of Southern California 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 6th at 3.889, 329.75 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
Race results: Beat Paul Lee; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
COURTNEY FORCE, 28, Traxxas 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 3.869, 324.83 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q3)
Race results: Beat Jim Campbell, Jeff Arend; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
BRITTANY FORCE, 30, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 8th at 3.731, 323.27 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race results: Lost to Richie Crampton.