POMONA, CA---- John Force ended his 2013 Mello Yello NHRA championship season on a high night but not the highest note. Force lost a close final round to Matt Hagan at the 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang had been nearly invincible the past five races. In the final he covered the 1000 ft. race track in 4.0057 seconds but Hagan was slightly quicker with a 4.018 second pass. His win streak may have been stopped at three races but the competitive fire was fanned heading into the off-season.

“(Matt) Hagan is a good competitor. I really wanted that final. I wanted to close this season out tonight. There is only one positive thing that comes out of this. At the other end when he congratulated me on the championship and I congratulated him on the win I knew right then I am ready to race next year,” said Force, who won 19 rounds in the Countdown this season. “This is what I do and I want to win them all if I can. I know you can’t do that but that will be my attitude next season. That is what it takes. Robert Hight has that attitude. My girls are learning that attitude. That is the key.  I have sponsors to find and I have a lot of work to do next year. I am going for seventeen.”

In the eleven races that Force teamed up with crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and Danny DeGennaro the trio raced to six final rounds, won three races, and had a 24-8 round win record. The nineteen round wins in the Countdown ties Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel, 2008) for the most round wins in Countdown history.

Force outran Bob Bode in the first round and won a pedal-fest against Jeff Arend in the second round. In the semi-finals against Gary Densham Force was once again the quickest of the session with a 4.043 second run to head to a final round match-up with Hagan.

The Auto Club Ford Mustang and Robert Hight did not meet his personal expectations on race day. The team dropped a surprising first round against Ron Capps as his Mustang smoked the tires at the top end. Hight will finish in the Top Ten for the ninth consecutive year and he once again won multiple events for the ninth consecutive year but the 2009 Funny Car champion knows that he has some unfinished business.

“That first round loss was tough. We wanted to go out and win this race for our sponsor, the Automobile Club of Southern California. We will put this race behind us and start getting ready for 2014. We won the U.S. Nationals and the first race of the Countdown,” said Hight.

“Getting off to a strong start next season will be critical but I have a great team behind me. Mike Neff and I have worked really well together and we have a great team here at John Force Racing. We won the championship and got all our Funny Cars in the Top Ten.”

Although Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team tripped in the first round to Bob Tasca III, the sophomore driver will finish in the No. 7 spot in the NHRA Mello Yello point standings. This is the second year in a row that the young driver has experienced a top ten finish.

“We had a tough competitor in the opening round. We went up there against Bob Tasca III in the first round; a fellow Ford driver. He’s a tough opponent, but we went up there with lane choice. Originally we had our eyes set on the left lane, but switched over to the right lane. We thought it would be better for us.”

The Traxxas Ford Mustang driver qualified in the No. 3 spot. She was first off the line and out ahead, but hazed the tires and Tasca drove around her for the win. Coming into this race, Force was 7-1 against Tasca in prior events and 4-0 in round one.

“We had a malfunction on the starting line with a parachute coming out, which was just one of those freak things that happens from time to time. We got the car ready and pulled up to run. That right lane was giving us trouble in qualifying. We thought we had fixed the problem, but we had an issue in one spot on the track and it caused it to spin the tires and (Tasca) drove on past me,” said Force. 

In 2013, the 25-year-old had two runner-up finishes, appearing in the final round at both Las Vegas events. She also won two national events, including the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona where she was No. 1 qualifier, and the Inaugural event in Epping, N.H. After today, she has qualified in the top five 12 times this season, including the last six races in a row.

“I’m just very proud of my team to close out this season well and to make it into the top ten. We shuffled down a couple spots today, but I’m just proud of every guy on my team and everything they have done for me this year. I definitely see that we had a shot to go all the way up to the No. 2 spot and maybe next year we’ll have a shot at the No. 1 spot. I think we had a great season and I’m looking forward to getting back out there and testing in January,” said Force.

The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster team saved their best effort for the final race of the season. During qualifying the team lowered their personal best elapsed time record two times and finished in the top half of the field. That qualifying position proved to be a critical advantage as Brittany Force had lane choice and won a back and forth pedal-fest over Spencer Massey.

In the second round she faced Brandon Bernstein, another second generation driver, and for the first time this season Force advanced to the semi-final round.  A strong 3.855 second run quickly outpaced Bernstein’s tire smoking effort. The rookie driver was pleased with her season finale effort even though she dropped the semi-final race to Doug Kalitta.

“To be able to go to the semi-finals at the last race of the season really has us ending on a great note. I love racing Doug Kalitta. He is a great professional and he comes over before the run and says let’s have a good race. He got me that run. Right off the hit we just went right up in smoke.  He was way out ahead of me and there was really no chance to catch up. I am so happy the Castrol EDGE team went to the semis,” said Force, a top contender for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award.

“We wanted to come out here the last race of the season be able to put our best out there. We qualified top half and ran our career best elapsed time in qualifying. Then on race day we go to the semi-finals. I think I can look back on this year and be proud of the improvements we made all season.”

* * * *


FUNNY CAR – 1. John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 2688; 2. Matt Hagan, 2548; 3. Jack Beckman, 2445; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 2415; 5. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 2413; 6. Ron Capps, 2406; 7. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 2403; 8. Del Worsham, 2309; 9. Johnny Gray, 2309; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2238

TOP FUEL – 1. Shawn Langdon, 2653; 2. Antron Brown, 2489; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2488; 4. Morgan Lucas, 2422; 5. Spencer Massey, 2422; 6. Clay Millican, 2404; 7. Tony Schumacher, 2394; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2286; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 2251; 10. Steve Torrence, 2217; 11. David Grubnic, 1013; 12. Brandon  Bernstein, 947; 13. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 908

PRO STOCK – 1. Jeg Coughlin, 2572; 2. Allen Johnson, 2514; 3. Jason Line, 2502; 4. Mike Edwards, 2482; 5. Shane Gray, 2480; 6. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2406; 7. V Gaines, 2355; 8. Greg Anderson, 2345; 9. Vincent Nobile, 2298; 10. Roger Brogdon, 2147

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – 1. Matt Smith, 2633; 2. Michael Ray, 2510; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2492; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2464; 5. Hector Arana, 2456; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2385; 7. LE Tonglet, 2383; 8. John Hall, 2351; 9. Shawn Gann, 2247; 10. Adam Arana, 2244


JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.995 seconds, 319.37 mph

Bonus qualifying points: +9 (Quickest of Q2 and Q4, 2nd quickest of Q3 and 3rd quickest of Q1,)

Race results: Beat Bob Bode, Jeff Arend, Gary Densham, Lost to Matt Hagan

ROBERT HIGHT, 44, Auto Club Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 5th at 4.028 seconds, 317.49 mph

Bonus qualifying points: +4 (2nd quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q2 and Q3)

Race results: Lost to Ron Capps

COURTNEY FORCE, 25, Traxxas Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.016 seconds, 319.07 mph

Bonus qualifying points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q4)

Race results: Lost to Bob Tasca III

BRITTANY FORCE, 27, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster

Final Qualifying: 8th at 3.784 seconds, 323.74 mph

Bonus qualifying points: 0

Race results: Beat Spencer Massey, Brandon Bernstein, Lost to Doug Kalitta

Dusty Brandel

President of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Inc. Worked with Mike Hollander since Tapsis, Compuserve, etc. and has posted to the website since the beginning. First Female photo-journalist to be given a garage and pit pass for the NASCAR garage, 1972 at Ontario Motor Speedway. One of first seven female writers, photographers given access to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage and pits in 1971. Past President of Greater Los Angeles Press Club, 1992-96, and first female editor of the 8-Ball publication for the Press Club

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Volume 2013, Issue 11, Posted 12:47 AM, 11.11.2013