POMONA, CA ---- For the seventh time in his career, John Force drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang Funny Car to victory at the 54th running of the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. This was John Force’s sixth final in a row going back to the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello season but today’s final can be described as an epic rematch between two of the strongest Funny Cars in recent memory. It was at this same spot at the conclusion of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello season during the Auto Club Finals that John Force and Matt Hagan squared off against each other with John coming up on the losing end.  

Fortunately for John, today’s outcome was much different when he defeated Matt Hagan with an earth shattering time of 3.965 seconds at over 323 MPH to Hagan’s tire smoking time of 6.61 seconds.  “I get really excited racing Hagan and the ESPN announcer in the semi-round said ‘Do you see those muscles on that kid, do you think you can beat him?’ I said what is this, the WWF, we aren’t in a cage,” said John Force.

Going into the final round, the brain trust of Jimmy Prock and rest of the Castrol GTX High Mileage team put a tune-up on John’s Mustang that could’ve rotated the earth. “I’ve got a good race car. It is amazing and we are trying to build our sport.  We are out here trying to run good for the fans. Jimmy Prock and the whole brain trust are working together,” said John Force.

However the competition is more fierce as there seems to be even more parody among the drivers, regardless which team they’re on. “Robert ran 3.98 and DeJoria ran 3.99. Let’s give Schumacher’s cars credit they ran in the threes two years ago,” said John Force

When the smoke and the clutch dust cleared, it was John’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang being directed by the NHRA crew to stop in front of the swarm of photographers and TV cameras. “After the final when I got out of the car on the top end, the ESPN announcer said ‘you got him (Hagan) with all his muscles’ and I said ‘this old man didn’t, Jimmy Prock flexed his muscles by ripping off that 3.96 number,’” said John Force. 

John Force leaves the Circle K NHRA Winternationals with his 139th race win, the points lead and a new Funny Car both the elapsed time and speed record, something he hasn’t done since 2004. “You take a 64 year-old-man and put him in a fire suit, you are Superman but I am back in the game and we are excited. Everything is just going right. I just don’t get it. There is a lot going on and we are excited that PEAK joined us,” said John Force, who’s average elapsed time today was 3.999 seconds on his four winning runs.

Robert Hight entered today as the No. 2 qualifier and his Auto Club Ford Mustang was the first Funny Car to advance to the second round. His Mike Neff tuned Auto Club Mustang outran Tim Wilkerson convincingly, posting a new career best elapsed time, 3.986 seconds at 318.69 mph. Hight made his first official three second run on Friday night a 3.996 second pass.

“That first round win was great. It ran just what Neff thought it would run. We had a good handle on the track and it was cool with cloud cover. The Auto Club Mustang was pulling and this is just what we needed to do. We are trying to find sponsors and the best way to do that is to win rounds,” said Hight.

In the second round against eventual finalist Matt Hagan Hight lost a close side by side race. With nearly identical reaction times Hight’s Funny Car was even with Hagan the full length of the track losing by less than a fender at the stripe. The elapsed times were 4.033 seconds for Hight and 4.035 seconds for Hagan.

“That was a tough loss 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 in two weeks. We have a great team here with Auto Club and it was great to see John go on and get the win,” said Hight.

When Courtney Force arrived at the race track on Friday to compete in the first event of the season, the 2014 Winternationals, she didn’t see her Traxxas Ford Mustang team packing up so soon on Sunday.

“It was great to be back here at the Winternationals in Pomona. I love coming out to this track because it’s a great facility, our John Force racing teams always do well here and we’re surrounded by friends and family since it’s our home track,” said Force.

The 25-year-old Funny Car driver was shorted one qualifying pass when the throttle cable broke during her burnout in the first session, but she came back with a 4.046 at 320.13 mph to eventually put her Traxxas Ford Mustang team in the No. 7 spot going into race day.

Force lined up against Matt Hagan in the opening round of eliminations. Despite putting on a great show for the fans, Force lost when her Traxxas Ford Mustang posted a 4.083 to Hagan’s 4.036 ET.

“We wanted to come out and defend our title here, but unfortunately we had a tough competitor with Matt Hagan. We ran a 4.08 which is a good pass for us. We were looking to run a little bit better than that. He just flat out gave us a good race. He ran a 4.03, got out ahead of me and turned on the win light,” said Force.

Force and Hagan now have an even record of 5-5 in eliminations.

“We ran out of race track and Hagan got the win against me, but luckily my dad was able to defend my title today when he got matched up against Hagan. Dad got the win for me. He went on to win the first race of the season,” said Force.

Brittany Force had a short day today at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals as well with her first round loss to rookie Richie Crampton, but her spirit and attitude remain upbeat as she’s more determined to put her Castrol EDGE Dragster in the winner’s circle. With the CarQuest NHRA Nationals rolling into Phoenix in less than two weeks, her team will be more than ready to step it up and go rounds at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Like any professional driver, Brittany’s was anxious for the season to begin. “I’m glad to be out here as it’s the start of the season and I’ve been so ready to come to Pomona and get back in the driver’s seat of my Castrol EDGE Dragster. We have a new team as Todd Smith came onboard and we’re all excited to get the season going,” said Brittany Force

During round one of Top Fuel eliminations, Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster shook the tires at the hit of the throttle. “It shook so hard, I tried to stay in it and drive through the tire shake. I tried pedaling it and the car picked back up but it was long hard shake and I couldn’t recover it in time. Richie (Crampton) was on a killer run and I knew I couldn’t catch him,” said Brittany Force

It takes a while for new crew to get in the groove and the Castrol EDGE team is no different. “We are starting to come together and gel, we just need a few races to figure it out,” said Brittany Force. With new crew chief Todd Smith who came onboard earlier this year the team is focused on consistent improvement at every race.

“We made some good calls on Saturday in getting a better handle on the car and the combination. We had pretty good track conditions on Sunday but I just didn’t hit it right and make the right call. I’m in a little bit of a learning curve but the more runs we get on the car, the performance will improve. For now, we’ll lick our wounds and head to Phoenix,” said Castrol EDGE Crew Chief Todd Smith.

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FUNNY CAR – 1. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 144; 2. Matt Hagan, 94; 3. Del Worsham, 76; 4. Bob Tasca III, 71; 5. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 61; 6. Ron Capps, 55; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 54; 8. Gary Densham, 51; 9. Alexis Dejoria, 39; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 38; 11. Jack Beckman, 34; 12. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 33.

TOP FUEL – 1. Khalid alBalooshi, 113; 2. Doug Kalitta, 107; 3. Spencer Massey, 75; 3. Steve Torrence, 75; 5. Shawn Langdon, 65; 6. Richie Crampton, 52; 7. David Grubnic, 51; 7. Clay Millican, 51; 9. Antron Brown, 40; 10. Bob Vandegriff Jr, 36; 11. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 33

PRO STOCK – 1. Jason Line, 118; 2. V Gaines, 96; 3. Vincent Nobile, 86; 4. Shane Gray, 73; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, 55; 5. Dave Connolly, 55; 5. Jeg Coughlin, 55; 8. Larry Morgan, 51; 9. Allen Johnson, 45; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 33


JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.966 seconds, 324.12 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: +6 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2)

Race Results: Beat Paul Lee, Tommy Johnson Jr., Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan

ROBERT HIGHT, 44, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 2nd at 3.996 at 317.94 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (2nd quickest of Q2 and Q4)

Race Results: Beat Tim Wilkerson, Lost to Matt Hagan

COURTNEY FORCE, 25, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 7th at 4.046 seconds, 320.13 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

Race Results: Lost to Matt Hagan

BRITTANY FORCE, 27, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster

Qualifying: 8th at 3.778 seconds at 326.24 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

Race Results: Lost to Ritchie Crampton

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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 2014, Issue 2, Posted 12:00 AM, 02.10.2014