60th annual Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN

Final round results from Monday’s 60th annual Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, eighteenth race in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

TOP FUEL – Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO dragster, 3.766, 327.98 mph, def. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco Contractors dragster, 3.799, 327.82 mph.

FUNNY CAR – Alexis DeJoria, Austin, Texas, Patron XO Café Toyota Camry, 4.038, 310.34 mph, def. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang, 4.039, 319.67 mph.

PRO STOCK – Shane Gray, Denver, N.C., Gray Manufacturing Chevrolet Camaro, 6.641, 208.42 mph, def. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro, 26.800, 27.45 mph.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Eddie Krawiec, Englishtown, N.J., Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod, 6.941, 192.63 mph, def. Gerald Savoie, Cut Off, La.,Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki, 6.987, 192.58

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN --- John Force drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang to his eighth final round appearance at the prestigious and iconic 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and sixth in a row this season. Despite being on top of his game all weekend and claiming his second Traxxas Shootout victory on Sunday, the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Champion couldn’t double up today during the final eliminations at the historic “Big Go.” 

The reigning NHRA Funny Car champion faced some tough competitors on his way to a final round match-up with Alexis DeJoria. In that epic final match-up, both Funny Cars and their teams were on their game. As the Christmas tree flashed green, both cars took off with DeJoria getting a slight starting line advantage. John’s Mustang was in hot pursuit and making up ground as his 8000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine was working overtime.

John Force was closing in quickly but DeJoria got to the finish line first. Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang turned-in a 4.039 second pass at 319.67 mph to DeJoria’s 4.038 at 310.34 mph. John Force has runner-up at the NHRA U.S. Nationals three times (1991, 1995 and 2010) prior to today.

“Their crew chiefs ran side-by-side with our crew chiefs and we had two good hot rods. She was a click faster but that shouldn’t have been enough but it was. I’ve watched her lights for month and she was on her game today. She had that .037 light and God bless her, she sets to dance tonight and drink with papa and her husband so we congratulate her, she’s a great kid. We need women in our sport so I’m really proud of her,” said John Force.

Going into the quarterfinals, John had to run another former NHRA Mello Yello champion, Matt Hagan. Hagan had a slight reaction time advantage but both his Funny Car and John’s Mustang got out of shape and the race became a “Pedal Fest” as both drivers were trying their best not to overpower the track but to stay ahead of each other and get to the finish line first. Fortunately for Force, he was able to reign in his Funny Car and get the win light with a 5.386 second run to Hagan’s 6.182.

“Hagan’s learned the game obviously on how to get after it as we both were in and out of the throttle. I watched my daughter Brittany pedal her Castrol EDGE Dragster five times this morning. She got nicked in the lights but I’m still proud of her,” said John Force.  

This set the stage for a great semi-final match up with Force’s long-time rival Ron Capps. Even though both drivers are great friends and have mutual respect for each other, it’s a different story on race day. John knew he’d have to be on his game if he was to get past Capps. As both cars thundered down the track, Capps had traction problems while John sailed right down the strip with another impressive time – 4.033 seconds.

“The Force family will be back and we’re going after that Countdown, I have three Funny Cars and a Dragster that can win. We got Robert Hight in that Auto Club Ford, Courtney with Traxxas, me with Castrol and Brittany with the Castrol EDGE Dragster. It’s what we do, it’s what we love. I had so much emotion winning the Traxxas Shootout on Sunday, we have to come back to Indy now,” said John Force.

For now, the winningest driver in NHRA history will have to wait two weeks for the Pep Boys Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina for another shot of rewriting the record books.

Courtney Force will go into the 2014 NHRA Countdown to the Championship in the No. 6 spot after going to the semi-finals today at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance NHRA Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, the last event in the NHRA regular season. The 26-year-old qualified in the No. 3 spot with a career-best 4.005 from Sunday’s qualifying on new track record speed 322.73 mph. 

Force took down Bob Tasca III in the opening round, her 4.080 ET at 319.14 mph to Tasca’s tire-smoking 4.786 ET at 178.02 mph.  This was the 12th time the two have matched up in eliminations, the third time this season and the seventh time they have squared off in the first round. She now holds an impressive 10-2 record to Tasca.

In the second round, Force went up against Tommy Johnson Jr. who just returned to NHRA competition this season. It was a good, clean race for both drivers as Force posted a 4.062 ET at 317.34 mph to Johnson’s 4.094 ET at 314.09. They pair have now matched up three times this season and the 26-year-old is 2-1 to the veteran driver.

In the semi-finals, Force went up against fellow female competitor Alexis DeJoria. Force lost lane choice, then posted a 4.069 ET at 308.92 mph to DeJoria’s 4.057 ET at 311.77 mph. It was a close race for the two who have matched up eight times now, but only the second time this season. They have had six first round match-ups and this was only the second time they have raced each other in the semi-finals.

“We had a pretty good race car out here today making some pretty good laps. We went out and beat Tasca in the first round. Second round we had Tommy Johnson. We were able to take him out and move on to the semi-finals. We rolled up against Alexis, dropped a hole near the finish line and lost. We edged her out and led the whole way right up until we dropped a hole. It’s a big ‘what could’ve been,’ but we’re just going to have to go back and figure this car out and get it ready for the Countdown to the Championship,” said Force.

Prior to the race Force and her Traxxas crew members were presented with a commemorative 100th win medal by Al Rondon representing Mello Yello and the Coca-Cola Corporation.  

The inscription was read by Rondon to the capacity crown on hand, “We salute Courtney Force on her milestone win, the 100th by a woman in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Your Friends at The Coca-Cola Company.”

In order for John Force to reach his sixth consecutive Funny Car final round this season he first had to race his teammate Robert Hight and the Auto Club Mustang in the first round. It was a close race for the first few hundred feet and then Hight lost traction while Force powered to a first round win. Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car lit up the scoreboard with a 4.029 second pass to Hight’s 6.522 second pass.

Hight was the No. 9 qualifier and runner-up to Force at the Traxxas Shootout but he will go into the Countdown to the Championship as the No. 2 driver in the Mello Yello points standings with six races remaining.

“Your goal is always to win Indy but you also want that championship. It was unfortunate John and I had to race each other in the first round. John reached the final and that is nine finals in a row for John Force Racing at the U.S. Nationals. We are all focusing on the last six races for our nineteenth Mello Yello Funny Car championship and our first Top Fuel championship,” said Hight, a three-time U.S. Nationals winner and 2009 Funny Car champion.

Brittany Force was hoping the prestigious and iconic 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals would have been the breakout race for the Castrol EDGE team to claim their first victory. Qualifying seventh and looking strong with her 10,000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine, unfortunately she lost in the opening round in what could best be described as a “pedal fest” to three-time world champion Larry Dixon.

“It’s always hard to lose, especially in the first round here at the NHRA U.S. Nationals.  My team was so pumped up for today’s eliminations we were ready to go rounds so it’s definitely difficult to go out early. It’s not where we wanted to be, we went out there and it smoked the tired about sixty feet out. I got out of the throttle, got back into it and started to hook up and then it just became a pedal fest,” said Force, a three-time finalist.

With lane choice over Dixon, Brittany’s crew chief, Todd Smith, chose the left side of the track. As the Christmas tree flashed green, both dragsters leapt off the line but within two seconds, both machines started to smoke their massive Goodyear slicks. Brittany was ahead of Dixon when her car got out of shape but she knew he was close. Instinctively, Brittany “pedaled” her dragster no less than five times to back off the throttle to let it settle down and get back in the groove of the track.  

“I made the mistake about the second time I got back in the throttle. I could see the finish line but I stayed in it too long and the tires lost traction again. I couldn’t see him (Dixon) but I knew he was close and I wanted to stay in it as long as I could but you learn from your mistakes and you move on to the next race,” said Force.

Another factor that prevented her from getting the win light was a mechanical issue. With the stress “pedaling” puts on her engine, the teeth on the blower pulley sheered-off, damaged the belt and knocked out six of eight cylinders of her engine. This allowed Dixon to drive around Brittany and get the win. The times on the scoreboards reflected how hard both drivers were trying to get the win with their wounded machines as Brittany turned in a 6.621 second run to Dixon’s 6.502.

“When these dragsters go into “pedal mode”, the fuel and timing mapping change dramatically and it causes the engine to drop cylinders and break parts. If the engine would have hung on for another half of second, it would have been enough to get Brittany across the finish line first,” said Todd Smith, crew chief, Castrol EDGE Dragster. 

Brittany Force leaves the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals still in the Countdown to the Championship and in the 9th spot. The Castrol EDGE team will get the weekend off from the grueling NHRA schedule and before heading to the 7th annual Pep Boys Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

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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 9, Posted 7:23 PM, 09.01.2014