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Force Three-mendous At Maple Grove

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, October 5 2013

John Force broke the three-second barrier at Maple Grove Friday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)


Funny Car icon John Force powered to the first three-second run of his colorful career and raced to the qualifying lead Friday during the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at Reading, Pa., site of the fourth of six events in the NHRA Mello Yello Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Qualifying is scheduled to continue Saturday at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. (EDT) before Sunday’s eliminations at 11 a.m.

A 15-time world champion, Force drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a 1,000-foot run of 3.987- seconds at 323.50 mph for the first three-second pass in John Force Racing history. It also was the fifth-quickest elapsed time in NHRA history. Two of the five quickest times have been posted at Maple Grove Raceway.

Previous quickest time for a JFR Ford was 4.005-seconds by former world champion Robert Hight in the Auto Club Mustang on Oct. 12, 2008 at Richmond, Va. Force’s previous quickest time was 4.010-seconds during this June’s race in Joliet, Ill.

The pass also gave Force six bonus qualifying points and a share of the lead with former world champion Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing. If it holds, the pass would be the fourth pole of the season and 144th in his career for Force, who won last weekend at Madison, Ill., near St. Louis.

“I joked we’re a little late because Schumacher’s cars ran that here last year, but you look at the points for the championship,” Brut Force said. “You don’t want them to get a national record. You want to gobble up the points. We’ll see what the weather is (Saturday). For today we feel really good about it.

“I want to clarify (crew chief) Jimmy Prock runs my car with Danny DeGennaro. They work as a team with Mike Neff and Ron Douglas and Dean Antonelli and John Medlen from the dragster (driven by rookie Brittany Force). We all work together. Neff’s car ran 4.07 with Robert Hight. It’s a team effort. Jimmy Prock is throwing hardballs. I’m pretty excited.”

Bonus points officially are awarded at the conclusion of qualifying. Force’s first qualifying run was a strong 4.032-second pass beside Hagan.

“When we look back in 2010 when I won the four-wide (national event at Concord, N.C.) I almost put out the top bulb I was in so deep and we ran 4.02,” Force said. “My guys said that was a three-second run but you don’t get credit for it. I told (Jack) Beckman when he ran over to congratulate me I said thank you but we were a year late. Those guys got their stuff together and we’re chasing them. Our new chassis is working. We’re going to go out there and race and have some fun. It’s pretty cool. To see Jimmy Prock turn it around after having struggled for a couple of years, it’s pretty awesome.

“Getting that three-second run is important for the sponsors like Ford, Castrol and Auto Club. It means we can race with anyone. The cool air has given championships and it has taken away championships. We know in the last three or four races we’re right there with everyone. We can run in the heat. You get caught up in trying to run national records and you will beat yourself. We’re going to come out here again and just try to run smart in the conditions that we get. Then we’re going to try and win on Sunday.”

On his same record qualifying pass, Force’s daughter, Courtney, posted her own spectacular moment by running 4.025-seconds at 329.42 mph in her Traxxas Mustang. The run gave Courtney the No. 2 qualifying spot and the fastest pass in NHRA Funny Car history.

“Dad keeps one-upping me,” Courtney joked. “My guys are stoked that we ran 329. We’re all going to make copies of the time slip. The run felt unbelievable. When I got out at the top end, they told me my dad ran in the threes. I was like, ‘Well, what did I run?’ When they told me it went 329, I said, ‘I’ll take it!’^”

Reigning world champion Jack Beckman of DSR currently is third after a run of 4.034-seconds at 318.99 mph in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger. Hagan is a spot behind after posting numbers of 4.035-seconds at 319.45 mph in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge.

Lucas paced the Top Fuel category with a 1,000-foot run in 3.772-seconds at 314.90 mph in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster. Lucas, currently fourth in points, will claim his third No. 1 qualifier of the year and 11th of his career if it holds. Racing opposite point-leader Shawn Langdon as the final pair of the second session, Lucas edged-out Langdon’s 3.776-second run at 325.14 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.

“I feel like there’s more left in it, but I’m really proud of the team,” Lucas said. “The team has a lot of confidence right now and it’s starting to show. I feel like every run we make, each one is getting a little better. This track, it’s just phenomenal. It’s so cool to come up here and race. You just feel good when you come up here.”

Following Lucas and Langdon in third was seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher of DSR, who powered his U.S. Army dragster to a run of 3.778-seconds at 323.97 mph. Lucas’ teammate, Brandon Bernstein, took the fourth spot after a pass of 3.788-seconds at 324.44 mph in his Protect The Harvest/MAV-TV dragster kicked off the second session.

In Pro Stock, reigning world champion Johnson took command during the second qualifying session, covering the quarter-mile in 6.579-seconds at 210.34 mph in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Johnson, who was the No. 1 qualifier last weekend in St. Louis, is seeking his fourth pole of the season and 32nd of his career. Currently sixth in the standings, Johnson also is aiming for a late-season surge.

“Everybody loaded them up and went for it tonight,” Johnson said. “We know we have to gobble up all those little (qualifying) points, so we’re putting it on kill about every time out. We’re just going to try to make perfect runs every time out now. Hopefully we can continue and just have a good day on Sunday.”

Former two-time world champion Jason Line drove his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to a run of 6.584-seconds at 210.64 mph to take the second spot. Point-leader Mike Edwards, another former world champion, sits third in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Camaro after a pass of 6.585-seconds at 209.95 mph.

Ray posted a quarter-mile pass of 6.857-seconds at 193.38 mph on his Sovereign Star-Racing Buell to take the provisional top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle, making a major improvement from his first qualifying run. Should that pass maintain the top spot, it would be the third No. 1 qualifier for Ray, who currently is fourth in points.

“The first pass we were a little behind the 8-ball,” Ray said. “We missed some things, but that second run was a stout number. I couldn’t be more excited. This is a very historic event and I really needed those points for the Countdown. I definitely feel good about (Saturday). We need all the help we can get. I’m definitely not out of it, but we need some breaks to go our way. Making a run like we did was really encouraging.”

Hector Arana Jr., tied for second in points, sits second after running 6.886-seconds at 195.19 mph on his Lucas Oil Buell. Point-leader Matt Smith qualified in the fourth position, guiding his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell down the track in 6.912-seconds at 193.49 mph.

Friday’s results after two of four rounds of qualifying for the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Morgan Lucas, 3.772-seconds, 317.64 mph; 2. Shawn Langdon, 3.776, 325.14; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.778, 323.97; 4. Brandon Bernstein, 3.788, 324.44; 5. Antron Brown, 3.793, 321.27; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.808, 322.27; 7. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.809, 323.04; 8. Clay Millican, 3.814, 323.66; 9. Brittany Force, 3.829, 318.84; 10. Spencer Massey, 3.845, 319.98; 11. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.859, 318.24; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.863, 321.50.

Not Qualified _ 13. Billy Torrence, 3.873, 317.49; 14. Steve Torrence, 3.878, 311.05; 15. David Grubnic, 3.916, 309.06; 16. Leah Pruett, 3.941, 318.54; 17. Sidnei Frigo, 3.961, 301.81.

Funny Car _ 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 3.987, 323.50; 2. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.025, 329.42; 3. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.034, 318.99; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.035, 319.45; 5. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.067, 313.29; 6. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.072, 315.86; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.072, 312.42; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.077, 311.13; 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.081, 313.00; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.084, 313.37; 11. Chad Head, Camry, 4.109, 307.16; 12. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.110, 311.56.

Not Qualified _ 13. Alexis DeJoria, 4.118, 307.02; 14. Tony Pedregon, 4.120, 306.88; 15. Jeff Arend, 4.125, 301.94; 16. Blake Alexander, 4.167, 299.06; 17. Paul Lee, 4.345, 276.58; 18. Mike Smith, 7.254, 92.94.

Pro Stock _ 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.579, 210.34; 2. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.584, 210.64; 3. Mike Edwards, Camaro, 6.585, 209.95; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.588, 209.30; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.595, 210.01; 6. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.601, 210.05; 7. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.606, 210.47; 8. Buddy Perkinson, Camaro, 6.614, 210.21; 9. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.616, 209.65; 10. Mark Martino, Pontiac GXP, 6.616, 209.43; 11. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.618, 209.65; 12. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.620, 209.69.

Not Qualified _ 13. Greg Stanfield, 6.639, 208.23; 14. Steve Kent, 6.647, 208.33; 15. Larry Morgan, 6.648, 208.07; 16. Rodger Brogdon, 6.679, 207.82; 17. Kenny Delco, 6.710, 206.76; 18. Frank Gugliotta, 6.734, 204.85; 19. John Gaydosh Jr., 7.729, 197.91.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.857, 193.38; 2. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.886, 195.19; 3. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.886, 195.14; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.912, 193.49; 5. John Hall, Buell, 6.914, 191.57; 6. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.955, 192.99; 7. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.973, 189.90; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.980, 189.79; 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.984, 190.54; 10. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.015, 178.76; 11. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.031, 188.81; 12. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 7.037, 188.10.

Not Qualified _ 13. Shawn Gann, 7.045, 184.02; 14. Wesley Wells, 7.117, 187.89; 15. Steve Johnson, 7.184, 191.54.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, October 5 2013
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