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Ageless Force Opens Season With Record Victory

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 9 2014

John Force began his quest for a 17th Funny Car championship by winning at the Winternationals in Pomona. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The wait for John Force to start acting his age goes on as the 64-year-old drag racer opened defense of his 16th NHRA Funny Car championship with a victory in the Winternationals.

Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history with 139 event victories, beat Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing to get his season-opening victory at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Force lowered his national record with a 3.965 to defeat a tire-smoking Hagan in the Funny Car final. The record pass earned him 20 bonus points.

“We’re back in the game, and we’re excited,” Force said. “Everything’s just going right. I don’t get it. I ain’t that good of a guy.”

“We were just pushing hard,” Hagan said after his Dodge Charger R/T went up in tire smoke in the final round.

“Force had been running 3.90s all weekend long. We knew we had to bring our A-game. He’s got a great hot rod right now but we’ve got a pretty good one too. It’s going to be a great season this year and I can’t wait to battle it out and turn on some more win lights.”

In Top Fuel, Khalid alBalooshi of Al-Anabi Racing beat Doug Kalitta in the finals.

AlBalooshi scored his third career Top Fuel win with a 3.97 against pole-winner Kalitta, who smoked the tires in the final.

The victory is the third in a row for an Al-Anabi Racing Toyota dragster at Pomona and marks the ninth win by a Toyota-sponsored Top Fuel car in the last 10 events at the Southern California track. The Dubai native becomes the fourth different Al-Anabi driver to win at the track in the last nine races at Pomona.

“I’m so excited,” said alBalooshi. “I really appreciate everything my guys do out here. I felt that after Florida testing that I had a hot rod to start the season with. There’s nothing better than to leave the first race of the season with a trophy.”

He defeated Tony Schumacher, teammate and reigning World Champion Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence on the way to the final before winning a pedal-fest against Kalitta for the victory.

“Doug’s car was the best all weekend, so it made it a very big day for us to take him down in the final,” alBalooshi said.

Jason Line come defeated V. Gaines 6.526 to 6.533 in Pro Stock final.

Line defeated Matt Hartford, Dave Connolly and Shane Gray to advance to the final round. It is Line’s 32nd career victory and his third at the Winternationals.

“My day was great,” Line said. “It’s a huge deal to start the season off with a win. It’s a big deal. The last few years we’ve struggled and wasn’t what we had hoped for. We worked really hard over the winter and I think we improved. This sport is just crazy hard right now. It’s tough to separate yourself out here it’s so competitive.”

Line said he will give his Wally trophy from the weekend to his longtime teammate Greg Anderson, who is at home recovering from surgery and will miss the first three months of the season.

“I’m forever indebted to him,” Line said. “He gave me an opportunity that nobody else would.”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Feb. 21-23 with the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.

Final finish order (1-16) at the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race is the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

TOP FUEL:

1. Khalid alBalooshi; 2. Doug Kalitta; 3. Spencer Massey; 4. Steve Torrence; 5. Richie Crampton; 6. Shawn Langdon; 7. Clay Millican; 8. David Grubnic; 9. Tony Schumacher; 10. Leah Pritchett; 11. Terry McMillen; 12. Sidnei Frigo; 13. Antron Brown; 14. Brittany Force; 15.Troy Buff; 16. Bob Vandergriff.

FUNNY CAR:

1. John Force; 2. Matt Hagan; 3. Del Worsham; 4. Bob Tasca III; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. Robert Hight; 7. Gary Densham; 8. Ron Capps; 9. Jack Beckman; 10. Courtney Force; 11. Jeff Arend; 12. Cruz Pedregon; 13. Chad Head; 14. Alexis DeJoria; 15. Tim Wilkerson; 16. Paul Lee.

PRO STOCK:

1. Jason Line; 2. V. Gaines; 3. Shane Gray; 4. Vincent Nobile; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens; 6. Dave Connolly; 7. Jeg Coughlin; 8. Larry Morgan; 9. Deric Kramer; 10. Jimmy Alund; 11. Greg Stanfield; 12. Allen Johnson; 13. Shane Tucker; 14. Matt Hartford; 15. Rodger Brogdon; 16. Chris McGaha.

Sunday’s final results from the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The race is the first of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel — Khalid alBalooshi, 3.974 seconds, 324.36 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 5.368 seconds, 143.40 mph.

Funny Car — John Force, Ford Mustang, 3.965, 323.58 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 6.613, 117.88.

Pro Stock — Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.526, 212.06 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.533, 212.56.

Top Alcohol Dragster — Chris Demke, 5.251, 275.00 def. Don St. Arnaud, 5.328, 276.46.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — Brian Hough, Ford Mustang, 5.571, 257.83 def. Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.646, 257.78.

Competition Eliminator — Mike DePalma, Chevy S-10, 8.062, 166.09 def. Alan Ellis, ‘23-T Ford, 6.572, 205.54.

Super Stock — Don Keen, Ford Mustang, 10.355, 127.47 def. Dave Bridgewater, Chevy Camaro, 9.506, 139.29.

Stock Eliminator — Paul Cannan, Chevy Camaro, 10.099, 129.27 def. Michael Iacono, Camaro, 10.972, 119.32.

Super Comp — Don Meziere, Dragster, 8.921, 158.37 def. Steve Casner, Dragster, 8.922, 185.36.

Super Gas — Val Torres, Chevy Corvette, 9.905, 163.06 def. Thomas Bayer, Corvette, 9.899, 151.82.

Final round-by-round results from the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Khalid alBalooshi, 3.760, 324.20 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.847, 321.50; David Grubnic, 4.200, 319.67 def. Bob Vandergriff, 7.862, 58.52; Clay Millican, 3.797, 312.28 def. Antron Brown, 4.076, 266.53; Doug Kalitta, 3.725, 329.42 def. Sidnei Frigo, 4.035, 243.68; Shawn Langdon, 4.420, 299.40 def. Troy Buff, 7.173, 85.89; Spencer Massey, 3.783, 320.51 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.850, 321.27; Steve Torrence, 3.788, 323.66 def. Terry McMillen, 3.993, 260.41; Richie Crampton, 3.747, 322.88 def. Brittany Force, 4.617, 279.50;

QUARTERFINALS — Torrence, 3.792, 324.98 def. Millican, 3.822, 316.08; Massey, 3.782, 320.81 def. Grubnic, 9.924, 73.80; alBalooshi, 3.739, 323.58 def. Langdon, 3.768, 322.19; Kalitta, 3.729, 330.15 def. Crampton, 3.764, 324.67;

SEMIFINALS — alBalooshi, 3.783, 318.69 def. Torrence, 3.804, 323.66; Kalitta, 3.758, 327.82 def. Massey, 3.790, 322.96;

FINAL — alBalooshi, 3.974, 324.36 def. Kalitta, 5.368, 143.40.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 3.986, 318.69 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 6.520, 111.15; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.035, 317.79 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.092, 309.06; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.076, 316.30 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.832, 156.12; John Force, Mustang, 3.989, 319.90 def. Paul Lee, Charger, broke; Gary Densham, Charger, 4.826, 234.41 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 6.074, 136.26; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.024, 320.36 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.350, 142.54; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.036, 322.73 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.083, 320.89; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.048, 320.81 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.071, 309.56;

QUARTERFINALS — Hagan, 4.035, 322.04 def. Hight, 4.033, 316.15; Worsham, 4.056, 317.87 def. Densham, 4.131, 281.54; J. Force, 4.020, 321.27 def. Johnson Jr., 4.021, 322.73; Tasca III, 4.035, 317.72 def. Capps, DQ;

SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.030, 318.32 def. Worsham, 4.055, 321.42; J. Force, 4.025, 322.27 def. Tasca III, 5.007, 195.51;

FINAL — J. Force, 3.965, 323.58 def. Hagan, 6.613, 117.88.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Avenger, 6.568, 211.66 def. Rodger Brogdon, Chevy Camaro, 7.147, 148.30; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.584, 211.69 def. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, foul; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.527, 211.89 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.943, 123.91; V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.531, 211.89 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.560, 210.24; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.548, 211.43 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.615, 209.30; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.524, 212.29 def. Shane Tucker, Chevy Cobalt, 6.594, 210.37; Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.568, 209.65 def. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.567, 211.36; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.540, 212.13 def. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.554, 210.37;

QUARTERFINALS — Gray, 6.533, 211.99 def. Morgan, 6.572, 209.85; Gaines, 6.527, 212.29 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.544, 211.66; Line, 6.536, 212.06 def. Connolly, 6.544, 212.06; Nobile, 6.534, 212.06 def. Coughlin, 6.568, 211.30;

SEMIFINALS — Line, 6.527, 212.23 def. Gray, 6.541, 211.79; Gaines, 6.543, 212.09 def. Nobile, 6.541, 212.16;

FINAL — Line, 6.526, 212.06 def. Gaines, 6.533, 212.56.

POMONA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel

1. Khalid alBalooshi, 113; 2. Doug Kalitta, 107; 3. (tie) Spencer Massey, 75; Steve Torrence, 75; 5. Shawn Langdon, 65; 6. Richie Crampton, 52; 7. (tie) David Grubnic, 51; Clay Millican, 51; 9. Antron Brown, 40; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 36.

Funny Car

1. John Force, 144; 2. Matt Hagan, 94; 3. Del Worsham, 76; 4. Bob Tasca III, 71; 5. Robert Hight, 61; 6. Ron Capps, 55; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 54; 8. Gary Densham, 51; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 39; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 38.

Pro Stock

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 9 2014
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