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The Forces Are Strong In Topeka

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 17 2021

Nitro class winners John and Brittany Force are joined by Pro Stocker Dallas Glenn (left). (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

John Force Racing added to its generational family history Sunday at Heartland Motorsports Park, where a father and sibling hoisted NHRA “Wally” trophies for the first time after a national event. 

Funny Car legend John Force, 72, and his 35-year-old daughter, Top Fuel star Brittany, shared emotional victories after the 32nd annual Menards NHRA Nationals in Topeka, Kan., 11th race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

These two Forces have shared No. 1 qualifying positions during their careers, but never a win. On cue, Brittany Force capped a standout weekend with a 1,000-foot run of 3.783-seconds at 324.75 mph in the final against Clay Millican. Brittany qualified No. 1 in a 14-car field and then beat Scott Palmer and point-leader Steve Torrence to reach the final. After qualifying No. 1 six times this year, including a current string of four straight races, the 2017 Top Fuel world champ earned her first win since 2019 and was thrilled to share it with her father.

“This is something I’ll never forget,” said Brittany. “This has been on my Bucket List for as long as I can remember and there have been so many close calls where we thought, ‘Hey, this could be our day that we could double-up.’ Just to get a race win is hard enough. Then you want to do it with your teammate, it’s almost impossible.

“So, you almost put it on the back-burner; it’s too much to double-up with your dad. You both run well all weekend long and you double-up, it almost seems impossible. Today, we pulled off the impossible. It’s pretty cool that we’ll always share this. It’s a special racetrack for us and it’s pretty cool to have that with him.”

It marked the fourth time JFR teammates have raced to a Funny Car/Top Fuel double. Brittany first did it with three-time Funny Car world champion Robert Hight at Texas Motorplex in Ennis 2017 and again at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas, in 2019. John Force and Austin Prock also won together for John’s landmark 150th victory at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., in 2019. John and daughter Ashley Force-Hood _ married to John’s crew chief, Danny Hood _ doubled-up at the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, Calif., when she competed in Top Alcohol in 2004.

Brittany cited her victory over Torrence, the three-time/reigning Top Fuel world champion, as a message sent as the schedule winds down to this year’s expanded Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

“Definitely that run against Steve was a huge one for us,” Brittany said. “He’s the guy that we’re chasing down, and we knew that was going to be a tough one for us to get past. But we had a consistent race car all weekend long. I feel like we’ve been hitting our stride all year long. We stepped-out for an entire season. Every single guy returned with me _ top to bottom _ this season and we’ve had a number of No. 1 qualifiers, we’ve run well, we just keep missing out on race day. Sometimes it’s simple mistakes and sometimes it’s driver errors. Today we were pushing and we got the job done.”

The weekend wasn’t a total loss for Torrence. When Antron Brown was upended by Shawn Langdon in the first round, Torrence clinched the “regular season” title with two races remaining before points are adjusted for the Countdown. Torrence has a 342-point lead over Force and 354 pad over Brown, also a three-time world champ.

Runnerup Millican drove to his first final in 2021 and 17th in his career by beating Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas and Shawn Langdon. Millican now is ninth in points. 

In Funny Car, “Brute” Force earned his 10th career win at Heartland Park by covering the 1,000-foot distance in 4.019-seconds at 321.04 mph to beat No. 1 qualifier J.R. Todd in the final. The victory in a 15-car field pushed Force into the point lead for the first time since 2014, as he became the first driver in the class to reach three wins this season. Force defeated Paul Lee, teammate Hight and Cruz Pedregon to reach his 260th final-round en route to his 154th career win.

The last time Force won at this facility was in 2008, his first victory after suffering multiple foot and leg injuries in a devastating crash at Texas Motorplex in 2007. The 16-time world champion now has the point lead for the first time since Oct., 5, 2014 _ 135 races ago. For the record, Force also has led the points in 22 different seasons.

“I had a good day,” said Force, driver of the Chevrolet Camaro SS. “Robert was probably my toughest race because it’s hard to beat Robert. I just had a car that was pretty fast, wasn’t the quickest, but I got the win. What was special was to do it with Brittany. With (daughters) Courtney and Ashley, I never got the chance because they were always in Funny Car _ and usually beat me. But with Brittany, I finally got that double-up. It means a lot. We’re a family of racers. 

It was a great day with all the people I raced. J.R. Todd was out there and I tried to steal all I could on that (starting line Christmas) tree. He was out there and I could see just the nose of him and then he got in trouble, and I got around him on the other end.”

Force downplayed his move to into the point lead over Ron Capps of Don Schumacher Racing. “I don’t even want to look at the points,” Force said. “They told me in the semis that I had taken the lead. That will jump around; it is what it is.

“I just do what I do. I want to race.  I’m going after wins. I don’t talk about it because when you do you get lost why you came and you start focusing on that. No, what you do is you drive your car. You love life and I fight. My race car keeps me alive and the cheers of the crowd. So, if it’s in the cards, we’ll win a championship. And if we don’t, I’ll be the first over there to congratulate who does. Because that’s what it’s really all about. The competition makes you better. Every time they beat me, they make me better.”

Force also praised Heartland Motorsports Park owner Chris Payne for revitalizing the Midwest facility, which made its NHRA debut in 1989 with victories by Dick LaHaie (Top Fuel), Mark Oswald (Funny Car) and Darrell Alderman (Pro Stock). The track closed in 2015 but has been undergoing competitor and fan upgrades since its purchase in early 2016.

“Without the fans we don’t exist. Without the tracks, we don’t exist,” Force said. “I just want to personally thank Chris Payne for putting all this together and giving us a great facility. What’s awesome is our crowds are starting to come back (after the COVID-19 pandemic) and I’m excited about that.

“They keep asking me, ‘What do you want most in life _ another win, another championship?’ No, I want to see crowds. People keep me alive. I want to see Indy packed this year because it’s not just to make me and my drivers feel good, it’s to make all the teams _we will work for you (fans), we will entertain you. Let’s fill ‘em at Brainerd (Minn.), let’s fill ‘em at Indy. That’s what I want.”

Todd picked up victories over Capps and Blake Alexander to reach his second straight final, fourth this season and 39th in his career. Todd also improved to third in points.

“We just came up short in the final,” said Todd, driver of a Toyota Camry fielded by Kalitta Motorsports. “But I’d like to think that we’re paying the bank right now and, hopefully, saving the wins for when it counts. The most important time of the year is coming up in the Countdown. We made up some ground and we’re right in the thick of it.

“We’ve got two more races before the Countdown starts. It’s getting right about that time of year. The DHL Toyota guys are doing a great job, as always. Just stay consistent and keep doing what we’re doing and the wins will come.”

Next on the schedule is the 39th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, Aug. 18-22.

Rookie Dallas Glenn prevailed in Pro Stock in an all-KB Racing final round. Glenn recorded a perfect 0.000-second reaction time en route to a quarter-mile pass in 6.681-seconds at 205.01 mph against Kyle Koretsky. A two-time winner this season, Glenn posted the sixth perfect reaction time in a Pro Stock final. He advanced by beating Deric Kramer, Matt Hartford and No. 1 qualifier Troy Coughlin Jr.

“It’s hard to put this win into words,” said Glenn, driver of RAD Torque Systems/KB Racing Chevrolet Camaro SS. “This season, it’s taught me a lot. I’ve had a lot of highs and I’ve had some lows where I’ve been struggling and we’ve gotten a little taste of everything this year. I felt like I did my job well and the car is just working really good right now.

“I’m excited for the Countdown coming up here and Indy next because we’ve got a fast car for it.” Glenn sits fourth in the point standings.

Koretsky advanced to his second career final via victories against Rodger Brogdon, point-leader Greg Anderson and three-time/reigning world champ Erica Enders. Koretsky’s wins against Anderson and Enders _ who both clinched Countdown spots _came on hole shots.

“It’s always a good feeling to know you get to race for the championship, and I’ve been fortunate in my career to have been in this position a few times before,” said Anderson, a four-time world champ and driver of the HendrickCars.com Camaro SS. “As long as you’re in the Countdown, you have a chance at winning it all. But with this format, the higher your position, the greater your advantage. You want that advantage.”

Pole-sitter John Cerbone defeated Leah Pruett in the final of the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown.

Cerbone, of Yorkton Heights, N.Y., drove his Chevrolet COPO Camaro to victories over Jesse Alexandra, Arthur Kohn, Aaron Stanfield and Pruett. Cerbone covered the quarter-mile in 7.912-seconds at 174.32 mph to defeated Pruett’s Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak at 8.808, 169.76. 

“This is spectacular. That final round was tough,” said Cerbone, who celebrated with his Barton Racing teammates. “I knew Leah was going to be right on it. She had everything thrown at her. She was really fast the round before. I was getting progressively faster all day. We did everything we could. David Barton tuned-up the car. He did everything he could to make this car the fastest thing out there.”

Cerbone took out three fellow-COPO Camaros before outrunning Pruett, a Top Fuel regular with Don Schumacher Racing who was competing in her second consecutive Factory Stock final.

“What an outstanding performance by this Dodge Factory Stock Drag Pak team all day long, adapting to challenging track conditions and being aggressive as the day got longer and hotter,” Pruett said. “For me, it’s the fourth final in two different classes in the last four races. We’re building momentum and we have plans to test and get better before the Indy U.S. Nationals.

“We’re back in the hunt and No. 3 in the points, and it’s very reminiscent of our 2018 season where we came on strong in the last half of the season and that was by no accident then or now. There’s been a lot of hard work by this DSR team and crew. I’ve had a smile on my face all day.”

Final results from the 32nd annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan. The race was the 11th of 20 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series: 

Top Fuel _ Brittany Force, 3.783-seconds, 324.75 mph def. Clay Millican, 3.830-seconds, 288.58 mph. 

Funny Car _ John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.019, 321.04 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.453, 199.29.

Pro Stock _ Dallas Glenn, Chevy Camaro, 6.681, 205.01 def. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.651, 206.13.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Rachel Meyer, 5.258, 276.58 def. Jasmine Salinas, Foul/Red Light.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.511, 265.64 def. Kris Hool, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Competition Eliminator _ Greg Kamplain, Dragster, 6.955, 188.10 def. Travis Gusso, Pontiac Sunfire, 8.262, 163.69. 

Factory Stock Showdown _ John Cerbone, Chevy Camaro, 7.912, 174.32 def. Leah Pruett, Dodge Challenger, 8.808, 169.76. 

Super Stock _ Wyatt Wagner, Chevy Camaro, 9.843, 131.96 def. Justin Lamb, Camaro, 8.418, 144.98. 

Stock Eliminator _ Chris Knudsen, Chevy Camaro, 10.910, 105.31 def. Randi Lyn Shipp, Pontiac Firebird, Foul/Red Light. 

Super Comp _ Austin Williams, Dragster, 8.944, 164.19 def. Christopher Dodd, Dragster, 8.947, 169.23.

Super Gas _ Collin Becker, Chevy Camaro, 9.901, 163.41 def. Jaron Miller, Chevy Corvette, Foul/Red Light.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Dusty Meyer, Chevy S-10, 7.055, 189.68 def. Kyle Firestone, Chevy Bel-Air, 6.955, 196.64.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Danny Nelson, Dragster, 6.124, 213.30 def. Prescott Dean, Dragster, 6.351, 215.55.

Final round-by-round results from the 32nd annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals:

TOP FUEL 

ROUND ONE _ Clay Millican, 3.732, 323.50 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.804, 317.64; Steve Torrence, 3.736, 325.61 def. Leah Pruett, 3.776, 319.75; Brittany Force, 3.774, 328.86 def. Scott Palmer, 3.892, 299.06; Billy Torrence, 3.796, 323.89 def. Terry Totten, 4.170, 246.26; Mike Salinas, 3.756, 324.36 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.870, 311.34; Justin Ashley, 3.807, 321.88 def. Alex Laughlin, 3.800, 317.87; Shawn Langdon, 3.900, 307.16 def. Antron Brown, 4.914, 155.78; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Force, 3.747, 329.02 was unopposed; Millican, 3.804, 315.19 def. Salinas, 3.789, 303.37; Langdon, 3.812, 313.80 def. B. Torrence, 3.822, 323.04; S. Torrence, 3.787, 320.36 def. Ashley, 3.824, 322.88; 

SEMIFINALS _ Force, 3.769, 326.24 def. S. Torrence, 3.814, 317.87; Millican, 4.561, 172.01 def. Langdon, 7.121, 85.03; 

FINAL _ Force, 3.783, 324.75 def. Millican, 3.830, 288.58. 

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE _ Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 4.022, 314.97 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 5.715, 121.04; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.811, 190.86 def. Chris King, Toyota Camry, 7.384, 88.94; J.R. Todd, Camry, 5.527, 128.21 was unopposed; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.936, 323.58 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.970, 322.04; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.920, 323.89 def. Jack Wyatt, Charger, 4.263, 243.28; John Force, Camaro, 3.975, 326.08 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.163, 267.16; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.014, 316.01 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.044, 286.68; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.955, 325.92 def. Chad Green, Mustang, Broke; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Todd, 3.996, 318.99 def. Capps, 3.994, 317.49; Force, 3.959, 324.36 def. Hight, 4.007, 312.86; Alexander, 4.126, 252.95 def. Hagan, 4.193, 276.13; Pedregon, 4.006, 311.20 def. DeJoria, 4.006, 319.52; 

SEMIFINALS _ Todd, 4.040, 315.64 def. Alexander, 5.222, 159.29; Force, 4.005, 321.35 def. Pedregon, 4.063, 303.91; 

FINAL _ Force, 4.019, 321.04 def. Todd, 4.453, 199.29. 

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Mason McGaha, Chevy Camaro, DQ and Bruno Massel, Camaro, DQ; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.630, 206.16 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 12.388, 70.82; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.665, 205.63 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.682, 205.66; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.646, 206.64 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.640, 206.48; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.624, 207.27 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.675, 205.22; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.624, 206.57 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.713, 204.20; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.607, 205.22 def. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, Foul/Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.620, 206.92 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, Foul/Red Light; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Koretsky, 6.671, 205.60 def. Anderson, 6.655, 205.66; Glenn, 6.637, 207.11 def. Hartford, 6.655, 205.32; Coughlin Jr., 6.649, 205.04 was unopposed; Enders, 6.633, 206.61 def. C. McGaha, 6.669, 205.44; 

SEMIFINALS _ Glenn, 6.659, 206.92 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.683, 204.54; Koretsky, 6.653, 205.51 def. Enders, 6.648, 206.57; 

FINAL _ Glenn, 6.681, 205.01 def. Koretsky, 6.651, 206.13.

Point standings (top-10) following the 32nd annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals:

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 1,090; 2. Brittany Force, 748; 3. Antron Brown, 736; 4. Leah Pruett, 611; 5. Shawn Langdon, 587; 6. Mike Salinas, 571; 7. Justin Ashley, 523; 8. Billy Torrence, 510; 9. Clay Millican, 482; 10. Doug Kalitta, 471.

Funny Car _1. John Force, 816; 2. Ron Capps, 787; 3. J.R. Todd, 778; 4. Bob Tasca III, 766; 5. (tie) Matt Hagan, 748; Robert Hight, 748; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 691; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 610; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 574; 10. Blake Alexander, 417.

Pro Stock _1. Greg Anderson, 895; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 741; 3. Erica Enders, 725; 4. Dallas Glenn, 639; 5. Matt Hartford, 622; 6. Kyle Koretsky, 618; 7. Troy Coughlin Jr., 574; 8. Mason McGaha, 550; 9. Deric Kramer, 518; 10. Chris McGaha, 409.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 17 2021
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