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Brittany Force Slays All-Star Field In Vegas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 5 2022

Notching NHRA victories in Las Vegas on Sunday were, left to right, Erica Enders (Pro Stock) Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Brittany Force (Top Fuel).

Brittany Force prevailed over an all-star, final-round quad featuring NHRA’s last eight Top Fuel world champions to win Sunday’s 22nd annual Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The star-studded final included four-time/reigning world champion Steve Torrence, eight-time champ Tony Schumacher and three-time champ Antron Brown _ winners of a combined 15 world titles. Unfazed, Force _ the 2017 world champ from John Force Racing _ covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.718-seconds at 338.00 mph to earn her first win of the 2022 season and 12th in her career.

Force, who finished second in the opening round quad and won in the second round, also recorded her first four-wide victory in Vegas while becoming the fourth different winner in four Top Fuel races this season.

“This is huge for our team,” said Force, driver of the Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac dragster tuned by David Grubnic and Mac Savage. “It was not easy out there and we faced tough competition all day, but we’re excited to get a win like this. You look at that final quad and to get a win, that’s really something to be proud of. It puts a fire under us and getting in that Winner’s Circle, there’s no better feeling than that.

“It’s been a little bit of a tough start for us, but coming into the season I knew it was going to be the toughest year yet in this class. I see a great future ahead with this team. It’s a great group and the hardest bunch of workers I’ve been around, and I’m so proud of our guys.”

Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also won during the fourth of 22 races of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Meanwhile, Torrence _ the “Quad King” _ failed to secure the unprecedented seventh career four-wide Wally trophy he was seeking. But as runner-up to national record-holder Force, the Texan demonstrated that his “Drive for Five” is very much alive.

Torrence left Vegas as the championship leader by four points (304-300) over Force. Torrence won his opening-round quad and finished second to Force in the second round to advance to the championship. Ironically, all four drivers in that stacked championship quad were making their first finals appearances in 2022.

“We’ve been working on some things,” said Torrence, a 51-time tour winner in his family-owned Capco Contractors dragster. “You can’t just stand still in this sport. You do that and they’ll just run over you. ‘Hoagie’ (crew chief Richard Hogan), Bobby (Lagana Jr.) and these Capco Boys, they’re trying to stay ahead of the curve and I think we took a big step today.”

Although he qualified only seventh after being forced to abort two of four attempts when his Capco machine inexplicably lost traction, Torrence won his opening quad with a time of 3.720-seconds which, until the final, was quickest of the race.

“It’s not easy to win out here,” Torrence said. “Look at that final. You pull up and there’s Tony, Antron and Brittany (the last champion before Torrence). This is as competitive as this class has ever been _ and that’s exciting.  That’s what you want _ to compete at the highest level against the best there is.”

Schumacher, the most successful driver in NHRA Top Fuel history, has checked nearly every item on his career wish list. Still, a trophy from a four-wide event continues to elude the transplanted Texan. Sunday’s final saw his Maynard Family Racing dragster lose traction early in the final en route to a third-place result.

“This is a good day for our team,” said Schumacher, the winner of 85 races while driving for his father’s Don Schumacher Racing. “We had a lucky first round and an excellent second round with that 3.73 and we went out and tried to run a 3.70-flat or an 0.69 in the finals, but it was just a little fast. I’m happy as can be with the performance of the car and (crew chief) Todd Okuhara is getting a good handle on things.”

A five-time winner at The Strip, Brown advanced to the final in his first season as owner/driver of AB Motorsports.

“I’m super-proud of all of my guys this weekend here at Vegas for the Four-Wide Nationals,” said Brown, driver of the Matco Tools dragster. “I thought we had something for them in the finals the way this car has been running this weekend. To that point, we made it down the track six straight times and got quicker each lap, but as soon I hit the gas (in the final), I felt a cylinder go out and I knew it dropped a hole because it felt real lazy to the 60-foot and then it shook the tires. That being said, we did a great job this weekend.”

It was a monumental day for Ron Capps in Funny Car, as the two-time/reigning world champ claimed his first victory in the role of owner/driver of Ron Capps Motorsports. Capps earned his Wally with a 1,000-foot run in 3.914-seconds at 331.20 mph. The native Californian bagged his sixth victory at Las Vegas _ tying him for the most in Funny Car history _ and 69th in his career.

Capps finished a workmanlike weekend by taking the win in all three rounds. The last saw Capps drive past three-time world champs Matt Hagan and Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria, who was making her first finals appearance of the year. Capps posted a strong starting line light en route to celebrating one of the most significant victories of his career.

“I was just trying not to make mistakes because every quad was nuts,” said Capps, who qualified on-pole in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. “One of the best parts about racing with Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli) is that he will not go up there to just run ‘OK’ or just to get down the track. He goes up there ready to throw down.” 

In the season’s first four races, the RCM team has captured two poles, a runner-up result, a semifinal finish _ all capped by Sunday’s trip to the Winner’s Circle.

“We have the best parts, pieces, and that brain trust of great minds with Guido and John Medlen,” Capps said of the crew he inherited from Don Schumacher Racing. “Our whole NAPA AutoCare team, they don’t even bat an eye, they’re ready to go toe-to-toe with anyone out there.

“Last year I thought we had the tightest field that I can remember seeing in my entire career, and it’s just as tough this year, so wins are tough to come by. We knew we had everything we needed, but you just don’t know when those wins will come. It’s just really special. It felt like my first win today, I was speechless. Never in a million years did I think I’d own a Wally trophy, let alone to now be holding one of these as a team-owner. I grew up in this sport. Every bit of my being has been in drag racing, so this moment is so surreal.”

Hagan advanced to his second straight final for first-year Tony Stewart Racing and also took over the point lead from Hight with his 74th final-round appearance. Hagan won his opening-round quad and finished second to Capps a round later to advance to the final. It was the third final round this season for Hight and his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS fielded by John Force Racing.

“What a crazy race,” said Hagan, who won his three championships during his tenure at DSR. “Anytime we go four-wide it’s always crazy, but we had a really solid weekend. The Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car is running really good. It was a little tough as we’re up here on a hill a little bit with the altitude and trying to make power, but Dickie Venables (crew chief) is the man. We had three good rounds on Sunday after qualifying No. 4. I’m really proud of my guys.

“Congratulations to Ron Capps, who’s doing really good over there with his first win of the season as an owner and driver. We’ve got a lot more racing to go.”

Erica Enders secured her second win of 2022 in Pro Stock and 35th of her championship career, outlasting a trio of young “Factory Hot Rod” standouts with a quarter-mile run of 6.668-seconds at 206.32 mph in the final quad.

It also was an historic victory for Enders, as her ninth win in Vegas gave the four-time world champ the most of any driver in NHRA history at the facility. By knocking off Cristian Cuadra, Dallas Glenn and Mason McGaha in the final, Enders bounced back from a disappointing first-round hole shot loss at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway via quickest run in Pro Stock history. She also won the four-wide Vegas race for the second straight year.

“I’m not much of a gambler, but I love coming to Las Vegas to drag race,” said Enders, driver of the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS. “I feel like we’ve got a really great tune-up here, so I give a lot of credit to my guys. There’s a lot of moving parts and it takes a lot of determination and focus, but it was a really good day. I knew I had to be on my game and we laid down a stellar number in the final round. It definitely means a lot and these four-wide races are always challenging, so I’m really proud of my team. My first win at Elite came here and it’s been quite the ride since. I’m just proud to be their driver.”

Cuadra earned his first career runner-up result in his Ford Mustang on the strength of a triple hole-shot victory in the first round. Cuadra cut an 0.001-second starting line light to open the day and added an 0.006-second light a round later to advance to the final quad, where he posted a stellar 0.005-second reaction time.

Gainesville winner Glenn and McGaha, who had a double hole-shot in the opening quad and went 0.001-seconds on the starting line in the second round, also advanced to the final quad.

The series returns to action April 22-24 for the NHRA SpringNationals _ the final NHRA race booked at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown.

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Final finishing order (1-16) for professional categories at the 22nd annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race was the fourth of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Brittany Force; 2. Steve Torrence; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Antron Brown; 5. Leah Pruett; 6. Austin Prock; 7. Clay Millican; 8. Shawn Langdon; 9. Mike Salinas; 10. Josh Hart; 11. Jim Maroney; 12. Doug Kalitta; 13. Cameron Ferre; 14. Justin Ashley; 15. Rob Passey.

Funny Car _ 1. Ron Capps; 2. Matt Hagan; 3. Robert Hight; 4. Alexis DeJoria; 5. J.R. Todd; 6. John Force; 7. Bob Tasca III; 8. Blake Alexander; 9. Chad Green; 10. Jim Campbell; 11. Tony Jurado; 12. Tim Wilkerson; 13. Jeff Diehl; 14. Cruz Pedregon; 15. Bobby Bode; 16. Jason Rupert.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders; 2. Cristian Cuadra; 3. Mason McGaha; 4. Dallas Glenn; 5. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 6. Kyle Koretsky; 7. Aaron Stanfield; 8. Bo Butner; 9. Greg Anderson; 10. Matt Hartford; 11. Fernando Cuadra; 12. Steve Graham; 13. Deric Kramer; 14. Camrie Caruso; 15. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 16. Chris McGaha. 

Final Four-Wide Nationals results at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel _ Brittany Force, 3.718-seconds, 338.00 mph def. Steve Torrence, 3.756-seconds, 326.71 mph and Tony Schumacher, 4.713-seconds, 169.47 mph and Antron Brown, 5.086- seconds, 154.65 mph; 

Funny Car _ Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.914, 331.20 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.924, 324.44 and Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.943, 328.94 and Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.954, 321.35; 

Pro Stock _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.668, 206.32 def. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.702, 196.13 and Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.684, 205.85 and Dallas Glenn, Camaro/broke; 

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Joey Severance, 5.277, 274.44 def. Johnny Ahten, 5.244, 278.23 and Chris Demke, 5.302, 272.45 and Jasmine Salinas, 5.337, 258.37; 

Top Alcohol Funny Car _Doug Gordon, Chevy Camaro, 5.513, 266.85 def. Shane Westerfield, Camaro, 5.525, 265.12 and Nick Januik, Camaro, 5.624, 258.91 and Chris Marshall, Camaro/broke; 

Competition Eliminator _Ryan Priddy, Chevy Camaro, 6.603, 199.40 def. Doug Lambeck, Plymouth Sunfire, 8.459, 157.96.

Super Stock _ Justin Lamb, Chevy Cobalt, 8.974, 145.74 def. Tony Hewes, Ford Mustang, 9.986, 131.00.

Stock Eliminator _ Ryan McClanahan, Chevy Camaro, 8.579, 158.97 def. Doug Lambeck, Camaro, 10.348, 124.75.

Super Comp _ Allison McKoane, Dragster, 9.065, 169.83 def. Michael Miller, Dragster, 9.051, 173.03.

Super Gas _ Damon Bustamante, Chevy Corvette, 10.074, 158.52 def. Edwin Olpin, Chevy Camaro, 10.059, 165.05.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Ed Olpin, Chevy Camaro, 7.094, 187.63 def. Mike Ferderer, Pontiac Grand Am, 7.270, 184.65.

Final round-by-round results from the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Clay Millican, 3.768, 321.65 and Austin Prock, 3.803, 324.83 def. Jim Maroney, 3.973, 300.73 and Justin Ashley, 9.845, 75.15; Steve Torrence, 3.720, 327.27 and Brittany Force, 3.747, 334.32 def. Josh Hart, 3.798, 326.00 and Cameron Ferre, 5.899, 118.62; Antron Brown, 3.754, 328.86 and Tony Schumacher, 3.880, 310.13 def. Mike Salinas, 3.779, 326.32; Leah Pruett, 3.740, 327.27 and Shawn Langdon, 3.853, 316.01 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.100, 227.80 and Rob Passey, 13.101, 63.28; 

SEMIFINALS _ Schumacher, 3.733, 314.09 and Brown, 3.749, 320.20 def. Prock, 3.783, 327.59 and Millican, 3.786, 323.89; Force, 3.725, 329.58 and Torrence, 3.744, 328.46 def. Pruett, 3.745, 325.69 and Langdon, 3.884, 294.31; 

FINAL _ Force, 3.718, 338.00 def. Torrence, 3.756, 326.71, Schumacher, 4.713, 169.47 and Brown, 5.086, 154.65.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE _ Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.904, 329.99 and Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 3.953, 312.57 def. Tony Jurado, Mustang, 4.108, 270.54 and Bobby Bode, Mustang, 4.608, 186.41; John Force, Camaro, 3.978, 328.14 and Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.932, 327.43 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.066, 313.00 and Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.343, 206.16; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.970, 268.65 and J.R. Todd, Supra, 4.419, 245.85 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 8.045, 97.06 and Jason Rupert, Mustang/broke; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.929, 323.35 and Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.929, 326.32 def. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.937, 312.35 and Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.136, 291.07;

SEMIFINALS _ Capps, 3.902, 329.91 and Hagan, 3.919, 320.43 def. Todd, 3.936, 326.08 and Tasca III, 3.949, 323.12; Hight, 3.864, 331.77 and DeJoria, 3.936, 318.92 def. Force, 3.983, 318.17 and Alexander, 4.182, 242.23; 

FINAL _ Capps, 3.914, 331.20 def. Hagan, 3.924, 324.44, Hight, 3.943, 328.94 and DeJoria, 3.954, 321.35. 

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Troy Coughlin Jr., Chevy Camaro, 6.666, 205.82 and Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.667, 206.39 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.728, 205.51 and Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.892, 191.89; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.676, 204.54 and Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.688, 205.91 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.718, 203.68 and Chris McGaha, Camaro, 10.445, 86.22; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.688, 205.10 and Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.699, 205.88 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.679, 204.91 and Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.689, 204.94; Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.694, 204.60 and Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.667, 206.07 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.685, 205.26 and Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.693, 203.65;

SEMIFINALS _ M. McGaha, 6.711, 205.10 and Glenn, 6.682, 204.76 def. Koretsky, 6.700, 204.98 and Butner, 6.747, 203.40; Enders, 6.684, 206.13 and C. Cuadra, 6.700, 204.29 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.686, 205.38 and Stanfield, 6.714, 204.45;

FINAL _ Enders, 6.668, 206.32 def. C. Cuadra, 6.702, 196.13, M. McGaha, 6.684, 205.85 and Glenn/broke.

Point standings (top-10) for NHRA professional categories following the 22nd annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 304; 2. Brittany Force, 300; 3. Mike Salinas, 297; 4. Justin Ashley, 270; 5. Clay Millican, 229; 6. Austin Prock, 198; 7. Tony Schumacher, 192; 8. Josh Hart, 189; 9. Doug Kalitta, 168; 10. Antron Brown, 164.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan, 394; 2. Robert Hight, 385; 3. Ron Capps, 354; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 224; 5. John Force, 217; 6. Alexis DeJoria, 207; 7. Bob Tasca III, 193; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 183; 9. J.R. Todd, 170; 10. Chad Green, 163.

Pro Stock _1. Aaron Stanfield, 349; 2. Erica Enders, 346; 3. Dallas Glenn, 272; 4. Kyle Koretsky, 271; 5. Mason McGaha, 246; 6. (tie) Greg Anderson, 213; Troy Coughlin Jr., 213; 8. Bo Butner, 195; 9. Cristian Cuadra, 186; 10. Deric Kramer, 176.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 5 2022
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