Western Swing Shaking Up NHRA Standings

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 27 2022

Brittany Force is having a swinging time out West . (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Brittany Force may look back on NHRA’s annual three-race Western Swing as the summertime stretch that jump-started her bid for a second Top Fuel world championship.

Force moved past Mike Salinas into the point lead on Sunday via her victory in the 34th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals in California, Race No. 2 of the Swing that began in Morrison, Colo., near Denver. The 2016 world champ in NHRA’s premier class, Force will take a tenuous six-point lead over fellow-Californian Salinas into this weekend’s 33rd annual Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

This weekend’s event will close-out the Swing, as NHRA returns to the facility in Kent, Wash., near Seattle for the first time since 2019 due to COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

“It is exciting and it’s great to return to Seattle,” said Force, who celebrated a first-time victory at Sonoma and now aims to do likewise in the Great Northwest. “It’s been a while, but that’s another racetrack where I grew up racing in Super Comp, Top Alcohol Dragster and going there as a kid. (Teammate) Austin (Prock) got his first win there (in 2019) and there are just a lot of great memories there. It’s exciting that it’s our sponsor’s race and we’re coming out of Sonoma strong, and we plan to have the same success this weekend in Seattle.”

Force and her dragster simply obliterated the track record book in Sonoma en route to her fourth win of the 2022 Camping World Drag Racing Series season. Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as first-time Sonoma winner at the 12th of 22 national events.

Force covered the 1,000-foot distance Sunday in 3.709-seconds at 335.48 mph to trailer Salinas in the final for her 15th career victory. Force recorded the quickest run in Sonoma Raceway history during the first round with a 3.662 in her win over John Force Racing teammate Austin Prock, then set the track speed record on three consecutive runs _ capped by a massive pass at 337.75 mph in her semifinal victory over 2013 world champ Shawn Langdon. Force exited California’s wine country with one of the most memorable wins of her standout career.

“It was an incredible weekend for our team,” Force said. “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, but I’ve always struggled on the Western Swing as a racer. Winning in Sonoma has always been on my Bucket List and to run so outstanding, I’m really proud of this team. To put those kinds of numbers on the board, it’s just incredible. I have to give it up for my team and I’m always going to bet on them. It’s tough weekend after weekend in this class and there’s a lot of good competition out here.”

Force is attempting to end native Texan Steve Torrence’s four-year stranglehold on the class as world champion. “We have a solid race car and we’re going for a championship,” Force reiterated. “It’s coming up close now. It’s been a long season and now we’re getting ready to finish this Western Swing. We’ve got a couple more after that and then we start the Countdown to the Championship (playoffs). But we’re ready and I’m excited to see what this team can do.”

Racing at his home track, Salinas advanced to his 14th career final and his fifth this season by picking up round-wins against Justin Ashley and Doug Kalitta. Like Brit, Salinas also has bagged four wins in 2022.

Bob Tasca III was the epitome of consistency in Funny Car, starting eliminations at Sonoma with back-to-back 1,000-foot runs of 3.875-seconds and finishing his day by going 3.911 at 325.61 mph in his Ford Mustang to knock off 16-time world champ John Force in the final.

Tasca _ who had lost in the final round at the past two races _ earned his “overdue” first win of the season and 10th in his career. Tasca notched wins against Jason Rupert, Blake Alexander and point-leader Robert Hight to set up the marquee matchup against “Brute” Force.

“The only reason we’re out here is to run for a championship,” said Tasca, whose family of New England-based Ford loyalists traces its drag racing roots back to the 1960s. “We’ve sacrificed a lot to get where we’re at this season and with this set-up, we’ve put the field ‘on notice.’ We made the decision to get our car set-up to run for a championship and the car showed the field it is capable of that. 

“It’s exciting for me as a driver; this thing was as straight as an arrow all day long and it was lights-out in the final. I have the ultimate respect for John and what he’s done and to beat him in the finals, it’s pretty special.”

The iconic Force advanced to his 263rd career final on the strength of round-wins against two-time/reigning world champ Ron Capps, 2018 world champ J.R. Todd and Alexis DeJoria. JFR’s Hight maintained the championship lead, which now stands at 144 points over fellow three-time world champ Matt Hagan of Tony Stewart Racing.

In another chapter matching longtime Pro Stock rivals, Erica Enders defeated Greg Anderson on a hole-shot to collect her first career victory at Sonoma Raceway. Enders posted a brilliant 0.018-second reaction time and then held Anderson off at the finish line with a quarter-mile run of 6.574-seconds at 196.62 mph. 

The native Texan celebrated her 39th career win and sixth during a dominant 2022 season. Erica beat Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mason McGaha _ who had upset Enders in the first round at Morrison, Colo. _ and Aaron Stanfield to reach the final. Enders then finished the job against her biggest rival.

“This is huge for us,” said Enders, a four-time world champion and driver of the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS. “This has evaded us for 18 years and every season this is one race I wanted to win. We were finally able to capitalize on it and my guys worked so hard.

“It’s so crucial to be positive. I know we have the car to beat, and I just have to do my job. All day long I was pretty consistent on the (Christmas) tree, and I’m super-stoked with this win. It takes me back to my first win and anytime you have one of these awesome Wally trophies in your hand, it’s a good day. Being able to win for the first time (at Sonoma) is truly something I’ll never forget. It’s just been an amazing day.”

Anderson, the five-time/reigning world champion, remains one win shy of his landmark 100th Wally. Remarkably, Greg advanced to his first final round this year (and 168th of his career) by defeating Steve Graham, 2017 world champion Bo Butner and Ken Black Racing teammate Kyle Koretsky. Enders’ point lead now stands at 80 over Stanfield heading into Seattle.

After back-to-back final-round appearances, Joey Gladstone broke through for his first career victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Gladstone knocked off four-time world champ Eddie Krawiec in the final with a quarter-mile pass in 6.759-seconds at 200.68 mph aboard his J&A Service Suzuki Hayabusa. Krawiec went a quick 6.758-seconds _ but Gladstone was quicker off the starting line with an 0.026-second reaction time and held off the veteran and former factory Harley-Davidson stalwart.

Gladstone reached the final with wins against Jianna Evaristo, Katie Sullivan and 2016 world champ Jerry Savoie, posting a stellar 6.735-second pass at 202.18 mph in the second round.

“I’ve been waiting for this day since I was 12-years-old, when I decided I wanted to race Pro Stock Motorcycles,” Gladstone said. “To finally be here to do it and race the best guys in the world, this means everything to me. I just had to do my job out there. It’s been quite the road, and this means a lot and more than you could ever imagine. I’ve spent my whole life trying to get here and this is just the start for us.”

Krawiec reached his 90th career final via victories against Kelly Clontz, five-time/reigning world champ Matt Smith and teammate Angelle Sampey _ a three-time world champ who now has just a two-point lead over Gladstone in the point standings.

Austin Prock (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) won the Seattle event in 2019. This weekend’s racing will be carried on both the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday on FOX.


Final finishing order (1-16) at the 34th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The race was the 12th of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Brittany Force; 2. Mike Salinas; 3. Shawn Langdon; 4. Doug Kalitta; 5. Steve Torrence; 6. Leah Pruett; 7. Josh Hart; 8. Justin Ashley; 9. Clay Millican; 10. Austin Prock; 11. Antron Brown; 12. Alex Laughlin; 13. Ron August; 14. Jim Maroney; 15. Tony Schumacher; 16. Cameron Ferre.

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

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Kyle Koretsky; 4. Aaron Stanfield; 5. Mason McGaha; 6. Dallas Glenn; 7. Bo Butner; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 9. Cristian Cuadra; 10. Deric Kramer; 11. Camrie Caruso; 12. Fernando Cuadra; 13. Steve Graham; 14. Chris McGaha; 15. Matt Hartford; 16. Fernando Cuadra Jr.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Joey Gladstone; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Angelle Sampey; 4. Jerry Savoie; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Matt Smith; 7. Katie Sullivan; 8. Angie Smith; 9. Karen Stoffer; 10. Kelly Clontz; 11. Ryan Oehler; 12. Jianna Evaristo; 13. Scott Bottorff; 14. Lance Bonham. 

Final Pro and Sportsman results from the 34th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals: 

Top Fuel _ Brittany Force, 3.709-seconds, 335.48 mph def. Mike Salinas, 3.741-seconds, 320.05 mph.

Funny Car _ Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.911, 325.61 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.998, 326.48.

Pro Stock _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.574, 196.62 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.565, 208.01.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.759, 200.68 def. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.758, 199.67.

Competition Eliminator _ Jim Cowan, Chevy Cobalt, 8.052, 166.52 def. Joe Mozeris, Dragster, 6.828, 190.94.

Super Stock _ Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu, 10.712, 122.37 def. Kyle Rizzoli, Chevy Camaro, 9.577, 137.75.

Stock Eliminator _ Justin Jerome, Plymouth Duster, 11.133, 103.54 def. Bryan Phillips, Pontiac Firebird, Foul/Red Light.

Super Comp _ Tanner Theobald, Dragster, 8.922, 166.25 def. Toby Payne, Dragster, 8.923, 187.44.

Super Gas _ Evan Kowalski, Chevy Corvette, 9.904, 154.97 def. Beau Hicks, Corvette, 9.883, 158.86.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Richard Okerman, Chevy Beretta, 7.248, 166.05 def. Michael Henry, Pontiac Firebird, 7.876, 167.38.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _Thomas Bayer, Dragster, 6.134, 220.58 def. Melissa Murphy, Dragster, Foul/Red Light.

Final round-by-round results from the 34th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals:


ROUND ONE _ Josh Hart, 3.733, 328.38 def. Clay Millican, 3.734, 327.35; Brittany Force, 3.662, 336.07 def. Austin Prock, 3.743, 321.04; Doug Kalitta, 3.719, 325.30 def. Ron August, 3.966, 261.72; Leah Pruett, 3.729, 328.86 def. Jim Maroney, 4.443, 187.42; Mike Salinas, 3.709, 323.66 def. Cameron Ferre, Broke/No Show; Justin Ashley, 3.752, 323.58 def. Alex Laughlin, 3.803, 315.56; Steve Torrence, 3.687, 325.37 def. Tony Schumacher, 5.513, 129.16; Shawn Langdon, 3.743, 326.63 def. Antron Brown, 3.763, 324.05;

QUARTERFINALS _ Langdon, 3.734, 330.96 def. Pruett, 3.758, 323.97; Force, 3.663, 336.49 def. Torrence, 3.716, 329.18; Salinas, 3.701, 334.98 def. Ashley, 3.937, 246.03; Kalitta, 3.728, 332.02 def. Hart, 3.781, 326.95;

SEMIFINALS _ Salinas, 3.844, 321.04 def. Kalitta, 4.354, 193.71; Force, 3.675, 337.75 def. Langdon, 3.787, 311.20;

FINAL _ Force, 3.709, 335.48 def. Salinas, 3.741, 320.05. 


ROUND ONE _ Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.875, 330.07 def. Jason Rupert, Mustang, 4.091, 313.15; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.905, 328.78 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.935, 162.53; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.021, 260.31 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 6.624, 104.91; John Force, Camaro, 3.892, 332.18 def. Ron Capps, Supra, 3.920, 330.96; Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 3.911, 328.70 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.939, 330.23; Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.977, 325.06 def. Steven Densham, Mustang, 4.084, 300.06; J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.999, 324.75 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.774, no speed; Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.004, 317.87 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.343, 213.67; 

QUARTERFINALS _ DeJoria, 3.905, 330.80 def. Pedregon, 4.747, 169.83; Tasca III, 3.875, 329.91 def. Alexander, 3.952, 325.30; Force, 3.932, 330.88 def. Todd, 3.958, 326.16; Hight, 3.943, 324.75 def. Campbell, 3.997, 318.54;

SEMIFINALS _ Force, 3.909, 328.38 def. DeJoria, 3.933, 325.06; Tasca III, 3.907, 326.87 def. Hight, 3.925, 326.56;

FINAL _ Tasca III, 3.911, 325.61 def. Force, 3.998, 326.48. 


ROUND ONE _ Mason McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.540, 211.26 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 11.652, 75.46; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.722, 179.59 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 9.718, 94.07; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.549, 208.46 def. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, Foul/Red Light; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.544, 208.59 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.547, 210.97; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.522, 210.21 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.544, 208.81; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.535, 211.33 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.632, 209.49; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.540, 208.33 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 8.441, 113.84; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.517, 211.86 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, Foul/Red Light; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Anderson, 6.572, 208.04 def. Butner, 6.579, 210.14; Koretsky, 6.558, 209.30 def. Coughlin Jr., 15.096, 55.20; Stanfield, 6.534, 210.28 def. Glenn, 6.552, 208.39; Enders, 6.540, 211.43 def. M. McGaha, 6.546, 211.03;

SEMIFINALS _ Anderson, 6.557, 208.94 def. Koretsky, Broke; Enders, 6.527, 211.00 def. Stanfield, Foul/Red Light; 

FINAL _ Enders, 6.574, 196.62 def. Anderson, 6.565, 208.01. 


ROUND ONE _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.780, 198.44 def. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.776, 203.00; Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.814, 199.14 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.828, 198.82; Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.772, 200.56 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.847, 196.36; Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.723, 202.18 def. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.932, 195.62; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.758, 199.17 def. Scott Bottorff, Buell, 6.953, 193.05; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.747, 201.40 def. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.949, 192.99; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.752, 201.19 def. Lance Bonham, Buell, 9.689, 115.15;

QUARTERFINALS _ Savoie, 6.751, 199.70 def. Johnson, 6.731, 200.38; Sampey, 6.868, 200.50 was unopposed; Gladstone, 6.735, 202.18 def. Sullivan, 7.480, 134.38; Krawiec, 6.750, 200.41 def. M. Smith, 6.748, EBR, 201.46;

SEMIFINALS _ Krawiec, 6.758, 200.29 def. Sampey, Foul/Red Light; Gladstone, 6.754, 200.71 def. Savoie, 6.849, 195.05; 

FINAL _ Gladstone, 6.759, 200.68 def. Krawiec, 6.758, 199.67.

Point standings (top-10) following the 34th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals:

Top Fuel _1. Brittany Force, 982; 2. Mike Salinas, 976; 3. Justin Ashley, 842; 4. Steve Torrence, 804; 5. Josh Hart, 636; 6. (tie) Shawn Langdon, 601; Leah Pruett, 601; 8. Austin Prock, 570; 9. Doug Kalitta, 566; 10. Clay Millican, 551.

Funny Car _1. Robert Hight, 1,133; 2. Matt Hagan, 989; 3. Ron Capps, 923; 4. John Force, 827; 5. Bob Tasca III, 733; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 647; 7. J.R. Todd, 615; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 600; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 522; 10. Chad Green, 440.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 976; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 896; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 669; 4. Greg Anderson, 590; 5. Dallas Glenn, 561; 6. Mason McGaha, 541; 7. Matt Hartford, 489; 8. Camrie Caruso, 487; 9. Troy Coughlin Jr., 454; 10. Bo Butner, 443.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Angelle Sampey, 599; 2. Joey Gladstone, 597; 3. Steve Johnson, 587; 4. Matt Smith, 563; 5. Eddie Krawiec, 530; 6. Karen Stoffer, 501; 7. Angie Smith, 500; 8. Jerry Savoie, 468; 9. Marc Ingwersen, 346; 10. Jim Underdahl, 291.

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 (1995) 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, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 27 2022
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