John Force burnout - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
The only thing louder than the sound of nitro-powered NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car battles on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on Sunday was John Force after winning his sixth O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals and the 134th Wally of his stellar career.
The ever-loquacious Force, 62, beat teammate Mike Neff in a late-afternoon battle between Ford Mustangs on a hole shot for a1000-foot pass of 4.080 seconds at 315.64-mph. Neff finished with the fastest run of the weekend at 4.036 at 316.82.
"Before the final, I said 'What are we going to do Guido' (crew chief Dean Antonelli)?" Force said. "He said, 'We can't race him the way we are, running .12 or .14. We're going to have to go after it and if it smokes the tires, we'll go home.' They were all over there, looking at the numbers and it just went. It wasn't quick enough to beat him," Force said, "but he was late so I got the win. He told me something distracted him."
Making her highly anticipated debut, Force's youngest daughter Courtney, 23, earned her first round win by defeating fellow Ford Mustang driver Bob Tasca III in the opening round, only to lose in the second round to Neff. Her father defeated Courtney's rookie rival, Alexis DeJoria in a close first-round match-up. John Force defeated Mustang driver Tim Wilkerson and former teammate Gary Densham en route to the final round.
Spencer Massey en route to victory - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Top Fuel became a Spencer Massey party after No. 1 qualifier Morgan Lucas was upset by runner-up Antron Brown in the semifinal round. Massey, who finished second to now-retired champion Del Worsham in last year's title chase earned his seventh career Top Fuel Wally trophy ad first at Pomona, drag racing's ancestral home. The persistent rain showers that blocked final qualifying gave way to cool, blustery and cloudy conditions on Sunday, good for quick runs.
Beating teammate Brown with a 3.750-second pass at 325.77 mph in his FRAM/Prestone dragster to Brown's 3.794 at 320.43 Massey said, "It shows that they know what it takes to get the car down the racetrack. After the second round," he explained, "we didn't have any computer data and [crew chiefs] Phil (Shuler) and Todd (Okuhara) tuned that thing like it was a Top Fuel car from 1968. They looked at the plugs, looked at the bearings and it went 3.745 at (a national record speed of) 328.62. It's awesome to start like this; this is my life dream and we're living it!"
Jeg Coughlin retuned to Pro Stock competition in a Dodge - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Greg Anderson struggled during qualifying but came into Pro Stock eliminations with a vengeance, earning his 71st career victory and fifth at the Winternationals. In the finals his Pontiac GXP posted a 6.549 at 210.87 to hold off always-tough returning (fellow) four-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin's Dodge Avenger, which trailed to the quarter-mile timing beams at 6.586 at 209.62.
Anderson vanquished Larry Morgan's Ford Mustang, Allen Johnson's Avenger and, finally, teammate and reigning world champ Jason Line to make the final. "I was the quickest driver out here today, but I was very consistent," Anderson explained. "We managed to stop the big yellow Mopar; he sure came out swinging," Anderson said of Coughlin. "You're always array of how good Jeg is driving. I've never been very good at tuning that kind of stuff out, but it worked today."
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series competitors don't have much time to recover from this race as the tour has its second - of 23 total - stop at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix next weekend with the NHRA Arizona Nationals.