RHR’s Iowa comeback continues his hot streak

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He isn’t leading the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings yet, but defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is riding a crest of momentum heading into the series’ deserved off weekend.

Hunter-Reay is now a perfect four-for-four in podium finishes on ovals this year, with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by DEKALB probably his hardest earned this season.

After contact cost him his front wing right endplate, Hunter-Reay dropped to 21st in the field. But he charged back from there. He was closing on Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe in the final 30 laps of the race but a stretch where he got proverbially boxed in behind Simona de Silvestro, who was several laps down, and rookie Tristan Vautier cost him his momentum and a chance at a repeat Iowa win.

“It was so hard to catch back up to James (Hinchcliffe) and then lapped traffic. It’s one thing if you’re a lap down, but if you’re five laps down or six laps down, just making it tough on the leaders was uncalled for,” Hunter-Reay admitted.

“But hey, we came back from 22nd or whatever we were to finish second. We definitely had the car to win today but just made a mistake there trying to get by Graham (Rahal), keeping my foot in it. The front just had no grip on it when I turned to pop out and pass him. Easy mistake. We had a tough weekend… to come second out of this thing, I’m pretty pleased with that. Good job to James (Hinchcliffe). It was a good day in the points for the No. 1 DHL Chevy – definitely have to be happy about that.”

About those points: Hunter-Reay trails Helio Castroneves by nine, the difference in Castroneves winning the points-paying Iowa heat race and Hunter-Reay failing to advance out of his.

Hunter-Reay has scored 185 points in the last five races to lead the series, has scored the most oval points thus far with 176, and has advanced from fourth to second in the championship standings since the end of the Indianapolis 500.

In brief, the champion is driving even better than he was last year, with a team that is firing on all cylinders.

NHRA Houston winners: Brittany Force (TF), J.R. Todd (FC), Matt Hartford (PS)

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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John Force may have failed to qualify for a race for the first time in 221 races (dating back to September 2008), but daughter Brittany came through for dear old dad.

Brittany Force captured the Top Fuel division in Sunday’s final round of the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston.

Also winning: J.R. Todd earned his second consecutive Funny Car victory, while Matt Hartford captured his first career Pro Stock victory.

John Force failed to reach Sunday’s four rounds of eliminations after falling short during Friday’s and Saturday’s four qualifying sessions.

That left John Force Racing to be represented Sunday by Brittany Force, sister Courtney Force and the president of the organization and also John Force’s son-in-law, Robert Hight.

It was the first win of 2018 for Brittany Force in the fifth of 24 races on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Brittany Force, the defending Top Fuel world champion, defeated Terry McMillen in the final round with a winning pass of 3.762 seconds at 299.46 mph.

Brittany finally earned her first win at Royal Purple Raceway, becoming the last of all Force family members to have won at the Baytown, Texas track. She’s also the seventh member of JFR to have won there.

It was also the eighth win of her Top Fuel career.

“The tires were spinning and I’m trying to drive the thing down there and try to get it to the finish line,” Brittany Force said of her winning run vs. McMillen. “I didn’t know where (McMillen) was next to me, but it was just about getting down there first.

“I saw our win lights come on in the final round and that was the most important one.”

In Funny Car, Todd earned back-to-back wins for the first time in his career and the 13th overall win of his career. He defeated Hight in the final round with a run of 3.955 seconds at 313.29 mph to bring home the win to Kalitta Motorsports.

“It’s nice to have this much momentum early in the season,” Todd stated. “We struggled really bad last season and didn’t really turn around till probably the Western Swing. It’s nice as Kalitta Motorsports to come out swinging at these races this year.”

In Pro Stock, Hartford defeated local Houston-area favorite Erica Enders with a pass of 6.552 seconds at 211.36 mph, to become the 66th different driver to win in Pro Stock in NHRA history.

“We started in the back half of the field today and had to work our way through,” Hartford stated. “We earned this.

“We did a better job with our car today than the other teams. My driving is not why we won today and that is a fact. My crew tuned the car enough for us to be able to drive around her [Enders] at the end.”

The next NHRA national event is next weekend, April 27-29, with the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force; 2. Terry McMillen; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Billy Torrence; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Scott Palmer; 10. Bill Litton; 11. Terry Brian; 12. Antron Brown; 13. Kebin Kinsley; 14. Mike Salinas; 15. Terry Haddock; 16. Richie Crampton.

FUNNY CAR: 1. J.R. Todd; 2. Robert Hight; 3. Jack Beckman; 4. Tim Wilkerson; 5. Jonnie Lindberg; 6. Matt Hagan; 7. Del Worsham; 8. Jeff Diehl; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Richard Townsend; 12. Bob Tasca III; 13. Courtney Force; 14. Cruz Pedregon; 15. Shawn Langdon; 16. Todd Simpson.

PRO STOCK: 1. Matt Hartford; 2. Erica Enders; 3. Greg Anderson; 4. Jeg Coughlin; 5. Bo Butner; 6. Tanner Gray; 7. Alex Laughlin; 8. Rodger Brogdon; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. Drew Skillman; 11. Chris McGaha; 12. Alan Prusiensky; 13. John Gaydosh Jr.; 14. Steve Graham; 15. Deric Kramer; 16. Jason Line.

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SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Brittany Force, 3.762 seconds, 299.46 mph def. Terry McMillen, 3.818 seconds, 311.56 mph.

FUNNY CAR: J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.955, 313.29 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.993, 308.14.

PRO STOCK: Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.36 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.570, 210.50.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Billy Torrence, 3.753, 318.32 def. Kebin Kinsley, 6.589, 96.12; Steve Torrence, 3.741, 309.06 def. Scott Palmer, 3.771, 314.09; Terry McMillen, 3.777, 317.79 def. Antron Brown, 4.771, 163.79; Leah Pritchett, 3.697, 327.43 def. Terry Brian, 4.233, 258.37; Brittany Force, 3.755, 316.67 def. Terry Haddock, 8.779, 73.92; Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 325.85 def. Bill Litton, 4.228, 216.31; Clay Millican, 4.662, 206.04 def. Mike Salinas, 8.614, 70.10; Doug Kalitta, 3.738, 329.02 def. Richie Crampton, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — McMillen, 3.766, 301.81 def. B. Torrence, 3.775, 311.49; Force, 3.739, 302.08 def. Kalitta, 3.819, 309.27; Schumacher, 3.737, 317.64 def. Millican, 6.473, 89.64; Pritchett, 3.740, 320.36 def. S. Torrence, 3.778, 312.64; SEMIFINALS — McMillen, 5.124, 213.64 def. Pritchett, 10.490, 73.72; Force, 3.766, 299.80 def. Schumacher, 5.074, 148.97; FINAL — Force, 3.762, 299.46 def. McMillen, 3.818, 311.56.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.951, 311.49 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.152, 245.81; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.878, 322.42 def. Todd Simpson, Charger, Broke; Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.133, 293.35 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.944, 131.25; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.125, 317.12 def. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.186, 298.93; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.009, 310.20 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 6.032, 116.63; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.351, 283.85 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 7.418, 93.67; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.955, 321.73 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.989, 309.49; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.958, 313.22 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.449, 248.71; QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 5.286, 233.72 def. Worsham, 5.563, 215.62; Hight, 3.950, 310.84 def. Lindberg, 4.002, 305.56; Wilkerson, 3.972, 308.71 def. Hagan, 4.190, 240.08; Todd, 3.985, 309.70 def. Diehl, 9.175, 48.27; SEMIFINALS — Todd, 4.017, 309.06 def. Wilkerson, 6.604, 145.45; Hight, 3.959, 312.50 def. Beckman, 4.113, 293.35; FINAL — Todd, 3.955, 313.29 def. Hight, 3.993, 308.14.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 7.496, 118.16 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 13.143, 64.83; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.569, 210.77 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.543, 210.60; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.537, 211.13 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 211.39; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.560, 209.46 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 40.752, 26.02; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.537, 211.13 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.534, 210.93; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.539, 210.54 def. John Gaydosh Jr., Chevrolet Camaro, 6.708, 208.91; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.531, 210.31 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 12.327, 71.16; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.533, 210.70 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.529, 211.03 def. Brogdon, 19.247, 40.33; Hartford, 6.530, 211.26 def. Gray, Foul – Red Light; Coughlin, 6.512, 211.03 def. Butner, 6.550, 210.90; Anderson, 6.514, 211.46 def. Laughlin, 14.034, 59.80; SEMIFINALS — Enders, 6.561, 209.95 def. Anderson, 6.572, 212.23; Hartford, 6.564, 210.83 def. Coughlin, 10.727, 98.44; FINAL — Hartford, 6.522, 211.36 def. Enders, 6.570, 210.50.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. (tie) Tony Schumacher, 385; Steve Torrence, 385; 3. Antron Brown, 324; 4. Clay Millican, 309; 5. Doug Kalitta, 304; 6. Leah Pritchett, 284; 7. Brittany Force, 270; 8. Richie Crampton, 247; 9. Terry McMillen, 240; 10. Scott Palmer, 214.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman, 415; 2. Matt Hagan, 363; 3. J.R. Todd, 347; 4. Courtney Force, 342; 5. Robert Hight, 326; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 298; 7. Ron Capps, 289; 8. Shawn Langdon, 237; 9. Jonnie Lindberg, 221; 10. Del Worsham, 219.

Pro Stock: 1. Bo Butner, 374; 2. Greg Anderson, 337; 3. Chris McGaha, 330; 4. Deric Kramer, 322; 5. Vincent Nobile, 319; 6. Jason Line, 303; 7. Erica Enders, 292; 8. Tanner Gray, 287; 9. Drew Skillman, 277; 10. Alex Laughlin, 264.

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