NHRA’s Mile-High Nationals underway in Denver

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On Friday, Cruz Pedregon, Doug Kalitta, Allen Johnson and Adam Arana came away as first-day qualifying leaders in their respective classes at the NHRA’s Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.

Pedregon topped the Funny Car contingent and bested his own track record with a time of 4.073 seconds at 307.37 miles per hour, ahead of defending event winner Jack Beckman (4.097/309.91) and Tim Wilkerson (4.114/302.21). Beckman’s run was enough to eclipse Bandimere’s old speed record.

In Top Fuel, Kalitta, who is looking for his first win of the year in the top-tier Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, led the way with a time of 3.889 seconds at 310.13 miles per hour. Khalid alBalooshi was second-fastest with a pass of 3.924 seconds at 313.95 mph, while rookie Brittany Force was third in class following a time of 3.926 second at 309.56 mph.

Johnson, a four-time winner at Bandimere, was the fastest Friday qualifier in Pro Stock with a time of 6.949 seconds at 198.23 miles per hour. Colorado native Vieri “V” Gaines was second (6.970/197.25), followed by Shane Gray in third (6.971/197.02).

Finally, in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana led with a pass of 7.267 seconds at 182.62 mph, topping Denver resident Mike Berry (7.281/181.89) and Michael Ray (7.289/180.48).

Qualifying continues this afternoon, with eliminations beginning tomorrow morning.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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