Ageless John Force powers to 140th career NHRA Funny Car win, first ever at Norwalk

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Having just turned 65 two months ago, John Force shows no signs of slowing down.

The record-holding 16-time and reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion captured his 140th career victory in Sunday’s finals of the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

Also winning in their respective classes were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Force and fellow veteran racer Ron Capps gave fans a great show in a close final round. Force covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in 4.113 seconds at 317.27 mph, while Capps did so in 4.135 seconds at 305.56 mph.

It was Force’s second win in the first 13 races this season and his first win ever at the Norwalk track, located between Toledo and Cleveland.

“It was special to me,” Force said in a NHRA media release. “I’ve come to this track for decades. I’ve won here at the Night of Fire races. Robert [Hight] and my daughter Ashley [Force Hood] have won here. I keep coming back here.

“The Bader family (track owners) is P.T. Barnum doing this year-round, 90-some race a year. They light the fire under those fans. Look at the crowd on Friday night and that whole fireworks show. I’ve been real lucky in my career and you want to win them all, but I really wanted this win.”

Hight, who is Force’s son-in-law and also president of John Force Racing, remains atop the Mello Yello Funny Car points standings, but with Sunday’s win, Force continued his climb upward, now sitting in second place. Capps, meanwhile, is a close third.

“It’s a really great show, and I’m just excited to be a part of it,” Force said. “We raced some great kids: Capps, Cruz (Pedregon), (Tim) Wilkerson, Chad Head. We gave them some good racing. Hey, we got the win. I’m just glad to get that one out of the way. Now I’ll try to get my second win here.”

In Top Fuel, Brown (3.797 seconds at 318.84 mph) continued his red-hot ways. Having won last week at Joliet, Illinois, Brown revved through the field to win again Sunday, defeating No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon (4.982 seconds at 155.52 mph) in the final round.

“It’s been a true blessing to be out at this racetrack this weekend,” Brown said. “The Bader family really put on a great show. The racetrack was great all weekend long. We got some cloud cover today. When four cars can run 3.75 in the first round with other cars across the board at .76, .77, that shows you how competitive the Top Fuel class is right now. It’s crazy tough to win a round right now, let alone a race.”

Brown remains second in the Top Fuel standings, while Langdon moved into third. Doug Kalitta remains the points leader.

In Pro Stock, No. 1 qualifier Enders-Stevens (6.632 seconds at 210.14 mph) dominated throughout the weekend en route to her unprecedented fourth win of the season and 10th of her career, defeating her former crew chief-turned-driver Dave Connolly (6.665 seconds at 207.56 mph) in the final round.

“You can’t think about any of the negative things when you get into a 215-mph race car and I was able to do that today,” Enders-Stevens said. “At the end  of the day we came out on top and that’s all that matters.”

With her 10th win, Enders-Stevens becomes only the third female racer in NHRA history to reach double digits in wins. Angelle Sampey is No. 1 (41 wins), followed by legendary racer Shirley Muldowney (18).

“Shirley [Muldowney] is a legend and a mentor and Angelle is also a friend who lives a few miles from me,” Enders-Stevens said. “Those are two extremely talented ladies who are passionate about our sport. They broke down barriers so we could all do what we enjoy doing out here. It’s great to have my name on that list.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines (6.901 seconds at 193.96 mph) earned his third win of the season, defeating Hector Arana, who made his second straight final round appearance but is still seeking his first win since 2009.

“Today, we learned exactly what we need to do,” Hines said. “We started treating it differently than in years past. Instead of slowing on Sunday my bike actually picked up. Hopefully, that’s bad news for the competition and we could continue on a roll. There is no time to sit back and relax.”

Lastly in Pro Modified, Troy Coughlin (5.940 seconds at 250.92 mph) defeated Von Smith (5.920 seconds at  243.99 mph).

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series takes next week off before beginning its noted three-race “Western swing,” July 18-20 in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

 

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FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Antron Brown, 3.797 seconds, 318.84 mph  def. Shawn Langdon, 4.982 seconds, 155.52 mph.

Funny Car — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.113, 317.27  def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.135, 305.56.

Pro Stock — Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.632, 210.14  def. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.665, 207.56.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 193.96  def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.924, 195.53.

Pro Modified — Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.940, 250.92  def. Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.920, 243.99.

 

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FINISHING ORDER (1-16):

TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Shawn Langdon; 3.  Tony Schumacher; 4.  Troy Buff; 5.  Brittany Force; 6.  Doug Kalitta; 7.  Steve Torrence; 8.  Pat Dakin; 9.  Spencer Massey; 10.  Richie Crampton; 11.  Khalid alBalooshi; 12.  Larry Dixon; 13.  Terry McMillen; 14.  Clay Millican; 15.  Bob Vandergriff; 16.  J.R. Todd.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  John Force; 2.  Ron Capps; 3.  Cruz Pedregon; 4.  Jack Beckman; 5.  Matt Hagan; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 7.  Del Worsham; 8.  Chad Head; 9.  Alexis DeJoria; 10.  Bob Tasca III; 11.  Tim Wilkerson; 12.  Tony Pedregon; 13.  Jeff Diehl; 14.  Courtney Force; 15.  Jeff Arend; 16.  Robert Hight.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 2.  Dave Connolly; 3.  Allen Johnson; 4.  Chris McGaha; 5.  Shane Gray; 6.  Jeg Coughlin; 7.  Jonathan Gray; 8.  Vincent Nobile; 9.  Jason Line; 10.  Greg Anderson; 11.  Rodger Brogdon; 12.  Shane Tucker; 13.  Larry Morgan; 14.  John Gaydosh Jr; 15.  Mark Hogan; 16.  Travis Mazza.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Hector Arana; 3.  Adam Arana; 4.  Steve Johnson; 5.  Angie Smith; 6.  Jim Underdahl; 7.  Chaz Kennedy; 8.  Eddie Krawiec; 9.  Hector Arana Jr; 10.  Matt Smith; 11.  John Hall; 12.  Shawn Gann; 13.  Scotty Pollacheck; 14.  Elvira Karlsson; 15.  Michael Ray; 16.  Jerry Savoie.

PRO MODIFIED: 1.  Troy Coughlin; 2.  Von Smith; 3.  Rickie Smith; 4.  Pete Farber; 5.  Kevin Fiscus; 6.  Danny Rowe; 7.  Steve Matusek; 8.  Mike Janis; 9.  Eric Latino; 10.  Gary Capano; 11.  Bob Rahaim; 12.  Clint Satterfield; 13.  Bill Glidden; 14.  Mike Castellana; 15.  Kenny Lang; 16.  Steven Whiteley.

 

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.772, 328.06 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.786, 324.59; Steve Torrence, 3.780, 327.11 def. Larry Dixon, 3.801, 325.45; Pat Dakin, 3.829, 320.28 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.159, 289.69; Shawn Langdon, 3.759, 324.44 def. Terry McMillen, 3.884, 325.22; Doug Kalitta, 3.752, 327.51 def. Richie Crampton, 3.779, 323.35; Antron Brown, 3.756, 324.67 def. Clay Millican, 4.038, 241.58; Troy Buff, 3.834, 312.50 def. J.R. Todd, 6.795, 96.38; Brittany Force, 3.753, 329.83 def. Spencer Massey, 3.778, 326.95;

QUARTERFINALS — Buff, 4.689, 190.27 def. Dakin, 11.648, 69.71; Brown, 3.824, 320.89 def. Torrence, 4.527, 186.67; Langdon, 3.786, 327.51 def. Force, 3.866, 305.56; Schumacher, 3.847, 317.42 def. Kalitta, 4.224, 236.26;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.793, 320.89 def. Schumacher, 5.171, 144.41; Langdon, 9.866, 80.36 def. Buff, broke;

FINAL — Brown, 3.797, 318.84 def. Langdon, 4.982, 155.52.

 

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.104, 315.19 def. Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.439, 209.95; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.094, 311.77 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.258, 258.91; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.072, 317.64 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.295, 282.78; John Force, Mustang, 4.080, 317.72 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.199, 261.57; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.059, 316.90 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 11.685, 70.73; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.167, 304.25 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, DQ; Chad Head, Camry, 4.075, 316.30 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.090, 309.77; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.075, 315.49 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.145, 312.86;

QUARTERFINALS — C. Pedregon, 4.109, 307.58 def. Johnson Jr., 4.141, 312.06; Capps, 4.130, 309.42 def. Hagan, foul; Beckman, 4.181, 305.91 def. Worsham, 4.476, 226.01; J. Force, 4.217, 279.21 def. Head, 4.755, 181.76;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.126, 311.34 def. Beckman, 4.169, 309.84; J. Force, 4.149, 290.88 def. C. Pedregon, 4.150, 306.53;

FINAL — J. Force, 4.113, 317.27 def. Capps, 4.135, 305.56.

 

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.619, 209.98 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.591, 210.83; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.590, 210.08 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.595, 210.64; Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.587, 210.47 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.603, 209.75; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.590, 210.31 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.623, 209.82; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.615, 209.79 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.684, 207.62; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.571, 211.10 def. Mark Hogan, GXP, 6.754, 205.88; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.570, 211.39 def. Travis Mazza, Ford Mustang, 12.297, 71.93; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.589, 210.73 def. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 6.671, 209.30;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.621, 209.52 def. Nobile, 7.026, 158.89; Johnson, 6.609, 209.92 def. Coughlin, 6.658, 209.17; Connolly, 6.607, 209.85 def. S. Gray, 6.597, 210.50; Enders-Stevens, 6.593, 211.06 def. J. Gray, 6.660, 209.33;

SEMIFINALS — Connolly, 6.883, 209.10 def. Johnson, 11.306, 81.45; Enders-Stevens, 6.601, 211.20 def. McGaha, 18.030, 46.32;

FINAL — Enders-Stevens, 6.632, 210.14 def. Connolly, 6.665, 207.56.

 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.985, 191.95 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 23.502, 24.78; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.896, 193.35 def. John Hall, Buell, 6.923, 191.46; Adam Arana, Buell, 6.913, 194.30 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.911, 193.96; Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.905, 192.14 def. Michael Ray, Buell, foul; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.958, 195.42 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.926, 194.13; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.905, 195.34 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.873, 196.13; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.897, 195.68 def. Elvira Karlsson, Suzuki, foul; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.910, 194.66 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.979, 192.77;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.988, 191.43 def. A. Smith, 6.986, 192.11; H. Arana, 6.970, 194.49 def. Kennedy, foul; A. Arana, 7.006, 183.94 def. Krawiec, 7.041, 179.06; Hines, 6.892, 193.35 def. Underdahl, 7.000, 192.91;

SEMIFINALS — H. Arana, 6.894, 196.10 def. A. Arana, 6.960, 194.91; Hines, 6.950, 193.13 def. Johnson, 6.991, 191.46;

FINAL — Hines, 6.901, 193.96 def. H. Arana, 6.924, 195.53.

 

PRO MODIFIED:

ROUND ONE — Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.923, 241.37 def. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 5.972, 240.51; Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.974, 245.90 def. Bill Glidden, Ford Mustang, 6.042, 230.33; Kevin Fiscus, Mustang, 5.932, 250.09 def. Clint Satterfield, Pontiac Firebird, 6.022, 242.02; Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.907, 246.62 def. Kenny Lang, Camaro, 6.224, 196.59; Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.909, 247.75 def. Mike Castellana, Camaro, 6.045, 215.51; Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.983, 244.92 def. Gary Capano, Chevy Corvette, 5.966, 237.34; Troy Coughlin, Corvette, 5.952, 249.16 def. Eric Latino, Camaro, 5.933, 244.12; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.909, 246.57 def. Steven Whiteley, Camaro, 14.106, 76.42;

QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 5.950, 249.63 def. Janis, 6.599, 167.84; R. Smith, 5.918, 247.07 def. Fiscus, 5.916, 250.97; Farber, 5.974, 246.93 def. Matusek, 6.011, 244.16; V. Smith, 5.939, 241.24 def. Rowe, 5.929, 247.57;

SEMIFINALS — V. Smith, 5.911, 242.76 def. Farber, 8.541, 107.29; Coughlin, 5.940, 250.32 def. R. Smith, 5.946, 245.94;

FINAL — Coughlin, 5.940, 250.92 def. V. Smith, 5.920, 243.99.

 

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POINTS STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 1,130; 2.  Antron Brown, 1,082; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 938; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 785; 5.  Spencer Massey, 780; 6.  Steve Torrence, 747; 7.  Brittany Force, 690; 8.  Khalid alBalooshi, 652; 9.  Richie Crampton, 626; 10.  J.R. Todd, 593.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 1,067; 2.  John Force, 889; 3.  Ron Capps, 846; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 845; 5.  Alexis DeJoria, 779; 6.  Courtney Force, 764; 7.  Del Worsham, 748; 8.  Matt Hagan, 739; 9.  Cruz Pedregon, 726; 10.  Jack Beckman, 655.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 1,166; 2.  Allen Johnson, 925; 3.  Jeg Coughlin, 900; 4.  Dave Connolly, 875; 5.  Jason Line, 863; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 840; 7.  Shane Gray, 833; 8.  Chris McGaha, 600; 9.  V. Gaines, 562; 10.  Jonathan Gray, 484.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Andrew Hines, 650; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 581; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 515; 4.  Hector Arana, 416; 5.  John Hall, 407; 6.  Matt Smith, 394; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck, 375; 8.  Angie Smith, 352; 9.  Michael Ray, 333; 10.  Steve Johnson, 320.

Pro Modified: 1.  Rickie Smith, 414; 2.  Mike Janis, 403; 3.  Von Smith, 362; 4.  Mike Castellana, 359; 5.  Steve Matusek, 358; 6.  Danny Rowe, 353; 7.  Kevin Fiscus, 333; 8.  Pete Farber, 319; 9.  Troy Coughlin, 313; 10.  Steven Whiteley, 238.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Daniel Ricciardo frustrated to crash out of home F1 qualifying

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Daniel Ricciardo made no secret of his frustration after crash out of Formula 1 qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, resigning himself to a 10th-place start for his home race on Sunday.

Ricciardo entered the Melbourne weekend aiming to become the first Australian to finish on the podium at his home race since the event became part of the F1 world championship in 1985.

Despite struggling with the setup on his RB13 car on Friday, Ricciardo looked poised to claim a top-five grid slot for Sunday’s race, only to lose control of his car at Turn 14 in Q3 and end the session in the wall.

“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home,” Ricciardo said after the session.

“But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen, so let’s say I’m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top five.”

Ever the optimist, Ricciardo said the difficult qualifying will only serve as greater motivation to fight back up the order and give his home fans a result to celebrate on Sunday.

“I knew the crowds would have also preferred to see me further up the grid and it would have been nice to put on a better performance than that but tomorrow is where the points are,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s a chance to create a bigger headline if I have a good race so that’s what will motivate me to do better tomorrow. I made it a bit more difficult for myself but it’s going to be alright.

“To get a good start in the race will be the key. I saved a set of ultra-softs in Q2, I know that not everyone in front of me has, so maybe that gives me a chance.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Valtteri Bottas disappointed with P3 start for Mercedes F1 debut

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Valtteri Bottas came away from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix feeling disappointed despite securing third place on the grid for his first Formula 1 race as a Mercedes driver.

Bottas joined Mercedes over the winter following world champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from racing, and made his first official race weekend appearance for the Silver Arrows on Friday.

The ex-Williams driver made a splash in qualifying by running teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel close, but was left to settle for third on the grid after finishing three-tenths of a second off the pole time.

“Third position is not ideal. In general I’m not happy with the result,” Bottas admitted after qualifying.

“But what I’m really happy about and proud about [is] what the team has done again with this car. I only saw a very small part of the preparation with the new car and the new era of Formula 1, and it’s really nice to see that all the work has paid off and we’re fighting at the very front.

“It seems to be very close this year, especially here. Myself I didn’t get any perfect laps in, so not that satisfied.

“Tomorrow’s the day that matters. It seems like in the race starts we’ve been quite strong. If we can keep that form I had in practice, and have a nice and clean race and get some really good points.”

Bottas’ best finish in Australia currently stands at fifth place in 2014 with Williams, with the Finn never qualifying any higher than sixth at Albert Park in his four previous attempts.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”

Hamilton buoyed by sixth Australia F1 pole, ready for tight race

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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton was buoyed by his charge to pole position in Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, but is braced for a tight race at the front of the pack.

Hamilton saw off a challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to capture his sixth pole at Albert Park, and the 62nd of his F1 career.

Hamilton had doubts over Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari heading into the new year, making his charge to pole all the more meaningful as he paid tribute to the team members after qualifying.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. It’s quite amazing to come here for I think the 11th time, and it feels like it was only yesterday that I came here and had my first race here in 2007,” Hamilton said.

“I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone. The guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today.”

Despite taking pole by almost three-tenths of a second in Q3, Hamilton is braced for a close fight on Sunday with Vettel and Bottas, the latter starting his first race for Mercedes from third on the grid.

“Valtteri did a fantastic job given it’s his first qualifying session with the team. He did a great job and it’s great for Mercedes,” Hamilton said.

“Looking forward to the race, it’s close between us all. As you can see, there’s going to be a tight race this year I think.

“I think tomorrow is about putting all the work that’s gone in over the winter, all the work that’s gone through testing and this whole weekend and really put it to work tomorrow.

“I’ll make sure I get a good night’s sleep and come back tomorrow stronger than ever.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET on Sunday.