Photos and videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA Winternationals winners are: Hagan (FC), Kalitta (TF), Butner (PS)

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It may have been nine days late, but NHRA Funny Car driver Matt Hagan enjoyed his own personal Groundhog Day Sunday.

One year after qualifying No. 1 and winning the 2017 season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, Hagan did both again to start the 2018 campaign Sunday at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

Other winners were Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta, who earned his second career Winternationals crown, and 2017 Pro Stock champ Bo Butner, who began his title defense the best way possible in the first of 24 national events this season.

Hagan defeated 2017 NHRA Funny Car champ Robert Hight in Sunday’s finals. It was Hagan’s 27th career Funny Car victory.

“Everything was clicking this weekend,” Hagan said. “And even more than the parts and pieces, it’s about having the right guys to use what we have. So far we’ve done it well.”

In Top Fuel, Kalitta earned his 44th career NHRA win, defeating eight-time NHRA champ Tony Schumacher in the final round.

“I tip my hat to my guys because I couldn’t do it without him and it’s really special to get a win at a track with so much history,” Kalitta said. “We feel like we have the team in place to have a successful season but I’m really proud of Jim Oberhofer (crew chief) and what he has done for all of our teams.”

In Pro Stock, Butner picked up where he left off in last season’s championship run, defeating teammate Jason Line in the final round for his sixth career Pro Stock win in as many final round appearances.

“Both my crew and my car have been running smooth recently, and we are just trying to keep riding that wave,” Butner said. “I feel great in this car and I have all the confidence in the world in my crew.”

The NHRA returns to action for the Arizona Nationals, Feb. 23-25, at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Antron Brown; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Scott Palmer; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Terry Haddock; 8. Terry McMillen; 9. Richie Crampton; 10. Steven Chrisman; 11. Steve Faria; 12. Mike Salinas; 13. Leah Pritchett; 14. Brittany Force.

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

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner; 2. Jason Line; 3. Erica Enders; 4. Deric Kramer; 5. Drew Skillman; 6. Vincent Nobile; 7. Alex Laughlin; 8. Greg Anderson; 9. Chris McGaha; 10. Jeg Coughlin; 11. Kenny Delco; 12. Steve Graham; 13. Val Smeland; 14. Joey Grose; 15. Tanner Gray; 16. Alan Prusiensky.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Doug Kalitta, 3.779 seconds, 324.28 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 4.715 seconds, 145.93 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.823, 335.90 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.866, 336.99.

PRO STOCK: Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.549, 209.62 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.568, 209.59.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: 

ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.696, 332.18 def. Terry McMillen, 3.752, 328.06; Scott Palmer, 6.489, 117.35 def. Leah Pritchett, Broke; Clay Millican, 3.709, 332.10 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.258, 210.80; Terry Haddock, No Time Recorded def. Brittany Force, Foul – Centerline; Steve Torrence, 3.717, 333.00 def. Steve Faria, 4.667, 166.29; Doug Kalitta, 4.121, 217.56 def. Richie Crampton, 4.234, no speed; Antron Brown, 4.333, 183.22 def. Mike Salinas, 9.881, 82.53;

QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.717, 331.85 def. Haddock, 9.851, 84.16; Millican, 9.978, 74.77 was unopposed; Kalitta, 3.760, 329.18 def. Palmer, 3.832, 323.27; Brown, 3.758, 330.07 def. Torrence, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS — Schumacher, 3.711, 331.45 def. Brown, 3.737, 330.72; Kalitta, 3.866, 307.58 def. Millican, 4.860, 145.02;

FINAL — Kalitta, 3.779, 324.28 def. Schumacher, 4.715, 145.93.

FUNNY CAR: 

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.833, 167.53 def. Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 10.060, 79.68; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.865, 325.30 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, Foul – Red Light; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.902, 331.53 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.387, 213.77; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.907, 333.00 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.016, 324.12; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.433, 262.54 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.525, 241.71; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.036, 304.12 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.751, 191.95; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.997, 323.58 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.465, 202.76; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.363, 246.17 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.504, 267.69;

QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 3.901, 330.23 def. Wilkerson, 4.253, 220.51; Hight, 3.937, 329.10 def. Todd, 3.969, 324.36; Hagan, 3.954, 329.34 def. Pedregon, 4.006, 322.11; Capps, 4.001, 324.75 def. Lindberg, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS — Hight, 3.899, 329.10 def. Beckman, Broke; Hagan, 3.938, 330.07 def. Capps, 3.968, 320.81;

FINAL — Hagan, 3.823, 335.90 def. Hight, 3.866, 336.99.

PRO STOCK: 

ROUND ONE — Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.565, 210.50 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.584, 210.73; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.592, 209.79 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.595, 209.17; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.557, 210.21 def. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 12.982, 71.74; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.572, 210.21 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.677, 208.81; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.546, 209.88 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.617, 209.20; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.568, 211.06 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.752, 206.32; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.585, 210.18 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Centerline; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.561, 211.23 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.716, 206.35;

QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.592, 209.49 def. Skillman, Foul – Red Light; Kramer, 6.586, 209.69 def. Nobile, 6.598, 210.14; Butner, 6.568, 210.05 def. Anderson, 6.622, 210.54; Line, 6.588, 208.42 def. Laughlin, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS — Line, 16.795, 101.77 def. Kramer, Foul – Red Light; Butner, 6.592, 209.52 def. Enders, Foul – Red Light;

FINAL — Butner, 6.549, 209.62 def. Line, 6.568, 209.59.

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POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta, 112; 2. Tony Schumacher, 95; 3. Clay Millican, 84; 4. Antron Brown, 78; 5. Steve Torrence, 60; 6. Scott Palmer, 47; 7. Brittany Force, 35; 8. (tie) Steve Faria, 32; Leah Pritchett, 32; Mike Salinas, 32.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, 127; 2. Robert Hight, 101; 3. Jack Beckman, 81; 4. Ron Capps, 78; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, 51; 6. (tie) J.R. Todd, 49; Tim Wilkerson, 49; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 48; 9. Courtney Force, 36; 10. (tie) Tommy Johnson Jr., 32, Shawn Langdon, 32, Del Worsham, 32.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 115; 2. Jason Line, 98; 3. Erica Enders, 74; 4. Deric Kramer, 73; 5.  Drew Skillman, 65; 6. Vincent Nobile, 63; 7. Greg Anderson, 61; 8. Alex Laughlin, 54; 9. Chris McGaha, 33; 10. (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 32, Steve Graham, 32, Tanner Gray, 32.

NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.