John Force, 65, sets both ends of track Funny Car record during qualifying at Bandimere

1 Comment

John Force may have turned 65 two months ago, but he’s still driving a race car like a 30-year-old.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion recorded the quickest and fastest Funny Car run in Bandimere Speedway history on Friday during the first two days of qualifying for the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.

Force covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in Morrison, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, in 4.049 seconds at 318.39 mph, making him the provisional No. 1 qualifier heading into Saturday’s two other rounds of qualifying. If Force’s run holds up during Saturday’s two rounds, it will be his fifth No. 1 qualifier at Bandimere and his third this season.

“With the new cooling system here at Bandimere Speedway, it just gave us confidence early,” Force said in an NHRA media release. “I think everybody was programmed how to run today. We stepped up and started getting there.”

Funny Car points leader Robert Hight, Force’s teammate, is second at 4.055 seconds and 313.15 mph. Tim Wilkerson is third (4.071 at 310.77), followed by last year’s Funny Car winner Cruz Pedregon (4.078 at 304.80).

In Top Fuel, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher drove his dragster to the top of the heap with a run of 3.823 seconds (track record) at 319.75 mph.  Schumacher is seeking his 73rd career No. 1 qualifying position, as well as his first of this season and first-ever No. 1 at Bandimere.

“We’ve won here a few times, we just haven’t qualified No. 1,” Schumacher said. “I think you really have to find your niche. This is a tough place. It’s a different combination for up here on the mountain.”

Steve Torrence was the provisional No. 2 qualifier in Top Fuel (3.831 at 322.96) while former champ Larry Dixon is third (3.848 at 315.64).

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson ended the day No. 1, recording a pass of 6.972 seconds at 198.90 mph (track record). Johnson is seeking his fourth No. 1 of the season and fifth in a row at Bandimere, where he has won the Pro Stock category each of the last two seasons.

“When it’s your sponsor’s race you have to step up and do it,” Johnson said. “We’ve really worked our tails off at this track, testing over the years, and trying to come up with a package that is superior, so we can impress all the Mopar and Chrysler executives who come out to see us. We want to put that 50th anniversary Hemi into the winner’s circle on Sunday.”

Lastly, in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. continued his current hot streak, taking the provisional pole with a run of 7.178 seconds (track record) at 185.97 mph. Arana will earn his first pole of the season if he can hold on to the top spot in his category in Saturday’s other two rounds of qualifying.

“The motor is running really strong,” Arana said. “The combination just all came together. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum we have here on the mountain and seal the deal finally. The track is awesome. It’s consistent and I love the scenery. I love to come out here.”

The final two qualifying sessions are Saturday at 3:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. (Mountain time). Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. MT.

 

Here are the results from the first two rounds of qualifying Friday for the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway:

Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.823 seconds, 319.75 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.831, 322.96; 3. Larry Dixon, 3.848, 315.64; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.861, 316.82; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.868, 315.34; 6. Antron Brown, 3.881, 310.63; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.893, 312.86; 8. Brittany Force, 3.902, 314.02; 9. J.R. Todd, 3.925, 307.09; 10. Terry McMillen, 3.940, 314.31; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.967, 297.42; 12. Spencer Massey, 4.181, 217.46.  Not Qualified: 13. Richie Crampton, 4.269, 213.03; 14. Steven Chrisman, 4.286, 243.24; 15. Jenna Haddock, 5.322, 133.09; 16. Clay Millican, 5.380, 136.34.

Funny Car — 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.049, 318.39; 2. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.055, 313.15; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.071, 310.77; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.078, 304.80; 5. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.087, 311.92; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.102, 308.21; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.111, 312.42; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 300.73; 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 301.81; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.151, 302.75; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.153, 304.32; 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.164, 304.39.  Not Qualified: 13. Jeff Diehl, 4.263, 283.79; 14. Todd Simpson, 7.537, 83.62; 15. Tony Pedregon, 8.494, 67.44.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.928, 198.90; 2. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.929, 197.97; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.934, 198.55; 4. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.944, 198.15; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.949, 197.65; 6. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.972, 197.68; 7. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.979, 196.90; 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.982, 197.62; 9. Matt Hartford, Dodge Avenger, 6.984, 197.31; 10. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.984, 197.10; 11. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.993, 196.87; 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.019, 196.16.  Not Qualified: 13. Jeg Coughlin, 7.024, 197.02; 14. Jonathan Gray, 7.056, 197.05; 15. Tommy Lee, 7.100, 194.30; 16. Steve Kalkowski, 7.201, 190.22.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.178, 186.72; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.198, 185.51; 3. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.230, 184.88; 4. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.234, 184.90; 5. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.250, 184.88; 6. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.251, 183.24; 7. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.263, 183.34; 8. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.270, 185.28; 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.297, 183.32; 10. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.299, 181.86; 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.301, 184.35; 12. Adam Arana, Buell, 7.337, 182.53.  Not Qualified: 13. John Hall, 7.405, 179.61; 14. Angie Smith, 7.406, 181.57; 15. Freddie Camarena, 7.448, 182.80; 16. James Surber, 7.520, 176.49; 17. Charles Sullivan, 7.534, 175.57; 18. Steve Johnson, 7.682, 148.58.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
0 Comments

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”