NHRA: John Force earns record 142nd Funny Car win in Las Vegas, Crampton and Enders-Stevens also triumph

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John Force said in an exclusive interview with MotorSportsTalk last week that he wasn’t worried about the slow start he has had in the 2015 season.

He came into this weekend’s SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals without a win and was ranked 13th in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings.

Not anymore.

The winningest driver in NHRA history, Force stormed to his record 142nd NHRA Funny Car national event victory on Sunday. In turn, he promptly jumped from 13th to 6th in the Funny Car standings, earned his fifth victory at The Strip and also recorded the first Funny Car win by a Chevrolet since 2003.

Force switched to Chevrolet for the 2015 season after a nearly two-decade run driving for Ford.

MORE: EXCLUSIVE: John Force’s life has changed dramatically in last year, but he’s still standing and fighting

Force defeated teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight in an all-John Force Racing final round at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Force’s winning run was 4.148 seconds at 312.35 mph, besting Hight’s pass of 4.154 seconds at 306.05 mph. Hight is also president of John Force Racing.

“Robert is my best team,” said Force, a record 16-time Funny Car season champion. “He’s hot on that Christmas tree so I really got to get after him.

“The win was good but all that we’ve been through, with financial change, my sponsors promised to keep me competitive, win championships and I could build safety. We were lucky today and I’ll take lucky any day because it buys us some time to learn.”

In Top Fuel, Richie Crampton (3.902 seconds at 301.33 mph) earned his third career win and first in Las Vegas, defeating Larry Dixon (4.466 seconds, 201.73 mph).

“It’s huge,” said Crampton, who was 2014 NHRA Top Fuel Rookie of the Year. “Obviously, we want to win right out of the gate but that hasn’t always been the case for Morgan Lucas Racing. To win at the fifth event and technically go to the final at the Four-Wide (two weeks ago at Charlotte), we’re gathering some good momentum and it’s a huge boost for our entire team. We got a great hot track race car.”

In Pro Stock, 2014 champ Erica Enders-Stevens notched her first win of the season and 13th of her career.

Enders-Stevens (6.674 seconds, 207.24 mph) got the jump at the start of the final round, which led her to victory over Vincent Nobile (6.674 seconds, 207.91 mph).

“My guys work so hard and continue to give me a consistent race car which has been a struggle to start this year,” Enders-Stevens said. “I think we got our hot rod back and I guess we can start saying Vegas is our lucky track.”

Enders-Stevens also won Saturday’s K&N Horsepower Challenge, a Pro Stock specialty race, on Saturday. By winning both races, she earned $75,000 and became the first driver to sweep both events in consecutive seasons since Bob Glidden did so in 1987 and 1988.

Las Vegas was the fifth of 24 races on the NHRA pro schedule. The next race is the O’Reilly Auto Parts SpringNationals, April 24-26, near Houston, Texas.

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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

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

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 2.  Vincent Nobile; 3.  Greg Anderson; 4.  Allen Johnson; 5.  Jason Line; 6.  Chris McGaha; 7.  Jimmy Alund; 8.  V. Gaines; 9.  Rodger Brogdon; 10.  Drew Skillman; 11. Shane Gray; 12.  Deric Kramer; 13.  Joey Grose; 14.  Larry Morgan; 15.  Jonathan Gray; 16.  Matt Hartford.

FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Richie Crampton, 3.902 seconds, 301.33 mph  def. Larry Dixon, 4.466 seconds, 201.73 mph.

Funny Car — John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.148, 312.35  def. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.154, 306.05.

Pro Stock — Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.674, 207.24  def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.674, 207.91.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Richie Crampton, 3.821, 322.27 def. Troy Buff, 5.346, 128.58; Spencer Massey, 3.796, 328.78 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.807, 322.65; Larry Dixon, 3.795, 318.09 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.828, 319.29; J.R. Todd, 3.825, 320.81 def. Steve Faria, 3.957, 307.02; Steve Torrence, 3.837, 320.81 def. Terry McMillen, 4.022, 304.12; Shawn Langdon, 3.866, 305.84 def. Antron Brown, 3.901, 310.77; Clay Millican, 3.815, 315.12 def. Brittany Force, 3.846, 323.66; Dom Lagana, 3.866, 286.25 def. Dave Connolly, 4.004, 261.27; QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 3.916, 308.64 def. Lagana, 9.168, 73.27; Crampton, 3.838, 315.78 def. Torrence, 3.899, 301.81; Dixon, 3.889, 318.77 def. Millican, 3.984, 311.05; Massey, 3.858, 324.98 def. Langdon, 3.957, 304.74; SEMIFINALS — Dixon, 4.402, 247.93 def. Massey, 5.496, 126.23; Crampton, 3.828, 318.32 def. Todd, 3.837, 321.73; FINAL — Crampton, 3.902, 301.33 def. Dixon, 4.466, 201.73.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.114, 308.99 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.439, 212.39; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.106, 309.20 def. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 4.243, 299.53; Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.110, 312.71 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.211, 291.95; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.093, 305.01 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.138, 299.00; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.115, 301.40 def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.165, 304.12; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.080, 314.53 def. John Hale, Charger, 5.661, 124.28; Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.087, 312.50 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.156, 305.08; John Force, Camaro, 4.138, 312.57 def. Chad Head, Camry, DQ; QUARTERFINALS — J. Force, 4.158, 314.17 def. Hagan, 4.436, 296.89; DeJoria, 5.852, 239.06 def. Worsham, 5.885, 160.61; Hight, 4.102, 311.99 def. C. Pedregon, 8.806, 86.34; Johnson Jr., 4.093, 302.89 def. Wilkerson, DQ; SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.165, 312.35 def. DeJoria, 12.689, 70.85; Hight, 4.145, 310.34 def. Johnson Jr., 4.164, 305.56; FINAL — J. Force, 4.148, 312.35 def. Hight, 4.154, 306.05.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.699, 206.20 def. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.679, 206.99; Jimmy Alund, Pontiac GXP, 6.695, 206.42 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 12.972, 65.81; V. Gaines, Dart, 6.690, 207.18 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.687, 207.05; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.677, 207.18 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.669, 207.53; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.650, 208.49 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 21.940, 25.94; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.656, 206.83 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.742, 205.35; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.672, 207.75 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, foul; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.654, 207.62 def. Matt Hartford, GXP, broke; QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.716, 205.44 def. Line, foul; Nobile, 6.684, 206.73 def. McGaha, 6.686, 206.35; Enders-Stevens, 6.661, 207.27 def. Alund, 6.697, 206.70; Anderson, 6.655, 208.17 def. Gaines, 21.477, no speed; SEMIFINALS — Nobile, 6.695, 207.62 def. Johnson, 17.215, 68.60; Enders-Stevens, 6.673, 207.53 def. Anderson, 6.671, 208.71; FINAL — Enders-Stevens, 6.674, 207.24 def. Nobile, 6.674, 207.91.

POINTS STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 385; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 375; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 370; 4.  Spencer Massey, 358; 5.  Richie Crampton, 349; 6.  Steve Torrence, 273; 7.  Doug Kalitta, 272; 8.  Larry Dixon, 263; 9. J.R. Todd, 261; 10.  Clay Millican, 241.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 369; 2.  Del Worsham, 360; 3.  Robert Hight, 323; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 316; 5. Ron Capps, 313; 6.  John Force, 287; 7.  Alexis DeJoria, 271; 8.  Cruz Pedregon, 257; 9.  John Hale, 256; 10.  Jack Beckman, 249.

Pro Stock: 1.  Jason Line, 426; 2.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 391; 3.  Greg Anderson, 379; 4.  Rodger Brogdon, 352; 5.  Chris McGaha, 338; 6.  Drew Skillman, 300; 7.  Vincent Nobile, 285; 8.  Larry Morgan, 268; 9.  Allen Johnson, 249; 10.  Shane Gray, 233.

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.