NHRA family plan: John, Brittany Force eye titles

(Photo: Richard Shute/Auto Imagery)
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You might say there’s a bit of a power battle going on in the Force family.

In one corner, it’s Brute Force – otherwise known as 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force.

And in the other corner, it’s Brit Force – otherwise known as Top Fuel driver Brittany Force.

Thus far, daughter has a slight edge performance-wise over father, as each battles to win the championship in their respective Nitro class this season.

Following this past weekend’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals outside St. Louis, Brittany Force made a big jump upward in the Top Fuel rankings in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

With two races down and four to go to win the title, Brittany Force is No. 4 in Top Fuel, and just four points out of third place.

She bounced back Sunday, reaching the semi-finals, after being ousted in the first round of the opening Countdown race two weeks ago at Charlotte.

“The entire Monster Energy team (came) together this this weekend in St Louis,” Brittany Force said in a team media release. “We struggled last weekend just to get the car down the track but this weekend we went down the track every single run.

“We made it to the semi-finals and that is a pretty good weekend for us.”

Next up for Force is this weekend’s event at Maple Grove Raceway, in Reading, Pa., where she finished runner-up in last year’s race there.

“We are going to get after it in Reading,” Force said.

The younger Force has made up some substantial ground in the last two races of the 18-race regular season and the first two races of the six-race Countdown.

In that period, she has one runner-up finish and two additional semi-final showings, allowing her to climb from ninth place in the standings to her present position in fourth.

While Brittany is still 163 points behind Top Fuel leader Antron Brown, things can take a dramatic change in any of the four remaining races. If, for example, Force wins her first career national event, she could significantly close the gap on Brown rather quickly.

Then there’s Brittany’s father, John. He left Gateway still ranked fifth in the Funny Car standings, having lost in the quarter-finals to defending series champion Matt Hagan.

The elder Force is seeking to extend his record 16 Funny Car championships to 17, especially after the way he came so close last season before coming up short to Hagan in the season-ending race at Pomona, Calif.

“If you look at the leaps and jumps in performance we have made in making these cars faster we are right there,” John Force said. “When other teams run in the threes (seconds), we are right there in the threes with them.

“We aren’t on their pace yet but it isn’t just one team you look out there – there are four or five teams running in the threes and we are right in the mix. We have four races left and we need those Chevrolet engineers to keep working with us.”

John Force has two wins thus far in 2015. A third win, especially at a place like Maple Grove, would go a long way towards closing the 149-point deficit between Force and Funny Car points leader Del Worsham.

“The Funny Cars are running together like Pro Stock. A lot of it is made up on the starting line. I am working on my own reaction times. I am just working on getting better. The key is we have four races and there are a lot of rounds still out there. We’ll see what happens.”

MELLO YELLO CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

TOP FUEL: 1. Antron Brown, 2320; 2. Tony Schumacher, 2243; 3. Larry Dixon, 2161; 4. Brittany Force, 2157; 5. JR Todd, 2149; 6. Doug Kalitta, 2139; 7. Richie Crampton, 2133; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2126; 9. Steve Torrence, 2127; 9. Dave Connolly, 2127.

 

FUNNY CAR: 1. Del Worsham, 2327; 2. Matt Hagan, 2237; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr, 2211; 4. Jack Beckman, 2208; 5. John Force, 2178; 6. Ron Capps, 2177; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 2123; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 2116; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2107; 10. Robert Hight, 2099.

 

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Supercross: Haiden Deegan debuts in 250s at Houston, Justin Cooper graduates to 450 class for Star Yamaha

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Rising star Haiden Deegan will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut in Houston, Texas with Yamaha Star Racing while the 2021 250 West champion Justin Cooper graduates to 450s.

Deegan, the son of motocross and off-road legend Brian Deegan and brother of NASCAR Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan, made two starts in the Pro Motocross outdoors season last year. He finished 31st overall at the Ironman Nationals in Crawfordsville, Indiana and was 13th at Fox Raceway in the season-ender at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, but the overall results did not necessarily reflect how well he ran. In both events, he challenged for top-10s during portions of the week and actually finished 10th in one of the Pala motos.

Last week, Haiden finished fifth in the Supercross 250 Futures in Anaheim 2.

“We’re really excited to get the season on the East Coast started,” said Monster Energy Team Manager Jensen Hendler in a press release. “It’s also exciting to have Haiden move up to join our pro program this season and to have Justin make his debut on the 450. The guys have been working hard and are looking forward to seeing what they can do this weekend in Houston.”

After scoring a 250SX Futures podium, Talon Hawkins gets 250 East ride.

Deegan will join Nate Thrasher and Jordon Smith in the 250 East division this week.

Cooper moves into the 450 class this weekend. According to Supercross rules, after winning the 2021 championship, he had one season to defend his title and then would be required to move up a class. Cooper missed all of last year to injury.

Cooper was healthy when the outdoor season started and he earned five podiums and nine top-fives in 12 rounds. Three of these races ended in runners-up finishes, at Hangtown, in Rancho Cordova, California, Washougal, Washington and Unadilla, New York.

Cooper joins Eli Tomac and Dylan Ferrandis in the 450 class and will race select events.

Justin Cooper learned to temper aggression with speed

Cooper’s Houston attempt will be the first of an undisclosed number of races he will compete in during the 2023 season.

“It’s been about two years since I’ve lined up for a supercross, and now it’s in a new class with the best guys, so I’m excited to just get out there,” Cooper said. “I’m looking to get back under the lights and learn what I can. Overall, I’m just really excited to be in the position to be out there, so I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy it!”

Deegan and Cooper will be part of a seven-rider Supercross lineup for Yamaha Star Racing. Nick Romano will debut in the 250 East division later this year.