NHRA at Phoenix: Courtney Force wins one for her dad; Torrence, McGaha also win

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You’ve heard of win one for the Gipper? Well, on Sunday, Courtney Force won one for the Skipper.

As in the patriarch of John Force Racing, her father, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force.

While John Force was in a Chandler, Arizona hospital after a wicked crash in the second round of Sunday’s eliminations of the NHRA Arizona Nationals, No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force went on to win her first Funny Car national event since 2016.

And that’s the best medicine she could have given her father, as he was released after being examined and evaluated at nearby Chandler Regional Hospital, and returned to the racetrack to celebrate with his race-winning daughter.

Also Sunday, Steve Torrence won his first Top Fuel race of 2018, after winning a class-high eight races last season, while Chris McGaha earned his sixth career win in Pro Stock.

In Funny Car, Courtney Force ran 337.16 mph at 3.834 seconds in defeating Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round. It was Force’s first win since Houston 2016.

“Having [crew chief] Brian Corradi on my team and working with Dan Hood has been a great connection for our entire team,” Force said. “I had the utmost confidence to get in the car today because of the job my team does on it, so to get a victory at this race and take home a Wally (championship trophy) at the end of the weekend is pretty incredible.”

In addition to winning the race and being No. 1 qualifier, Courtney Force also set both ends of the Wild Horse Pass track records for Funny Car elapsed time and speed.

In Top Fuel, Torrence ran 330.72 mph at 3.729 seconds to defeat Scott Palmer in the final round.

It was Torrence’s first career triumph at White Horse Pass Motorsports Park (formerly Firebird Raceway).

Ironically, Torrence defeated his father, Billy Torrence, in the semifinal round.

“There is no easy round in this Top Fuel class anymore, you can’t take anybody lightly but it was a heck of a day with some pretty great races,” Torrence said. “The round against my dad is one that ranks up there that you remember as a high note that you remember of your career.”

In Pro Stock, McGaha earned his first win since last April in Charlotte, reaching the winner’s circle with a 211.59 mph run at 6.529 seconds, defeating Jason Line.

“We picked up some power this offseason that we’ve been looking for,” McGaha said. “But when we went No. 1 in the first round of qualifying we knew we had something that could compete. It’s really satisfying to do this as a one-car team, and it’s really special to get our first win of the year.”

The NHRA takes the next two weeks off before its third race on the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national event schedule, March 15-18, in the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Scott Palmer; 3. Billy Torrence; 4. Greg Carrillo; 5. Blake Alexander; 6. Brittany Force; 7. Antron Brown; 8. Leah Pritchett; 9. Mike Salinas; 10. Troy Buff; 11. Tony Schumacher; 12. Richie Crampton; 13. Clay Millican; 14. Doug Kalitta; 15. Terry McMillen; 16. Steven Chrisman.

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

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

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.729 seconds, 330.72 mph def. Scott Palmer, 6.449 seconds, 102.70 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.834, 337.16 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 6.814, 101.57.

PRO STOCK: Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.529, 211.59 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.538, 210.14.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 8.756, 79.76 def. Mike Salinas, Foul – Red Light; Blake Alexander, 3.848, 322.27 def. Terry McMillen, 11.728, 65.81; Brittany Force, 3.724, 293.66 def. Clay Millican, 5.154, 135.70; Leah Pritchett, 3.679, 333.08 def. Troy Buff, 3.823, 314.75; Greg Carrillo, 4.223, 221.27 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.858, 189.66; Steve Torrence, 3.705, 330.07 def. Steven Chrisman, 14.505, 71.18; Scott Palmer, 3.768, 325.45 def. Richie Crampton, 5.061, 144.95; Billy Torrence, 6.570, 138.34 def. Doug Kalitta, 6.714, 154.46;

QUARTERFINALS — Carrillo, 4.054, 284.21 def. Brown, 6.793, 120.75; B. Torrence, 3.723, 320.74 def. Force, 4.661, 156.12; S. Torrence, 3.690, 331.36 def. Alexander, 3.784, 306.19; Palmer, 3.844, 325.85 def. Pritchett, 7.962, 86.85;

SEMIFINALS — Palmer, 3.853, 322.11 def. Carrillo, 4.999, 147.25; S. Torrence, 3.722, 328.86 def. B. Torrence, 3.726, 328.54;

FINAL — S. Torrence, 3.729, 330.72 def. Palmer, 6.449, 102.70.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.618, 283.67 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.862, 225.03; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.908, 325.30 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.091, 256.89; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.334, 228.61 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 5.084, 167.47; Richard Townsend, Camry, 5.503, 179.90 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, Broke; John Force, Camaro, 5.715, 224.51 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 7.620, 124.46; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.715, 225.60 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.806, 273.44; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.965, 328.22 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.112, 152.95; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.910, 331.85 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.017, 320.66;

QUARTERFINALS — Langdon, 3.927, 328.14 def. Capps, 4.651, 182.30; J. Force, 4.139, 278.75 def. Lindberg, No Time Recorded; Johnson Jr., 4.454, 244.74 def. Townsend, 5.174, 144.52; C. Force, 3.965, 319.14 def. Hagan, 4.480, 192.19;

SEMIFINALS — C. Force, 3.938, 327.90 def. J. Force, Broke – No Show; Johnson Jr., 3.916, 328.46 def. Langdon, 3.958, 325.77;

FINAL — C. Force, 3.834, 337.16 def. Johnson Jr., 6.814, 101.57.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.536, 210.34 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 16.184, 50.25; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.553, 211.73 def. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.642, 209.82; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.574, 209.49 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.555, 211.03; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.552, 210.08 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, Broke; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.676, 202.58 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 8.557, 112.00; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.628, 208.88 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.609, 203.06; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.561, 209.92 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 9.567, 96.49; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.552, 211.46 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.622, 207.94;

QUARTERFINALS — Laughlin, 6.577, 209.92 def. Coughlin, 6.590, 209.69; McGaha, 6.561, 211.93 def. Enders, 6.549, 210.14; Line, 6.548, 210.37 def. Anderson, 6.541, 211.00; Kramer, 6.542, 210.67 def. Skillman, 6.548, 210.54;

SEMIFINALS — McGaha, 6.562, 211.83 def. Laughlin, 6.574, 210.21; Line, 6.552, 210.41 def. Kramer, Foul – Red Light;

FINAL — McGaha, 6.529, 211.59 def. Line, 6.538, 210.14.

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POINT STANDINGS AFTER PHOENIX RACE:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 183; 2. Doug Kalitta, 144; 3. Tony Schumacher, 140; 4. Scott Palmer, 139; 5. Antron Brown, 133; 6. Clay Millican, 122; 7. Leah Pritchett, 90; 8. Brittany Force, 86; 9. Billy Torrence, 71; 10. Greg Carrillo, 66.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, 179; 2. Courtney Force, 160; 3. Ron Capps, 139; 4. Robert Hight, 133; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 128; 6. Jack Beckman, 122; 7. Jonnie Lindberg, 107; 8. Shawn Langdon, 104; 9. J.R. Todd, 83; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 82.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jason Line, 195; 2. Deric Kramer, 154; 3. Chris McGaha, 152; 4. Bo Butner, 149; 5. Alex Laughlin, 136; 6. Erica Enders, 134; 7. Greg Anderson, 119; 8. Drew Skillman, 117; 9. Vincent Nobile, 95; 10. Jeg Coughlin, 84.

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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”