NHRA Houston winners: Brittany Force (TF), J.R. Todd (FC), Matt Hartford (PS)

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John Force may have failed to qualify for a race for the first time in 221 races (dating back to September 2008), but daughter Brittany came through for dear old dad.

Brittany Force captured the Top Fuel division in Sunday’s final round of the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston.

Also winning: J.R. Todd earned his second consecutive Funny Car victory, while Matt Hartford captured his first career Pro Stock victory.

John Force failed to reach Sunday’s four rounds of eliminations after falling short during Friday’s and Saturday’s four qualifying sessions.

That left John Force Racing to be represented Sunday by Brittany Force, sister Courtney Force and the president of the organization and also John Force’s son-in-law, Robert Hight.

It was the first win of 2018 for Brittany Force in the fifth of 24 races on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Brittany Force, the defending Top Fuel world champion, defeated Terry McMillen in the final round with a winning pass of 3.762 seconds at 299.46 mph.

Brittany finally earned her first win at Royal Purple Raceway, becoming the last of all Force family members to have won at the Baytown, Texas track. She’s also the seventh member of JFR to have won there.

It was also the eighth win of her Top Fuel career.

“The tires were spinning and I’m trying to drive the thing down there and try to get it to the finish line,” Brittany Force said of her winning run vs. McMillen. “I didn’t know where (McMillen) was next to me, but it was just about getting down there first.

“I saw our win lights come on in the final round and that was the most important one.”

In Funny Car, Todd earned back-to-back wins for the first time in his career and the 13th overall win of his career.

He defeated Hight in the final round with a run of 3.955 seconds at 313.29 mph to bring home the win to Kalitta Motorsports.

“It’s nice to have this much momentum early in the season,” Todd stated. “We struggled really bad last season and didn’t really turn around till probably the Western Swing. It’s nice as Kalitta Motorsports to come out swinging at these races this year.”

In Pro Stock, Hartford defeated local Houston-area favorite Erica Enders with a pass of 6.552 seconds at 211.36 mph, to become the 66th different driver to win in Pro Stock in NHRA history.

“We started in the back half of the field today and had to work our way through,” Hartford stated. “We earned this.

“We did a better job with our car today than the other teams. My driving is not why we won today and that is a fact. My crew tuned the car enough for us to be able to drive around her [Enders] at the end.”

The next NHRA national event is next weekend, April 27-29, with the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force; 2. Terry McMillen; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Billy Torrence; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Scott Palmer; 10. Bill Litton; 11. Terry Brian; 12. Antron Brown; 13. Kebin Kinsley; 14. Mike Salinas; 15. Terry Haddock; 16. Richie Crampton.

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

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

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SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Brittany Force, 3.762 seconds, 299.46 mph def. Terry McMillen, 3.818 seconds, 311.56 mph.

FUNNY CAR: J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.955, 313.29 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.993, 308.14.

PRO STOCK: Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.36 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.570, 210.50.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Billy Torrence, 3.753, 318.32 def. Kebin Kinsley, 6.589, 96.12; Steve Torrence, 3.741, 309.06 def. Scott Palmer, 3.771, 314.09; Terry McMillen, 3.777, 317.79 def. Antron Brown, 4.771, 163.79; Leah Pritchett, 3.697, 327.43 def. Terry Brian, 4.233, 258.37; Brittany Force, 3.755, 316.67 def. Terry Haddock, 8.779, 73.92; Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 325.85 def. Bill Litton, 4.228, 216.31; Clay Millican, 4.662, 206.04 def. Mike Salinas, 8.614, 70.10; Doug Kalitta, 3.738, 329.02 def. Richie Crampton, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — McMillen, 3.766, 301.81 def. B. Torrence, 3.775, 311.49; Force, 3.739, 302.08 def. Kalitta, 3.819, 309.27; Schumacher, 3.737, 317.64 def. Millican, 6.473, 89.64; Pritchett, 3.740, 320.36 def. S. Torrence, 3.778, 312.64; SEMIFINALS — McMillen, 5.124, 213.64 def. Pritchett, 10.490, 73.72; Force, 3.766, 299.80 def. Schumacher, 5.074, 148.97; FINAL — Force, 3.762, 299.46 def. McMillen, 3.818, 311.56.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.951, 311.49 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.152, 245.81; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.878, 322.42 def. Todd Simpson, Charger, Broke; Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.133, 293.35 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.944, 131.25; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.125, 317.12 def. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.186, 298.93; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.009, 310.20 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 6.032, 116.63; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.351, 283.85 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 7.418, 93.67; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.955, 321.73 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.989, 309.49; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.958, 313.22 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.449, 248.71; QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 5.286, 233.72 def. Worsham, 5.563, 215.62; Hight, 3.950, 310.84 def. Lindberg, 4.002, 305.56; Wilkerson, 3.972, 308.71 def. Hagan, 4.190, 240.08; Todd, 3.985, 309.70 def. Diehl, 9.175, 48.27; SEMIFINALS — Todd, 4.017, 309.06 def. Wilkerson, 6.604, 145.45; Hight, 3.959, 312.50 def. Beckman, 4.113, 293.35; FINAL — Todd, 3.955, 313.29 def. Hight, 3.993, 308.14.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 7.496, 118.16 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 13.143, 64.83; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.569, 210.77 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.543, 210.60; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.537, 211.13 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 211.39; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.560, 209.46 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 40.752, 26.02; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.537, 211.13 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.534, 210.93; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.539, 210.54 def. John Gaydosh Jr., Chevrolet Camaro, 6.708, 208.91; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.531, 210.31 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 12.327, 71.16; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.533, 210.70 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.529, 211.03 def. Brogdon, 19.247, 40.33; Hartford, 6.530, 211.26 def. Gray, Foul – Red Light; Coughlin, 6.512, 211.03 def. Butner, 6.550, 210.90; Anderson, 6.514, 211.46 def. Laughlin, 14.034, 59.80; SEMIFINALS — Enders, 6.561, 209.95 def. Anderson, 6.572, 212.23; Hartford, 6.564, 210.83 def. Coughlin, 10.727, 98.44; FINAL — Hartford, 6.522, 211.36 def. Enders, 6.570, 210.50.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. (tie) Tony Schumacher, 385; Steve Torrence, 385; 3. Antron Brown, 324; 4. Clay Millican, 309; 5. Doug Kalitta, 304; 6. Leah Pritchett, 284; 7. Brittany Force, 270; 8. Richie Crampton, 247; 9. Terry McMillen, 240; 10. Scott Palmer, 214.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman, 415; 2. Matt Hagan, 363; 3. J.R. Todd, 347; 4. Courtney Force, 342; 5. Robert Hight, 326; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 298; 7. Ron Capps, 289; 8. Shawn Langdon, 237; 9. Jonnie Lindberg, 221; 10. Del Worsham, 219.

Pro Stock: 1. Bo Butner, 374; 2. Greg Anderson, 337; 3. Chris McGaha, 330; 4. Deric Kramer, 322; 5. Vincent Nobile, 319; 6. Jason Line, 303; 7. Erica Enders, 292; 8. Tanner Gray, 287; 9. Drew Skillman, 277; 10. Alex Laughlin, 264.

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The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.