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NHRA: John Force Racing flexes muscle with Hight, Brittany Force wins in Houston

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Like Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing his arms in his prime as a body builder, John Force Racing showed its muscle in this weekend’s Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas.

Not only did JFR team president Robert Hight win his third Funny Car final of the season (in the first five races), teammate Brittany Force earned her first win of 2019 in the Top Fuel category in the fifth national event on the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.

In addition, team patriarch John Force came into Sunday’s eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier, which daughter Brittany also accomplished in Top Fuel, marking the first time in NHRA history that a father-daughter combination have qualified No. 1 in the top two nitro-fuel classes.

John Force reached the semifinals before being eliminated by Hight. The elder Force continues in his quest to earn the 150th win of his career; he remains at 149 wins heading into the next race in two weeks (April 26-28) at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Here’s how Sunday’s action played out:

IN FUNNY CAR: Hight moved one step closer to 50 career Funny Car wins – he now has 48 – defeating Matt Hagan in the final round by a tight margin of 3.941 seconds (at 310.84 mph) to Hagan’s 3.966 seconds (at 311.70 mph).

Hight struggled in Friday’s qualifying, but rebounded to earn the No. 5 starting spot on Saturday. But the big story for him in reaching the winner’s circle Sunday was outstanding consistency: in his four rounds of competition, Hight’s performance never wavered between 3.895 seconds and 3.941 seconds.

I’m proud of (my team), never disbelieved in them,” Hight said. “That’s why we have three wins already this season because they’re so good.

“Down at the other end, they said, ‘How do you keep your team in check?’ Really, it’s the other way around. They keep me in check. I’ve never seen a more focused group of individuals. They keep their heads down, work hard, don’t do a lot of talking and we got the job done.

Brittany and I, this is the third time we’ve got to double-up. We seem to do really well together in these circumstances. It was really cool to be down there when she made the [turn off] and throw a bunch of Mello Yello on her car.”

During Sunday’s eliminations, Hight defeated Jonnie Lindberg, 2018 Funny Car champ J.R. Todd and his boss, John Force.

Hagan, meanwhile, defeated two of his three Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Tommy Johnson Jr. (first round) and Ron Capps (semifinals), as well as Blake Alexander (quarterfinals) to match up with Hight in the final.

“I had a great weekend here in Houston, I’ve got a great race car and (crew chief) Dickie Venables is doing an amazing job with this car,” Hagan said. “I couldn’t be happier with the car and team I have surrounding me. We’re ready to keep things going in Charlotte.”

IN TOP FUEL: Brittany Force earned her first win in a year, her last visit to the winner’s circle coming at this race last season.

The 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion covered the drag strip at an elapsed time of 3.749 seconds (at 302.14 mph) to defeat Antron Brown (3.995 seconds at 233.48 mph).

Also of note, it was the first win for David Grubnic as Brittany Force’s crew chief, a role he assumed during the off-season.

All of John Force Racing was on a mission this morning,” Brittany Force said. “My dad and I were No. 1, the first time father and daughter have ever qualified No. 1 at an event. That’s something very special my dad and I will share. We were looking for a win, but to be able to do it with Robert Hight by my side in that Auto Club car, that’s pretty awesome.”

Force defeated Cameron Ferre, points leader Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican in the first three rounds of eliminations before holding off Brown for the win. Brown had an equally tough road to the final round, defeating Las Vegas winner Mike Salinas in the first round, followed by triumphs over Leah Pritchett and 2018 Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence before meeting Force in the money round.

“We’ve been going through a lot of adversity and we’ve just been fighting through it as a unit together,” Brown said. “Today, people saw what we are capable of. It feels good just to get back to what’s been the norm.

“We still have a ways to go, but we’re just going to keep on working and keep our heads down and everything’s going to be just fine. We can take this run today and build a little momentum and go to Charlotte and start where we left off here. We just need to keep getting better. That’s the name of the game.”

NOTES: This marked the first race of the season that did not include the Pro Stock class. Drivers in that class are contesting an 18-race season, as compared to the 24-race schedule that Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers compete in.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Doug Kalitta; 6. Leah Pritchett; 7. Scott Palmer; 8. Austin Prock; 9. Mike Salinas; 10. Jordan Vandergriff; 11. Shawn Reed; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Kebin Kinsley; 14. Richie Crampton; 15. Billy Torrence; 16. Cameron Ferre.

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

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SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS

TOP FUEL: Brittany Force, 3.749 seconds, 302.14 mph def. Antron Brown, 3.995 seconds, 233.48 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.941, 310.84 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.966, 311.70.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Austin Prock, 3.717, 325.85 def. Jordan Vandergriff, 3.747, 324.51; Clay Millican, 3.765, 316.60 def. Richie Crampton, 5.644, 90.35; Brittany Force, 3.766, 321.19 def. Cameron Ferre, Foul – Red Light; Antron Brown, 3.735, 325.69 def. Mike Salinas, 3.727, 321.96; Steve Torrence, 3.720, 327.19 def. Kebin Kinsley, 3.855, 313.58; Leah Pritchett, 3.736, 322.73 def. Shawn Reed, 3.755, 326.16; Scott Palmer, 3.807, 319.82 def. Billy Torrence, 6.295, 116.08; Doug Kalitta, 3.768, 313.44 def. Terry McMillen, 3.784, 279.96; QUARTERFINALS — Millican, 3.730, 319.82 def. Palmer, 3.802, 305.22; S. Torrence, 3.732, 322.73 def. Prock, 4.739, 162.18; Force, 3.678, 323.74 def. Kalitta, 3.744, 320.36; Brown, 3.750, 320.89 def. Pritchett, Foul – Red Light; SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.746, 320.28 def. S. Torrence, 3.744, 315.71; Force, 3.738, 314.31 def. Millican, 11.114, 66.60; FINAL — Force, 3.749, 302.14 def. Brown, 3.995, 233.48.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 3.959, 298.34 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 6.727, 83.56; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.895, 322.27 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.961, 310.63; John Force, Camaro, 3.858, 326.71 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.162, 267.53; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.950, 318.54 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 12.698, 69.80; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.930, 318.99 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 8.381, 71.17; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.946, 318.62 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.807, 166.87; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.944, 316.23 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.335, 203.77; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.949, 316.60 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 5.321, 137.23; QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 3.938, 315.78 def. Langdon, 3.983, 318.17; Hight, 3.914, 314.75 def. Todd, 3.940, 318.62; Force, 3.977, 311.34 def. Tasca III, 4.060, 258.47; Hagan, 3.948, 312.93 def. Alexander, 4.011, 306.40; SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.613, 225.79 def. Capps, 7.818, 98.67; Hight, 3.924, 309.91 def. Force, 3.932, 312.78; FINAL — Hight, 3.941, 310.84 def. Hagan, 3.966, 311.70.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta, 367; 2. Brittany Force, 349; 3. Steve Torrence, 343; 4. Mike Salinas, 320; 5. Leah Pritchett, 303; 6. Clay Millican, 302; 7. Antron Brown, 278; 8. Billy Torrence, 265; 9. Richie Crampton, 264; 10. Terry McMillen, 231.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 476; 2. Matt Hagan, 366; 3. J.R. Todd, 341; 4. John Force, 339; 5. Jack Beckman, 332; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 315; 7. (tie) Ron Capps, 286; Tim Wilkerson, 286; 9. Bob Tasca III, 250; 10. Shawn Langdon, 223.

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NHRA playoffs kick off with Beckman, Crampton, Line, Savoie wins

Photos and videos courtesy of NHRA
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(NHRA media release)

MOHNTON, Pa. – It’s been over a year since Jack Beckman parked his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in an NHRA winner’s circle but on Sunday at the 35th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil he came out on top.

Not only did Beckman defeat John Force in the final round at Maple Grove Raceway, he also took over the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series points lead.

“Our Sunday, I think it was perfect,” Beckman said. “That car was consistent, and it was fast. It’s one thing to be consistent and be a 10th (of a second) off the field but to run numbers as good as any other car out here, up and down the race track all four runs on race day.”

Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were victors in their respective divisions at the first race of the 2019 Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Beckman has been the runner-up four times in 2019 but it was his 3.958-second pass at 330.07 that gave him the holeshot win over Force’s quicker 3.952. One of the runner-up finishes was just two weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals against Force.

“In NHRA, you have zero control over what the car and driver in the other lane are doing,” Beckman said. “Did I want to beat him? Of course. Did it sting that he beat us in the Indy final? Duh. But none of that was going to help me be any better. Some fans came over before the final and said, ‘Hey, we’ll go razz John.’ And I said, ‘Don’t poke the bear.’ That guy, always seems to find a way to get motivated and win more races.”

It was a battle of Kalitta Motorsports in the Top Fuel final round but it was Crampton who raised the Wally trophy when he defeated his teammate Doug Kalitta with his 3.738 pass at 329.10 in his DHL dragster. Crampton now ties team owner and NHRA legend Connie Kalitta with 10 career wins.

Doug Kalitta snagged the Top Fuel points lead when previous leader and reigning champion Steve Torrence made an early exit in round one.

“It was definitely a great day for the whole team,” Crampton said. “All four cars are running good, particularly the dragsters, of course. But for Doug to take the points lead heading out of here, and we made a good jump in the points as well, that’s what we need to do. It’s that time of the year. It’s time to execute on race day and Connie and (crew chief) Kurt Elliott gave me the car to do it.”

Line earned his 50th Pro Stock title when he defeated Fernando Cuadra in the final round of eliminations thanks to his 6.553 pass at 210.60 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. Line also took over the points lead from his KB teammate Bo Butner. Cuadra, who was completing in his first career final round, is also a KB powered car.

“It was a big victory, for sure,” Line said. “Not one of my shiner moments, but big victory, nonetheless. I was a little tardy (leaving the starting line) so not what you want to do in the final round. But 50 wins just means I’ve had some great race cars to drive and some great people I’ve gotten to work with over the years. It’s been a fun ride.”

Savoie picked up his second consecutive win on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. He took down Steve Johnson with his 6.774 lap at 198.55 in the final round and went on to claim the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead.

“It was just a great, great day for everyone. My whole team. I don’t take any of this credit. (Crew chief) Tim (Kulungian) and everybody on the team worked their butts off and here we are. At my age, I can do it. I didn’t count on making the top 10 because I took three races off. And, bam! Here we are. No one, not even myself expected this.”

The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Sept. 27-29 with the second race of the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Richie Crampton; 2. Doug Kalitta; 3. Austin Prock; 4. Brittany Force; 5. Clay Millican; 6. Mike Salinas; 7. Leah Pritchett; 8. Antron Brown; 9. Steve Torrence; 10. Jordan Vandergriff; 11. Dan Mercier; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Todd Paton; 14. Billy Torrence; 15. Lex Joon; 16. Smax Smith.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman; 2. John Force; 3. Ron Capps; 4. J.R. Todd; 5. John Smith; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Matt Hagan; 8. Robert Hight; 9. Shawn Langdon; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 11. Jim Campbell; 12. Cruz Pedregon; 13. Jonnie Lindberg; 14. Mike McIntire; 15. Bob Tasca III; 16. Terry Haddock.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jason Line; 2. Fernando Cuadra; 3. Matt Hartford; 4. Jeg Coughlin; 5. Deric Kramer; 6. Bo Butner; 7. Erica Enders; 8. Alex Laughlin; 9. Aaron Stanfield; 10. Kenny Delco; 11. Chris McGaha; 12. Bob Benza; 13. Greg Anderson; 14. Wally Stroupe; 15. David Miller; 16. Val Smeland.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Steve Johnson; 3. Matt Smith; 4. Karen Stoffer; 5. Angelle Sampey; 6. Eddie Krawiec; 7. Andrew Hines; 8. Hector Arana Jr; 9. Angie Smith; 10. Ryan Oehler; 11. Kelly Clontz; 12. Jianna Salinas; 13. Michael Ray; 14. Scotty Pollacheck; 15. Hector Arana; 16. Ron Tornow.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Richie Crampton, 3.738 seconds, 329.10 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 3.779 seconds, 331.28 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.958, 330.07 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.952, 328.78.

PRO STOCK: Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.553, 210.60 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.594, 208.78.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.774, 198.55 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.805, 196.59.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Austin Prock, 3.698, 331.61 def. Jordan Vandergriff, 3.757, 322.34; Mike Salinas, 3.818, 252.80 def. Billy Torrence, 4.727, 163.53; Brittany Force, 3.691, 326.79 def. Todd Paton, 4.265, 207.98; Leah Pritchett, 3.731, 326.40 def. Lex Joon, 4.858, 152.73; Doug Kalitta, 3.722, 330.96 def. Smax Smith, 8.356, 74.14; Richie Crampton, 3.733, 329.26 def. Dan Mercier, 3.892, 310.63; Antron Brown, 3.743, 328.30 def. Terry McMillen, 4.130, 237.59; Clay Millican, 3.752, 329.67 def. Steve Torrence, 3.741, 330.15; QUARTERFINALS — Crampton, 3.781, 324.44 def. Brown, 9.080, 81.48; Kalitta, 3.740, 329.83 def. Salinas, 4.354, 196.39; Prock, 4.735, 219.51 def. Pritchett, 5.736, 105.48; Force, 3.784, 306.67 def. Millican, 3.927, 266.42; SEMIFINALS — Crampton, 4.656, 164.57 def. Force, Broke; Kalitta, 3.740, 333.91 def. Prock, 4.015, 295.66; FINAL — Crampton, 3.738, 329.10 def. Kalitta, 3.779, 331.28.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — John Smith, Dodge Charger, 4.280, 245.05 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 6.422, 144.74; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.926, 320.36 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 10.025, 83.22; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.909, 327.51 def. Mike McIntire, Toyota, 5.898, 119.98; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.908, 331.45 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.204, 249.21; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.938, 326.40 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.752, 172.94; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.919, 331.04 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.774, 127.88; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.915, 329.58 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.977, 327.66; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.899, 332.02 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.961, 329.91; QUARTERFINALS — Force, 3.944, 331.61 def. Wilkerson, 7.140, 133.20; Beckman, 3.927, 331.61 def. Hight, 9.203, 83.25; Capps, 3.916, 329.18 def. Hagan, 8.623, 79.91; Todd, 3.949, 324.75 def. J. Smith, 4.013, 313.80; SEMIFINALS — Beckman, 3.916, 331.12 def. Todd, 5.501, 167.26; Force, 3.929, 329.42 def. Capps, 4.262, 240.25; FINAL — Beckman, 3.958, 330.07 def. Force, 3.952, 328.78.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Fernando Cuadra, Chevy Camaro, 6.588, 209.75 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.578, 209.75 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.622, 211.06; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.549, 210.21 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.557, 210.54; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.552, 210.08 def. Bob Benza, Camaro, 6.593, 208.10; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.564, 209.92 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.587, 209.30; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.540, 210.44 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 17.922, 45.55; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.554, 209.36 def. David Miller, Dodge Dart, 19.609, 36.81; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.568, 210.44 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Hartford, 6.591, 209.75 def. Laughlin, 7.169, 205.82; Cuadra, 6.578, 209.56 def. Enders, 6.581, 209.07; Coughlin, 6.568, 209.65 def. Kramer, 6.571, 209.92; Line, 6.549, 210.41 def. Butner, 6.575, 210.41; SEMIFINALS — Cuadra, 6.598, 208.46 def. Coughlin, Foul – Red Light; Line, 6.572, 210.57 def. Hartford, 6.604, 210.73; FINAL — Line, 6.553, 210.60 def. Cuadra, 6.594, 208.78.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Matt Smith, 6.843, 198.15 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.109, 192.91; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.807, 195.11 def. Hector Arana, Foul – Red Light; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.891, 196.36 def. Angie Smith, 6.902, 196.19; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.837, 194.72 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.971, 193.18; Hector Arana Jr, 6.897, 197.19 def. Ryan Oehler, 6.946, 194.46; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.822, 197.31 def. Ron Tornow, Buell, Broke – No Show; Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.865, 195.03 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 6.976, 191.40; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.871, 197.31 def. Michael Ray, 7.009, 189.71; QUARTERFINALS — M. Smith, 6.862, 199.58 def. Sampey, 6.857, 196.07; Johnson, 6.854, 195.42 def. Arana Jr, 6.967, 192.08; Stoffer, 6.847, 196.96 def. Krawiec, 6.878, 196.70; Savoie, 6.818, 197.10 def. Hines, 6.904, 196.44; SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.834, 195.70 def. M. Smith, 6.847, 198.64; Savoie, 6.818, 196.42 def. Stoffer, Foul – Red Light; FINAL — Savoie, 6.774, 198.55 def. Johnson, 6.805, 196.59.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta, 2,180; 2. Brittany Force, 2,147; 3. Steve Torrence, 2,133; 4. Antron Brown, 2,127; 5. Richie Crampton, 2,126; 6. Mike Salinas, 2,104; 7. Austin Prock, 2,094; 8. Leah Pritchett, 2,093; 9. Clay Millican, 2,092; 10. Billy Torrence, 2,032.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman, 2,179; 2. John Force, 2,160; 3. Robert Hight, 2,155; 4. Ron Capps, 2,136; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,105; 6. Matt Hagan, 2,092; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,089; 8. Bob Tasca III, 2,072; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,057; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,043.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jason Line, 2,194; 2. Bo Butner, 2,155; 3. Alex Laughlin, 2,139; 4. Erica Enders, 2,116; 5. Matt Hartford, 2,103; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 2,099; 7. Deric Kramer, 2,095; 8. Greg Anderson, 2,092; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,041; 10. Val Smeland, 2,031.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie, 2,166; 2. Andrew Hines, 2,160; 3. Matt Smith, 2,143; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,134; 5. Karen Stoffer, 2,120; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,117; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,083; 8. Angie Smith, 2,062; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,042; 10. Hector Arana, 2,032.