NHRA Seattle: John Force wins No. 150, Austin Prock wins No. 1

1 Comment

You might say Sunday’s finals of the NHRA Northwest Nationals was one for the ages.

Literally.

On the one hand, 70-year-old John Force broke more than a year’s frustration to finally earn a milestone 150th career NHRA Funny Car win.

On the other hand, 23-year-old Austin Prock (he turns 24 on August 21) – who also drives for John Force Racing – broke through with his first career NHRA Top Fuel victory, as well.

And Matt Hartford deprived Greg Anderson of a Western Swing sweep, capturing top honors in the Pro Stock class.

IN FUNNY CAR: For over a year, Force has consistently said that win No. 150 will come in due time. Sunday, that time came due as Force (3.971 seconds at 320.58 mph) defeated Ron Capps (4.018 seconds at 309.91 mph) in a classic final round showdown.

It marked Force’s first victory in 25 races dating back to last season and his ninth career win at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington, a Seattle suburb.

 

While Force is the all-time winningest driver in both Funny Car and all other NHRA classes, Capps is the No. 2 all-time winningest driver in Funny Car and one of Force’s long-time rivals.

I give credit to a lot of crew chiefs over the years,” Force said in a post-race interview. “I got the monkey off my back and it drove me nuts.

But it taught me to focus on my car if I want to do (well). I had to get to know my car and sometimes you need a slap in the face. That was the monkey that made me focus. I’ve been living it here the last 4-5 races and we found something real critical.

I may not be as young as these kids, but I’m excited. I can calm down now and not live with that thinking that I’ll never get it.”

Force defeated, in order, Jim Campbell, JFR teammate and NHRA Funny Car points leader Robert Hight and Jack Beckman before reaching the final round for the 253rd time in his NHRA career.

Capps, meanwhile, defeated Tim Wilkerson, J.R. Todd and Matt Hagan to face Force in the 121st final round of Capps’ career. It also was the 103rd time Force and Capps have raced head-to-head in their respective Funny Car careers.

Give me a good race car and I can race,” Force said. “I know Capps wanted to beat me and he was giving it all he had.

He’s the real deal, he’s a real great racer, and today luck was just with me and I got the win. Ron was the first one over to congratulate me and that’s the kind of guy he is. But there’s certain tracks I’m really happy at and I’ve always loved Seattle. I’m in the hunt (for the championship) and that’s all I ever wanted to do was to be in the hunt.”

IN TOP FUEL: Prock, son of Force’s crew chief, Jimmy Prock, earned his first Top Fuel career win in his rookie season in the class.

Prock (3.875 seconds at 307.86 mph) stopped defending Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence (4.984 seconds, 162.24 mph) in the final round. Torrence was making a second straight bid to earn his ninth win of the season.

Prock defeated, in order, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican and Mike Salinas to also reach his first career final round as well. Torrence, meanwhile, advanced to the 52nd final round of his career, defeating Steve Chrisman, Antron Brown and Shawn Reed.

This is just unbelievable,” Prock said. “I have to thank John Force for giving me this opportunity. I’m still speechless. This is a dream come true. I’ve wanted this ever since I was knee-high.

Ever since I could think, I wanted to drive a Top Fuel car. We said when John gets 150, I’m going to get my first one and it all came together perfectly. We put all the pieces of the puzzle together today. I wanted to race (Torrence) in the final round. I wanted to be the guy that stopped him.”

IN PRO STOCK: Hartford stopped Greg Anderson from earning a sweep of the Western Swing, as Anderson had won the first two races of the swing at Denver and Sonoma.

Hartford (6.606 seconds at 209.33 mph) got the break at the start line to defeat Anderson (6.596 seconds at 210.31 mph). It was Hartford’s second career Pro Stock win and the first of 2019.

We had a win light against Bo (Pro Stock series leader Bo Butner), which really set the momentum for the day,” Hartford said. “Greg Anderson is obviously one of the best that’s ever raced in the class and he’s closing in some monumental records.

But he had beaten me 10 out of 10 times and, once again, we went up there knowing we had to go ‘A to B’ and whoever leaves first should win the race. We figured we had a good chance, the driver just had to be on his game.”

Hartford defeated, in order, Butner, No. 1 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Deric Kramer to reach the final round, while Anderson knocked off Fernando Cuadra Jr., Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin to earn his 156th finals appearance.

Had Anderson won, he would have been the first driver in NHRA history to ever sweep the Western Swing twice.

NOTES: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series takes next weekend off before resuming August 16-18 with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota. That race is the second-to-last qualifying race for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

*******************************************

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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

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

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

*******************************************

FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Austin Prock, 3.875 seconds, 307.86 mph def. Steve Torrence, 4.984 seconds, 162.24 mph.

FUNNY CAR: John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.971, 320.58 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.018, 309.91.

PRO STOCK: Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.606, 209.33 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.596, 210.31.

*******************************************

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Shawn Reed, 3.718, 329.50 def. Terry McMillen, 3.789, 324.90; Clay Millican, 3.746, 326.16 def. Cameron Ferre, 6.078, 92.52; Brittany Force, 3.725, 328.78 def. Ron Smith, 4.296, 274.50; Mike Salinas, 3.850, 292.84 was unopposed; Steve Torrence, 3.770, 324.83 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.319, 206.64; Austin Prock, 3.761, 326.95 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.762, 325.30; Antron Brown, 3.798, 321.12 def. Richie Crampton, 4.990, 142.64; Doug Kalitta, 3.789, 322.88 def. Scott Palmer, 6.073, 110.96; QUARTERFINALS — Salinas, 3.748, 326.32 def. Kalitta, 4.263, 196.30; Reed, 3.757, 323.27 def. Force, 3.772, 327.59; Prock, 3.829, 323.74 def. Millican, 4.498, 163.20; Torrence, 3.785, 325.53 def. Brown, 4.044, 266.69; SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.998, 272.28 def. Reed, 6.652, 109.32; Prock, 3.800, 322.19 def. Salinas, 3.777, 324.12; FINAL — Prock, 3.875, 307.86 def. Torrence, 4.984, 162.24.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.960, 325.61 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 9.903, 83.83; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.934, 321.35 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.189, 285.11; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.988, 328.22 def. Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.058, 308.99; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.895, 327.90 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.773, 173.36; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.929, 330.55 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.949, 322.19; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.926, 323.81 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.296, 214.55; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.939, 327.35 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.205, 253.95; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.937, 327.59 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 5.182, 141.86; QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 3.992, 322.58 def. Todd, 5.277, 153.40; Hagan, 3.970, 325.53 def. Langdon, 5.067, 148.69; Force, 3.909, 328.14 def. Hight, 4.160, 230.84; Beckman, 3.973, 323.04 def. Tasca III, 4.017, 321.50; SEMIFINALS — Capps, 3.974, 323.58 def. Hagan, 3.982, 327.27; Force, 4.014, 320.97 def. Beckman, 4.480, 197.65; FINAL — Force, 3.971, 320.58 def. Capps, 4.018, 309.91.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.562, 210.11 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.568, 209.95; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.600, 209.46 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.606, 210.14; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.555, 209.72 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Camaro, 6.596, 208.49; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.550, 210.11 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.555, 209.75 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 19.054, 41.98; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.557, 209.92 def. Steve Matusek, Ford Mustang, 6.640, 208.97; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.571, 209.75 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.635, 208.23; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.577, 209.95 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Laughlin, 6.574, 209.79 def. McGaha, 8.639, 111.40; Hartford, 6.578, 210.31 def. Coughlin, 6.951, 205.76; Anderson, 6.559, 208.33 def. Enders, 6.591, 209.20; Kramer, 6.563, 210.08 def. Line; SEMIFINALS — Hartford, 7.551, 198.55 def. Kramer, 33.038, 577.91; Anderson, 6.596, 209.23 def. Laughlin, 6.656, 209.46; FINAL — Hartford, 6.606, 209.33 def. Anderson, 6.596, 210.31.

*******************************************

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS ( * = Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship)

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,587*; 2. Antron Brown, 966; 3. Clay Millican, 955; 4. Brittany Force, 953; 5. Doug Kalitta, 940; 6. Mike Salinas, 883; 7. Leah Pritchett, 786; 8. (tie) Richie Crampton, 753; Austin Prock, 753; 10. Terry McMillen, 676.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 1,341*; 2. John Force, 1,155*; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,117*; 4. Ron Capps, 1,057; 5. Jack Beckman, 1,039; 6. Bob Tasca III, 985; 7. Matt Hagan, 965; 8. J.R. Todd, 949; 9. Shawn Langdon, 840; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 792.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 815*; 2. Greg Anderson, 769; 3. Alex Laughlin, 742; 4. Matt Hartford, 679; 5. Jason Line, 644; 6. Deric Kramer, 632; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 609; 8. Erica Enders, 593; 9. Chris McGaha, 529; 10. Kenny Delco, 331.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

NHRA
Leave a comment

There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

Follow @JerryBonkowski