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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.