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, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Combined speeds