Force Powers Mustang to Victory, Pads Record Books at Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
The patriarch of John Force Racing powered his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a Father's Day victory in Sunday's Funny Car finale at Bristol Dragway's Ford Thunder Valley Nationals.
Starting the Father's Day celebration with a win over daughter Courtney, Force also defeted current Funny Car point leader Matt Hagan and second-year driver Blake Alexander to set up a Finals showdown with longtime rival Cruz Pedregon.
Force was up to the challenge, beating Pedregon who started losing cylinders early in the run, to end his 31-race winless streak and winning for the first time in Thunder Valley in three years. A rematch of the 2007 final round in Thunder Valley, Force's .061 reaction time, 4.148 elapsed time and 305.29 mph speed once again gave him the advantage over Pedregon's Toyota Camry, propelling the 15-time Funny Car champion to his fourth trip to Bristol winner's circle and record-setting 135th NHRA Funny car win.
"If you can't compete mentally then you're just out of it," said Force. "We've had a rough go lately, and I've been asked multiple times if it was time to give up the seat. Well, I ain't ready to give it up yet and this proves it."
Pedregon recorded a .069 reaction time, 4.335 elapsed time, and 224.02 mph. Despite the loss, Pedregon maintained second place in the NHRA Funny Car point standings. Force remains in ninth as the competitors begin eyeing the Countdown cutoff.
Pitting the weekend's quickest drivers in a head-to-head matchup, first and second qualifiers Spencer Massey and Steven Torrence faced off in Top Fuel's final round.
Despite record-setting efforts during Friday night's qualifying session, Massey's .054 reaction time, 3.894 elapsed time and 317.19 mph effort wasn't enough to beat Torrence's Capco Racing dragster.
Clocking in at 320.13 mph with .063 reaction time and 3.871 elapsed time, Torrence notched his fourth career win and first at Bristol Dragway.
"Today's been unbelievable," said Torrence. "I didn't expect the car to turn around nearly as quickly as it did. My guys worked their tails off with 14- and 15-hour days to get the car setup like we wanted it. I am happy with the way the car is running and it's real consistent right now. I am happy with the decisions we've made and it is paying off now."
Torrence, who recently hired new crew chief Lee Beard, stands ninth in points.
Sunday's Pro Stock final came down to a shootout between Texas natives Erica Enders-Stevens and Rodger Brogdon. In only his second final-round appearance, Brogdon drove his ProtectTheHarvest.com Camaro to victory with a .045 reaction time and 6.745 elapsed time at 205.38 mph.
Earning his first Pro Stock win, Brogdon said the last week's test session at Thunder Valley gave his team the needed edge over Enders-Stevens's Charter Communications Chevy (.040 reaction time, 6.752 elapsed time and 205.66 mph run).
"I said that when we started this deal (moving into Pro Stock after years in Pro Mod) that it was going to take at least 10 races or so [for it to show results] and this happened to be the 10th race," Brogdon said. "We made nine runs in two days of testing here, and it sure paid off. We were so much better at the end of our testing than we were when we got here. I have to give my guys a lot of credit to my guys for coming up here and doing such great work."
The series heads to Epping, N.H., next weekend for the Inaugural NHRA New England Nationals.