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NHRA’s winningest driver, John Force, got back into the winner’s circle after a 20-month drought and was joined by Larry Dixon and Mike Edwards in collecting season-opening Full Throttle Drag Racing Series wins at the 50th Anniversary Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline.
The victory at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, during a weekend filled with nostalgic moments and memories, is Force’s record 127th and it came in his 203rd career final, but his first since the 2008 Topeka event, 623 days ago. The Top Fuel win by Dixon also marked a bit of a comeback as his team didn’t even qualify at last year’s race, where qualifying was shortened by rain. Edwards’ win continued the dominance that the reigning Pro Stock world champ showed in closing out his successful 2009 campaign.
Force, coming off his first winless season since 1986 and celebrating the 25th anniversary of his longtime partnership with Castrol, showed that he’s still in fighting form by winning the Winternationals title, his fifth, on a holeshot, 4.124 to 4.123 against Ron Capps. The last time that Force led the points was Nov. 12, 2006, when he won his most recent championship.
“This is really huge,” said Force. “You know, people say, ‘What’s it like to win?’ It wasn’t so much the winning but coming back from the cellar, and I was in the cellar. When you win all those championships, you just think that winning was easy, and then it got real tough. We scrambled everything around. Obama said change, and that word just stuck in my head. I don’t know if it’s working for him, but Mike Neff, Bernie Fedderly, and Austin Coil, that group is really jelling together, so change has worked for us. To be here at the Auto Club Raceway and win this race, that won’t ever come again, and the 100th, I may not be here for the 100th.
“My gym guy came in one day and I was down and I was just crying and I was just worn out. I said, ‘No matter how hard I work I’m just not going to be who I used to be,’ and that hurts. When your kids are out here like, ‘Dad, you’re Superman. We saw you beat the dragsters.’ Well, you’re not Superman, you’re just a man. But we jelled this team, and I got back on my game because I really wanted it.”
The win also proved that Force’s the decision to add sidelined tuner cum driver Mike Neff to the tuning mix with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly was a wise one. His Mustang never seemed challenged with consistent passes of 4.132, 4.120, and 4.125 to defeat Bob Bode, daughter Ashley Force Hood, and Jack Beckman.
Capps, the defending event champ who also won this race in 1998, powered his Ed McCulloch-tuned NAPA Auto Parts Dodge back to the final the tough way, having to win without lane choice in round one, where he beat Jim Head, then beating former champ Cruz Pedregon, who had upset low qualifier and defending season champ Robert Hight in round one. Capps reached the final, the 60th Funny Car of his career, with a semifinal triumph over Bob Tasca III after a heroic thrash to repair a broken rear end. The car had to be transported back to the trailer on a flatbed, but with help from teammate Matt Hagan’s DieHard crew, they had the rear end and a new engine block installed in just 35 minutes.
Dixon’s victory, scored in a 3.80, 316.60 to 3.84, 310.05 decision over defending event champ Doug Kalitta, was his 49th career win, tying him with his former car owner, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, for eighth place among all Pro winners and 14th among all NHRA drivers. Dixon previously had won the Winternationals in 1998 and back-to-back in 2002 and 2003.
“It’s beyond words,” said Dixon, a student of the sport who understands the significance of winning the Winternationals. “It’s a huge event in its own right whether it’s the fourth or the 12th or whatever and to win the 50th with all of the hype and everything and the gold Wallys, just having a shot at running for it and then doing, I feel very blessed.
“[Tying Prudhomme] I feel like I felt when I passed Don Garlits’ 35 wins; it’s not even fair to compare me with them. When ‘Snake’ was racing there were only three or five races in the season so he didn’t get to run his numbers up, and when he stopped driving the car, the car was winning and if he hadn’t put me in the car he would have kept winning. It’s apples and oranges to me. If I had the kind of season record that Prudhomme had [in 1975 and '76] I’d have more wins than John Force. I’m still grateful to get my first win back in 1995; it’s more than I ever thought I’d have the opportunity to do. You can wish for it, but you can’t make it happen, That’s why I feel so very lucky to have been in some great cars and had some great crew chiefs and the opportunity just to hold my end up.”
Dixon, who lost his low qualifying berth to Cory McClenathan in Saturday’s final qualifying session, looked nearly flawless en route to the final round, chalking up low e.t. of eliminations at 3.799 in round one to defeat Steve Chrisman, followed by a 3.85 conquest of longtime rival Brandon Bernstein. Dixon’s semifinal bash with Tony Schumacher, to whom he lost the season championship last year by a mere two points, was another legendary clash between the two modern-day Top Fuel titans. They ran identical e.t.s and identical speeds – 3.836s and 317.05s a pair – and it was only Dixon’s .068 to .085 reaction-time edge that made the difference 999 feet later for the Al-Anabi team.
Kalitta, who last year joined his uncle, Connie (1967), and cousin Scott (2005),as Winternationals Top Fuel champs, raced his way back to the money round again, the 59th of his career, by overcoming first-round engine woes that slowed him to a 4.51, but the Jim Oberhofer-led crew responded with passes of 3.92 and 3.84 to defeat tire-smoking Troy Buff and No. 1 qualifier McClenathan.
Twenty-nine years after winning his first Winternationals title in Modified Eliminator, Edwards, frustrated twice by Summit teammates Greg Anderson (2006) and Jason Line (2009), scored his first Winternationals Pro Stock title by besting Anderson, 6.57, 210.47 to 6.61, 209.62. Anderson got the holeshot, .031 to .069, but Edwards ran him down to win his 21st Pro Stock Wally by just .003-second.
Prior to beating Anderson, Edwards’ Penhall/Interstate/K&N Pontiac was the quickest car in all four qualifying sessions and had low e.t. of every preliminary round as he motored past Justin Humphreys, Greg Stanfield, and Allen Johnson with blasts of 6.604, 6.610, and 6.615 to reach the final, his 40th in the class. It’s the second time that Edwards has racked up the maximum points available at a race; the first was in Richmond, Va., late last year.
“It feels good to come out here and win a race right off the bat,” said Edwards. “It’s a major win. I was telling Lisa last night before we got to go to bed I won this race 30 years ago in Modified; it’s been a long time. What a way to start the season. Interstate Batteries’ is outrageously dependable, and that’s what my team is. They just make this car go up and down the track. It’s just a pleasure to be a part of this team. These guys are just that good. We’re just fortunate to have what we have.”
“I needed every bit of that last run there. Greg, man, he walloped me on the starting line. It was a great race in the final there in Pro Stock. My hats off to Greg, Jason, and all those guys with the tough winter there. Ken Black, we all want to see him back out here because we all miss him. Those guys are an awesome team, and we love the challenge they give us because they’re the best — they’ve got a lot of championships.”
Anderson continued his Pomona love affair by reaching the final. He won the 2009 season finale here, won the Winternationals three straight years from 2006-2008 and four times overall, and at this race last year reset the national record. He reached the final again, the 89th of his career, with his Summit Pontiac after running 6.608 in round one in a rematch with Kurt Johnson of final of the last event here, then moved on to beat good-looking rookie Shane Gray with a 6.626 and ended the great debut of Larry Morgan’s new Lucas Oil Mustang in the semifinals with a 6.632.
The Top Alcohol Dragster final pitted the runners-up from the last two years, and ’09′s second-place finisher Chris Demke finished first this time with a 5.33 victory over 2008 runner-up Joey Severence. Sean O’Bannon handed Doug Gordon his second straight Alcohol Funny Car Winternationals runner-up, beating the 2003 champ in the final, 5.54 to 5.64.
A pair of former Winternationals Comp champs battled for their second wins in a rematch of their 2006 final here, and the outcome was the same as Lou Ficco Jr. collected the win when 2004 Winternationals champ Dean Carter went -.117 red. In Super Stock, 2003 Winternationals champ Jeff Lane scored again, handing reigning world champ Jimmy DeFrank Jr. his fourth straight Winternationals final-round loss, while Brad Burton defeated Ryan McClanahan for Stock honors.
Kevin Wright got a bye run in the Super Comp final when 2003 Super Gas runner-up Ed Olpin’s dragster wouldn’t fire in the final. The guy who beat Olpin in that 2003 final, Brad Pierce, also won his second Winternationals title by beating former world champ Jimmy Lewis in the Super Gas final.
Kansas City (Feb. 10, 2010) – Les Shockley knows how to put on a good show.
Of course, some might say it would be difficult not to inspire jaw dropping “oohs” and “awes” when you drive a 1957 Chevrolet truck that produces 25,000 horsepower from two jet engines.
That’s exactly what Shockley will do during several Super Chevy Show series events in 2010. Shockley will help kick off the 30th anniversary season of the Super Chevy Show by driving his Super Shockwave Chevy jet truck down the quarter-mile track at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the season opener March 19-21.
“The ’57 Chevy jet truck is without a doubt the most exciting thing when it comes to Chevrolet and the fans at the Super Chevy shows will absolutely love it,” Shockley said. “I’m thrilled with the new owners of the Super Chevy Show series (SCSW, LLC.), because they are hiring the best-of-the-best to be at the shows this year. I think this is going to be a great partnership and I know the fans will love seeing the jet truck.”
Bill Bader, owner of Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio and host of the June 11-13 event, said the owners were eager to bring the fastest Chevy truck in the world to as many events as possible. Shockley set the record for speed with the truck by going 405 mph from a standing start down a mile-long strip.
“We wanted to make sure our fans get to see the top entertainment,” Bader said. “That includes the Super Shockwave truck, which is recognized as the fastest Chevy truck in the world. The truck runs on two Pratt & Whitney J-34-48 engines and when you see this truck, you can’t help but be in awe of the noise, the fire, the heat, the speed and the fact that it is a ’57 Chevy truck.
“In terms of jet-powered vehicles, this is one of the top features and we are thrilled Shockley will be at so many events this year.”
Shockley has been running the ’57 Chevy jet truck for 18 years and is equally excited to be part of the 30th anniversary Super Chevy Show series. He said he wants to be part of the show for years to come.
“I’m just excited about the whole thing,” Shockley said. “The Super Chevy Show has a bright future and it’s in good hands. They now have the best-of-the-best in terms of owners and tracks. At one time the Super Chevy Show was one of the biggest shows out there and it will be again in a very short amount of time.”
Racers, car show participants, fans, vendors and sponsors can call 800-692-6230 for more information on the Super Chevy Show series or go online at www.superchevyshow.com for details on 2010′s 30th anniversary season. For more information about the Super Shockwave jet truck, check out www.shockwavejets.com.
The Safety Shut-off system is made up of two parts, (above) a vehicle-mounted receiver (arrow) and a guardwall-mounted transmitter (below).
All participants in the Top Fuel dragster and Funny Car classes will be required to use an Electrimotion Safety Shut-off Receiver at the season-opening 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline.
The Safety Shut-off Receiver, small enough to fit into a shirt pocket and weighing less than 6 ounces, is installed near the rear of the car on both dragsters and Funny Cars and will activate the previously mandated Electrimotion Safety Shut-off Box when it receives a unique digital message sent to it by the Electrimotion Safety Shut-off Transmitter. The Shut-off Transmitter, which is only slightly larger than the receiver, will be mounted to the guardwall approximately 400 feet past the finish line.
The complete system will initiate a vehicle shutdown sequence – turning off both the ignition and fuel systems and deploying the braking parachute – in the event that the driver is not able to do so.
Only a car passing in close proximity to the transmitter can receive the message, which will help ensure that the receiver does not trigger the system prior to the finish line. A second redundant transmitter will be mounted 600 feet past the finish line on the opposite guardwall from the first transmitter. This redundant transmitter will act as a backup to the primary transmitter in the event the receiver does not receive the message from the first transmitter.
NHRA worked closely with Electrimotion during the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season to test this new safety system. First tests were performed with a few Top Fuel and Funny Car teams using their cars’ existing onboard data-acquisition systems to help monitor performance of the transmitter and receivers. Based on the results of that testing, adjustments were made to both the transmitter and receiver design to optimize performance. Final full-system testing was done during competition at the last two races of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
Recently, several teams successfully used the system during preseason testing at Firebird Int’l Raceway. “The system worked flawlessly for us during our preseason testing,” said reigning NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car world champion Robert Hight. “It is a comfort knowing that this system can shut down my engine and deploy my parachutes if I am unable to do so for any reason.”
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will again be televised in 16 one-hour shows on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD, with coverage from select NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national events. In addition, the popular NHRA Sportsman Spotlights, focusing on NHRA’s member-track network, will air on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD as part of the race coverage.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will air on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD on a tape-delay basis as part of NHRA’s relationship with ESPN, which enters its 10th year as the exclusive home of NHRA Drag Racing. All 16 telecasts will air Saturday or Sunday. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series has a long-standing tradition of serving as a highly competitive developmental arena for the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Returning as anchor of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series telecasts will be longtime NHRA announcer David Rieff, who will be joined in the booth by popular NHRA announcer Bob Frey. Rieff has been involved for many years with NHRA coverage on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD. ESPN2 is available in 98.7 million households.
In addition to his race-coverage duties in the booth, Frey will host the popular NHRA Sportsman Spotlight segments, which will be featured within the race broadcasts on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD. The segments will showcase unique and interesting stories from NHRA member tracks in each of the sanctioning body’s seven divisions. Frey’s schedule of appearances includes Atco Raceway in Atco, N.J. (Aug. 4, Division 1); Orlando Speed World Dragway in Orlando, Fla. (March 6, Division 2); the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional event at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis (April 24, Division 3); the JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals at No Problem Raceway Park in Belle Rose, La. (March 20, Division 4); Cedar Falls Raceway in Cedar Falls, Iowa (July 31, Division 5); Portland Int’l Raceway in Portland, Ore. (Aug. 28, Division 6); and Kauai Raceway Park in Kapaa, Kauai (July 4, Division 7).
Kansas City (Jan. 28, 2010) – Houston Raceway Park has become a shareholder in the Super Chevy Show series and has set a date to be part of the 30th anniversary season in 2010. The Baytown, Texas facility will replace Route 66 Raceway on the schedule and will host a Super Chevy Show for the first time since 2005 on Sept. 10-12.
Seth Angel is Houston Raceway Park’s executive vice president and general manager. He helped get Houston on the Super Chevy Show schedule and is thrilled it could happen so quickly. Houston Raceway Park held Super Chevy Show events every year between 1988-2005.
“The Super Chevy Show event is obviously another marquee event on any racing calendar and it will certainly be a signature event of our racing season,” Angel said. “We’re thrilled to have it back at Houston Raceway Park and I know it is going to fill a huge void in the Houston market.”
SCSW, Inc., bought the series in the fall and the owners have tirelessly worked on preparing for the 30th anniversary season. Billy Meyer, one of the SCSW Inc., owners and the secretary and treasurer of the board of directors, said the schedule has been the top priority.
“We added Houston Raceway Park because we’ve had so many inquiries from fans in the south about the Super Chevy Show series,” Meyer said. “Houston is a great destination for racers in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Houston also is one of the largest commercial and metropolitan markets which gives our sponsors tremendous opportunities.”
Heartland Park Topeka moved the date of its Super Chevy Show up so they could host a Father’s Day weekend event, June 18-20.
Racers, car show participants, fans, vendors and sponsors can call 800-692-6230 for more information on the Super Chevy Show series or go online at www.superchevyshow.com for details on 2010′s 30th anniversary season.
2010 Super Chevy Show Series
Event Date Host Track Location
March 19-21 The Strip at Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV
April 16-18 Virginia Motorsports Park Petersburg, VA
May 21-23 Texas Motorplex Dallas, TX
June 11-13 Summit Motorsports Park Norwalk, OH
*June 18-20 Heartland Park Topeka Topeka, KS
July 16-18 Maple Grove Raceway Reading, PA
August 20-22 Bandimere Speedway Denver, CO
September 10-12 Houston Raceway Park Baytown, TX
September 24-26 Bristol Dragway Bristol, TN
October 22-24 Firebird Raceway Phoenix, AZ
*Indicates a date change