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Category: NHRA

John Force, Spencer Massey win NHRA Winternationals in Pomona

John-force_600

The incomparable John Force won the funny car race in the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona on Sunday, while Spencer Massey won in drag racing's top-fuel division.

Force, 62, is a 15-time funny car championtop and the victory was his sixth Winternationals victory and his 15th win overall at Auto Club Raceway.

Force also leads a four-car team in Yorba Linda that includes Mike Neff, and it was Neff who lost to Force in the final round as Force sped down the 1,000-foot track in 4.080 seconds at 315.64 mph.

The top-fuel finale also pitted teammates as Don Schumacher Racing's Massey edged Antron Brown for the victory.

In an earlier round, Massey also set a national speed record for 1,000 feet when he was clocked at 328.62 mph while defeating Tony Schumacher, the seven-time National Hot Rod Assn. top-fuel champion.

The top fuel and funny car classes had their races shortened to 1,000 feet from the traditional quarter-mile, or 1,320 feet, starting in 2008.

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Photo: Legendary drag racer John Force. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire

Courtney Force loses to teammate in NHRA Winternationals

Courtney2Despite her best run of the weekend, rookie Courtney Force lost to teammate Mike Neff in the second round of funny car eliminations Sunday in the NHRA Winternationals.

Force, the 23-year-old daughter of 15-time funny champion John Force, covered the 1,000-foot drag race in 4.143 seconds and 313.88 mph in the left lane at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

But she couldn't catch Neff, who made a pass of 4.070 seconds at 315.49 mph.

Neff nonetheless was impressed with Courtney, who ran consistently well in her first Full Throttle Series event.

"She's done a fantastic job, I really want to congratulate her," Neff said.

Courtney had defeated Bob Tasca III in the first round to advance to the semifinal round, and despite her loss to Neff she was all smiles after climbing from her car.

So was her dad, who defeated Tim Wilkerson to advance to the semifinals immediately after Courtney's race.

John Force, 62, then got out of his car, walked over to Courtney, gave her and hug and a kiss and said, "Proud of you, baby."

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Photo: Courtney Force in her funny car at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona on Friday. Credit: Marc Gewertz / Associated Press

Courtney Force wins first funny car race, advances in NHRA Winternationals

Courtney Force won her first drag race in the NHRA's premier funny car series Sunday to advance in final eliminations at the Winternationals in Pomona.

Courtney1Force, the 23-year-old daughter of funny car legend John Force and one of the most anticipated rookies in the National Hot Rod Assn. in years, defeated Bob Tasca III at Auto Club Raceway with a run of 4.204 seconds at 309.27 mph.

Tasca jumped in front after the green light flashed but then his 7,000-horsepower funny car lost traction and Courtney Force pulled ahead on the 1,000-foot drag strip to earn the win.

"I was nervous going up there" to the starting line, she said. "I was just holding on the whole time hoping [the car] would go and it did.

Courtney Force's goal this weekend simply was to qualify for the final eliminations so "I didn’t picture [going] this far into Sunday," she said. "This weekend is going way better than I expected."

Her 62-year-old father, a record 15-time funny car champion, then narrowly defeated another rookie female driver in the series, Alexis DeJoria, in the first round despite DeJoria's strong run of 4.141 seconds at 310.27 mph.

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Photo: NHRA funny car drag racer Courtney Force. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

Drag racer survives scary crash at Winternationals in Pomona

Drag racer Mike Austin escaped injury Saturday when his dragster skidded out of control and crashed at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona.

Austin, of Medford, Ore., drives a top-alcohol dragster in one of the National Hot Rod Assn.'s second-tier series, and he was in the first round of eliminations in the right lane at Auto Club Raceway when the accident happened.

About halfway through his run, Austin's car swerved, sailed over the right-side guard wall and skidded until it came to rest next to the right scoring tower at the end of the quarter-mile drag strip. Rescue workers immediately came to his aid.

After several tense minutes, Austin walked from his car on his own power and then was examined and released by medical officials, the NHRA said.

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Courtney Force, Alexis DeJoria pick up pace at NHRA Winternationals

Morgan Lucas on his way to recording the fastest time Friday
Rookie funny car drivers Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria both ran slightly faster times Friday in the second round of qualifying for this weekend's NHRA Winternationals in Pomona.

DeJoria jumped to the seventh-fastest spot after a pass Friday of 4.198 seconds and 300.40 mph, an improvement over her initial qualifying run Thursday of 4.438 seconds.

Force also improved slightly with a run of 4.199 seconds and 307.09 mph; she had traveled the 1,000-foot drag strip at 4.210 seconds in first-round qualifying Thursday.

"I’m just having so much fun out here," Force said. "We’re just trying to step it up on each run. Hopefully we’ll get it going a little quicker tomorrow."

Force's father, 15-time funny car champion John Force, was sixth after the second round, and Bob Tasca III was the provisional No. 1 qualifier after he shot down the track in 4.109 seconds at 309.34 mph.

The 16 fastest cars after the third round of qualifying Saturday advance to the final eliminations Sunday.

In the top-fuel division, defending Winternationals winner Morgan Lucas retained the No. 1 qualifying spot at 3.832 seconds and 320.28 mph.

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Photo: Top-fuel driver Morgan Lucas on his way to recording the fastest qualifying run Thursday in the National Hot Rod Assn. Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. Credit: Teresa Long / Associated Press-NHRA

Drag racing's Courtney Force makes impressive first run in Pomona

Courtney

Courtney Force, daughter of drag-racing icon John Force, made an impressive run in her first trip down the drag strip Thursday driving in the sport's elite funny car series.

In the first day of qualifying for the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona,  23-year-old Courtney Force covered the 1,000-foot run in 4.210 seconds with a top speed of 303.16 mph.

That placed her sixth fastest in the field. The fastest 16 drivers after three days of qualifying advance to the final eliminations Sunday in the National Hot Rod Assn.'s Full Throttle Series event.

Courtney's 62-year-old father, a 15-time funny car champion, ran a tick faster than Courtney and was fifth at 4.192 seconds and 302.89 mph in his 7,000-horsepower, nitro methane-fueled funny car.

Under clear skies and with temperatures in the high 70s, Jack Beckman of Norco qualified fastest at 4.139 seconds and 308.14 mph.

Defending funny car champion Matt Hagan was fourth at 4.177 seconds and 307.23 mph.

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-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Drag racer Courtney Force climbs out of her funny car at her team's shop in Yorba Linda on Feb. 1. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, 3 others nominated for state racing award

Gordon

Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon was among four candidates nominated for this year's Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award, given to those who have made distinguished contributions to motor racing in California.

Gordon, a native of Vallejo, not only won four titles in what is now NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, he also is third in career Cup wins with 85 behind Richard Pettty (200) and David Pearson (105).

The other nominees are Tommy Ivo, a child TV star who became a successful drag racer and member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame; A.J. Watson, longtime Indianapolis 500 car builder and chief mechanic; and Tony Adamowicz, a sports-car driver who raced from the 1960s through the 1980s.

The winner will be announced March 25 at the NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

The award is named after sponsor Justice Brothers, a maker of auto-care products, and the late Los Angeles Times motor racing writer Shav Glick, himself a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Past winners include Dan Gurney, Rick Mears, John Force and Don Prudhomme.

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Photo: NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon at the Super Bowl last Sunday in Indianapolis. Credit: Tannen Maury/EPA

Drag racing's 'Big Daddy', Don Garlits, turns 80

'Big Daddy' Don Garlits in 2007
Don Garlits, a three-time champion in drag racing's premier top-fuel class who also revolutionized the sport with a new car design in the 1970s, celebrated his 80th birthday Saturday.

Known as "Big Daddy," Garlits designed a safer, faster rear-engine dragster after being seriously hurt in 1970 when his front-engine dragster exploded at the old Lions Drag Strip in Wilmington. The rear-engine design, with the engine behind the driver's cockpit, is still used today.

Garlits, who lives in Ocala, Fla., went on to win the top-fuel championship in 1975, 1985 and 1986 in his series of "Swamp Rat" dragsters, was the first to break the 270-mph barrier on the drag strip and became one of the best-known figures in the history of National Hot Rod Assn. drag racing.

The NHRA's season-opening event this year, the Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, takes place Feb. 9 to 12, and on Feb. 11 a fundraising event in Garlits' honor -- dubbed a "Rat Roast" -- is scheduled in Pomona.

Proceeds will benefit the Quarter Mile Foundation, which has programs to preserve the history of drag racing. Among those expected to attend include drivers who competed against Garlits, including Don "The Snake" Prudhomme.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Racing legend Don Garlits at his Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Fla., in 2007. Credit: Sara A. Fajardo / Orlando Sentinel

Courtney Force joins dad John Force in drag racing's top series

Courtney Force, the youngest daughter of drag-racing legend John Force, said Tuesday that she's joining her father as a driver in the sport's big leagues, starting with the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona on Feb. 9-12.

Courtney Force, 23, will drive one of the 8,000-horsepower funny cars prepared by her family's John Force Racing team in the National Hot Rod Assn.'s Full Throttle Series. The car's primary sponsor is Traxxas, a maker of radio-controlled hobby cars that's new to the team.

"I am so thrilled and honored," Courtney Force told a news conference at the team's Yorba Linda facility. "I knew ever since I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a professional race-car driver. I can't wait to start beating up on the boys, especially my dad."

John Force, 62, is a 15-time champion in the NHRA funny car division, where dragsters reach speeds exceeding 300 mph in 1,000-foot races.

Another of his daughters, Ashley Force Hood, 29, already had been competing in the Full Throttle Series but took last year off to have a baby and is not racing again this season.

Continue reading »

Top NHRA drag-racing team taps Persian Gulf driver

Del Worsham

Al-Anabi Racing, a leading team in the NHRA's premier Full Throttle drag-racing series, said Wednesday that Khalid alBalooshi would drive one of its two top-fuel dragsters next season.

The team is owned by Sheikh Khalid Al Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar, and alBalooshi is a native of Dubai who has been racing Al-Anabi dragsters in the NHRA's second-tier series and internationally.

AlBalooshi, 32, won the championship this year in the NHRA's Get Screened America Pro Mod series and in the Arabian Drag Racing League Pro Mod series.

He replaces Del Worsham, who retired after winning the top-fuel championship this season. The team this week also named its other top-fuel driver, Shawn Langdon, who replaces three-time champion Larry Dixon.

"When we started this team, we said that one of our goals was to promote international drag-racing awareness, specifically in the nation of Qatar," team manager Alan Johnson said in a statement. "Now we have a driver who has won a championship in Qatar competing in the NHRA Full Throttle drag-racing series."

The team said alBalooshi, 32, earned his top-fuel license at a test session this week; before that he had never driven a top-fuel dragster, which reaches speeds exceeding 300 mph in less than five seconds on a 1,000-foot drag strip.

The NHRA opens next season with the Winternationals on Feb. 9-12 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

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Photo: Del Worsham in his Al-Anabi Racing top-fuel dragster Nov. 21 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. Credit: Jerry Foss/Associated Press

Shawn Langdon replaces Larry Dixon on NHRA top-fuel team

Al-Anabi Racing said Shawn Langdon replaced Larry Dixon on its NHRA top-fuel drag-racing team Tuesday after the team and Dixon, a three-time champion, parted ways.

Langdon, 29, a native of Mira Loma, Calif., spent the last three years driving top-fuel dragsters for Morgan Lucas Racing but has yet to win a race in 69 starts in the National Hot Rod Assn.'s premier Full Throttle Series.

Dixon"We are confident if we provide [Langdon] with a championship-caliber car he will find a way to win," Alan Johnson, who manages Al-Anabi's top-fuel team, said in a statement.

Dixon, 45, and Johnson "agreed to a mutual separation," according to a team announcement earlier Tuesday that did not elaborate on the reasons why.

"The reasons leading to this mutual decision are private team matters; no further information will be provided and no interviews will be granted," the team said.

Dixon, who who grew up in Northridge and graduated from Van Nuys High, won his third top-fuel title in the National Hot Rod Assn.'s Full Throttle Series in 2010, a year in which he won 12 races. His other titles came in 2002-03.

This year he finished fourth in the championship standings with two wins during the season, while his teammate Del Worsham won the top-fuel championship.

"In enjoyed my three seasons driving the Al-Anabi top-fuel car," Dixon said in a statement. "I am anxious to see what the future has in store for me."

Johnson said in the same release that "as difficult as some decisions can be, there are times when they become necessary but can be best for everyone involved."

Worsham retired last monthafter winning this year's title at the season finale in Pomona, and Johnson and Al-Anabi have yet to name his replacement.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Larry Dixon celebrates after his top-fuel victory in the NHRA Arizona Nationals on Oct. 16 at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Ariz. Credit: Jerry Foss/Associated Press

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