John Force raced to his 134th career Funny Car victory Sunday at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also were winners of the season-opening NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
“It's a great start,” Force said. “You really want to perform. I know all those other kids on our teams and others, like Cruz Pedregon, the Schumacher teams, [Tim] Wilkerson, and [Bob] Tasca, those guys are going to win races, and it was just nice to get a win under my belt. Those boys are bad out there. To make that top 10 is going to be tough. Somebody's going to be left out, so I'm just going to keep fighting and keep my nose clean.”
Force, 62, used a holeshot start to claim his sixth win at this event and 15th at this track with a performance of 4.080sec at 315.64mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. Runner-up Mike Neff finished in 4.036 at 316.82 in his Castrol GTX Mustang.
"Before the final, I said, ‘What are we going to do ‘Guido?' (crew chief Dean Antonelli),” Force said. “He said, ‘We can't race him the way we are, running .12 or .14. We're going to have to go after it, and if it smokes the tires, we'll go home.' They were all over there, looking at the numbers, and it just went. It wasn't quick enough to beat him. He was late, so I got the win. He told me something distracted him.”
In her much-publicized debut, Force's 23-year-old daughter Courtney lost in the second round to Neff, while the elder Force defeated his daughter's rookie rival, Alexis DeJoria, in a close first-round meeting. Force also beat Tim Wilkerson, and Gary Densham to reach the final round.
Massey, who finished second in the point standings last year, opened the new season in first place by outrunning Antron Brown in the final round to take his seventh career Top Fuel victory and first at Pomona. Massey posted a 3.750 at 325.77 in his FRAM/Prestone dragster to hold off Brown's charging Matco Tools dragster, which trailed with a 3.794 at 320.43.
“Coming up a little short and ending up in second place last year made us that much more hungry and motivated to win a championship, so we focused this winter and acted like there wasn't an off-season,” said Massey, who beat Steve Faria, Clay Millican and Tony Schumacher in early rounds.
“It shows that they know what it takes to get the car down the racetrack,” Massey continued. “After the second round, we didn't have any computer data, and (crew chiefs) Phil (Shuler) and Todd (Okuhara) tuned that thing like it was a Top Fuel car from 1968. They looked at the plugs, looked at the bearings, and it went 3.74 at 328mph. It's awesome to start like this and have the No. 1 spot going into Phoenix. This is my life dream, and we're living it.”
In Pro Stock, Anderson raced to his 71st career victory and fifth at the Winternationals, by powering his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac to a 6.549 at 210.87 to hold off Jeg Coughlin's JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger, which trailed with a 6.586 at 209.62.
Anderson raced past Larry Morgan, Allen Johnson and teammate and defending world champ Jason Line to advance to the final.
“I wasn't the quickest driver out here today, but I was very consistent,” Anderson said. “We managed to stop the big yellow Mopar [of Jeg Coughlin in the final]. He sure came out swinging. You're always aware of how good Jeg is driving. I've never been very good at tuning that kind of stuff out, but it worked today. The crew made great decisions, and here we are back in the winner's circle again.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series continues next weekend (Feb. 17-19) at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix with the NHRA Arizona Nationals.
1. Spencer Massey; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Morgan Lucas; 5. Shawn Langdon; 6. Bob Vandergriff; 7. Clay Millican; 8. Brandon Bernstein; 9. David Grubnic; 10. Steve Torrence; 11. Khalid alBalooshi; 12. Rod Fuller; 13. Terry McMillen; 14. Steve Faria; 15. Cory McClenathan; 16. Doug Kalitta.
1. John Force; 2. Mike Neff; 3. Ron Capps; 4. Gary Densham; 5. Courtney Force; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Todd Lesenko; 8. Jack Beckman; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Jeff Arend; 11. Tony Pedregon; 12. Matt Hagan; 13. Bob Tasca III; 14. Bob Bode; 15. Robert Hight; 16. Johnny Gray.
1. Greg Anderson; 2. Jeg Coughlin; 3. Jason Line; 4. Mike Edwards; 5. Allen Johnson; 6. Shane Gray; 7. Vincent Nobile; 8. Rodger Brogdon; 9. Ronnie Humphrey; 10. Greg Stanfield; 11. Kurt Johnson; 12. Ron Krisher; 13. Larry Morgan; 14. V. Gaines; 15. Grace Howell; 16. Erica Enders.
Sunday's final results
Top Fuel -- Spencer Massey, 3.750 seconds, 325.77 mph def. Antron Brown, 3.794 seconds, 320.43 mph.
Funny Car -- John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.080, 315.64 def. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.036, 316.82
Pro Stock -- Greg Anderson, Pontiac GXP, 6.549, 210.87 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Avenger, 6.586, 209.62.