John Force regained the points lead with his NHRA-record 130th career win Sunday at the 10th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The other winners at the 12th race in the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Series season were Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock).
After qualifying sixth, Force defeated Paul Lee, Matt Hagan and Bob Tasca to reach his 207th career final round where he easily defeated Tim Wilkerson with a 4.317-second pass at 285.59mph to Wilkerson's stumbling 12.365 at 31.80.
“To get this win is really great. I'll be honest, I was jacked up on so much Full Throttle I thought I was going to explode...oxygen, everything I could take just to keep up with the kids,” said the 61-year-old Force, who left Bristol with a 58-point lead over teammate Robert Hight as he seeks to win his NHRA-record 15th championship. "I'm going to stay young and thank the fans who keep screaming and giving me the energy."
Force, who drives the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, had led the point standings after the first nine races before ceding the lead momentarily to Hight for races 10 and 11.
Wilkerson, meanwhile, wasn't able to gain any positions in the point standings – he remained in ninth – but he and the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford team did move 111 points clear of 11th-place Jeff Arend with five races left in the Countdown to 10 regular season.
Schumacher and the U.S. Army team also qualified sixth and seemed fated for a second-round match-up with rival and points-leader Larry Dixon and the Al-Anabi team in the second round, but No. 14 qualifier Morgan Lucas put that to rest with his upset of Dixon in the first round. So Schumacher didn't meet a higher qualified racer until the semis when he dispatched of No. 2 qualifier Cory McClenathan and the FRAM dragster team, and then he secured his fourth win of 2010 and 65th of his career with a 3.982 at 306.53 in the final-round win over No. 4 qualifier Brandon Bernstein and the Copart/Lucas Oil team (4.054 at 272.56). This was also Schumacher's 100th career final round.
“That was an amazing deal, me, Dixon (98) and (Joe) Amato were all at 99 (final rounds) and only one guy's getting to 100 first. To be the first to go to 100 finals in Top Fuel is just awesome,” said Schumacher, who became the second Top Fuel driver and third overall to clinch his berth in the Countdown to 1.
In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards captured his NHRA-best eighth win before hitting second gear in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP as final-round opponent Rickie Jones red-lighted.
“(Bristol Dragway) is probably my favorite place to come race, just an awesome place. The fans…they're just race fans, no matter what kind of racing it is, they're race fans,” Edwards said. “It is my second time winning here and with so much heritage and tradition around here, this track and that big track over there, it's just a real honor to come here and run good and win this race.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series continues next weekend with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio, the fourth race in four weeks and the fourth race in a stretch of seven races in eight weeks.