On a weekend in which NHRA paid tribute to its rich history during the 50th running of the Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals, NHRA legend John Force turned back the clock himself by winning for the first time in a year and a half.
The other winners at the season-opening event in the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season were Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock). All three final rounds featured drivers who ranked in the top-10 on the all-time wins lists in their respective classes.
The holeshot win for Force (4.124 at 298.67 to Capps' 4.123 at 305.08), who had a .016 advantage (.057 to .073) on the tree, was the NHRA-record 127th in his legendary career, but his first in 40 races dating back to Topeka, 2008.
"I've got a good racecar and a good brain trust," said Force, who kept Capps (29 FC wins) from tying Kenny Bernstein (30 FC wins) for fourth place on the all-time Funny Car wins list. "Then you start to think it's me and maybe I'm not a good driver. I came out here this weekend with the right attitude to get in the fight and walked out of here with a win."
Force, the 14-time champion, is in first place for the first time since Nov. 12, 2006, the last day of the 2006 season when he celebrated the last of his 14 championships in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang.
"I read in the paper that 60 is the new 40, and I'm going with that. I am just a guy who won a race with a great team around me. Sometimes a little bit of change gets people moving again and this team is moving again. I am proud that I could win this 50th (Winternationals)," Force said.
In Top Fuel, Dixon powered his Al-Anabi dragster to a 3.808 at 316.60 for a narrow win over defending Winternationals champion Doug Kalitta and the Kalitta Motorsports dragster team (3.848 at 310.05).
"It's beyond words," said Dixon, who notched his 49th career win, tying him for eighth place on the all-time NHRA wins list with Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. "With all the hype going into this race for the 50th it feels good to just have a shot at it. Then to actually do it, I really feel blessed to be in this car and with this team."
The win was the fifth for Dixon at storied Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (four Winternationals, one Finals), the track he grew up and the one where his father Larry won the Winternationals Top Fuel title in 1970. The Dixons are one of two father-son tandems to have won Winternationals Top Fuel titles (Connie and Scott Kalitta).
Dixon went through quite a gauntlet for the win, defeating Steve Chrisman in the opening round before eliminating Brandon Bernstein in the quarters and six-time defending champion Tony Schumacher in semis.
In Pro Stock, defending champion Edwards left the line second in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP, but he made up the difference with a booming 6.577 at 210.47 (to Anderson's 6.618 at 209.62 in his Summit Racing Pontiac) to win by a final margin of .003 at the stripe.
"It's a major win," Edwards said. "What a way to start the season. My team is outrageously dependable and they make the car go down the track. We are real fortunate to have what we have."
The NHRA Full Throttle Series continues next weekend, Feb. 19-21, in Phoenix with the 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.