Spencer Massey raced to his third Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals and in the process qualified for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's playoffs.
John Force (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.
Massey powered his Prestone/FRAM dragster to a performance of 4.150sec at 269.67mph to hold off seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who trailed with a 4.255 at 266.95 in his U.S. Army dragster. Massey became the second Top Fuel driver to earn a post season playoff berth, joining current series leader Del Worsham.
Massey outran Brandon Bernstein, Shawn Langdon and Antron Brown in earlier rounds to advance to his fifth final of the season and move to second in the point standings, 68 behind leader Worsham, who lost in the second round to Brown.
“I'm just ecstatic,” said Massey of his fifth career victory. “I wanted to do well at this race, especially with our sponsor's race at Sonoma being next week. Now we get to go there with a full head of steam. The final round was kind of crazy, because it started hazing the tires at the eighth-mile. I just kept my foot in it and hoped that our Gates belt held on. I never saw Tony. When I saw the win light, I started going crazy.”
In Funny Car, Force won his first race of the season and the 133rd of his career, as he took an automatic win light when final round opponent Matt Hagan fouled at the start in his Mopar/DieHard Dodge Charger. Force finished in 4.361 at 285.23 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to claim his sixth win in nine career finals at the scenic mile-high dragstrip.
In the first three rounds Force raced past Tony Pedregon, series leader and teammate Mike Neff and Jeff Arend to advance to a record 214th career final round.
“Like the military, it's all about teamwork, and we have great guys,” Force said. “(Crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas have been struggling, and Mike Neff and Jimmy Prock stepped in to help them. Robert Hight, the president of the company, even spoke up and told me, ‘It's you. You have to get back in the game. Your head is hopscotching to the air show and the Indy 500 and every place you're going. You taught me that you need to live it.' He was right. I'm back in the game today.”
Neff, who became the first Funny Car driver to secure a Countdown playoff berth during the weekend, maintained his series lead, 192 points ahead of teammate Robert Hight. Force climbed from eighth to seventh in the standings with his victory.
Edwards scored his third win of the season and 31st of his career by holding off Bandimere Pro Stock dominator Allen Johnson in the final round. Edwards ran 6.970 at 197.56 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP in the final but ultimately wouldn't need the strong performance as Johnson turned on a rare red-light at the start in his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger.
“We got the Wally, but I believe that Allen Johnson is still ‘King of the Mountain',” said Edwards, who beat Warren Johnson, Jason Line and Larry Morgan to advance to the final round.
“It's so sweet to come up here because the Bandimere family does such an awesome job, and the fans are great,” Edwards continued. “It's such a privilege to come up here and race because it is such a unique place. We have to change everything from one end of the car to the other [to adjust for the increased] altitude, and it's a game to see which team can make the best guesses and best choices, and who can be ‘King of the Mountain' for one year.”
With the win, Edwards trimmed Jason Line's series lead to six points.
Stoffer ended a four-year winless drought in Pro Stock Motorcycle as she sped to her sixth career victory with a 7.283 at 182.58 on her GEICO/Powersports Suzuki and held off fellow Suzuki rider Michael Phillips, who trailed with a 7.394 at 182.01 on his Racers Edge sponsored bike.
“Our main goal this season was consistency and to go as many rounds as available at each racing event,” said Stoffer, who beat Shawn Gann, Jerry Savoie and Eddie Krawiec in the first three rounds. “If you do that and do it right, you're going to get the win lights and you're going to get the Wallys. We had to wait and be patient. We went to three final rounds this year and had to wait until about midseason before we could bring it home, but we finally made it happen.”
With the victory, Stoffer regained the series lead and moves 33 points ahead of Krawiec with three bike races remaining until the playoffs.
“We got the double whammy here by taking home the Wally and also getting in front of the points,” Stoffer said. “We're now in control of our own destiny.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Series continues July 29-31 with the FRAM / Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The race is the second stop in the three-race NHRA "Western swing."