Force, Massey, Anderson Top NHRA Winternationals
Showing his hasn’t missed beat since undergoing knee surgery in the off-season, Force opened up his 34th year of competition by watching his daughter Courtney score her first round win and then took down his own driver in the final round, defeating Mike Neff on a holeshot for the his sixth Winternationals victory.
Spencer Massey scored the victory in the Top Fuel division, while Greg Anderson topped the Pro Stock field.
Sunday’s victory was a bit of redemption for the 62-year-old Force, ending a streak of nine races since Force had even made it out of the first round.
“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.”
Neff, who served as Force’s crew chief during his championship-winning run 2010, bested Tony Pedregon and then teammate Courtney Force and Ron Capps to face Force, getting lane choice in the final round.
In the final, Force showed exactly the kind of skill that made him a 15-time champion, hitting a .067 light over Neff’s .175 to win on a holeshot with a 4.080 at 315.04 against Neff’s 4.036, 316.82.
“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.
“It is amazing how we all pulled together before the final. All my brain trust was working on my Mustang and helping Neff. I knew Neff was going to spank me. His Castrol hot rod has been fast all day. We have teamwork and that is what will win us championships. I have done it before and maybe we’ll do it again.”
Coming into Sunday’s eliminations as the second seed, Massey bested Steve Faria, Clay Millican and teammate Tony Schumacher to reach his 14th-career final round against the fourth-seeded Brown, who won out over Cory McClenathan, Brandon Bernstein and no. 1 qualifier Morgan Lucas to make it to the final round.
Facing each other for the fourth time in their careers in the final round, Brown jumped out to an early lead with a .036 light over Massey, who quickly closed the gap by the 100-foot mark and pulled ahead to reach the line by 15 feet, posting a 3.750 at 325.77 mph over Brown’s 3.794, 320.43.
“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 328 mph. 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.”
Greg Anderson topped Jeg Coughlin to pick up his 71st Pro Stock victory and his fifth in the Winternationals, posting a 6.549 at 210.87 mph over Coughlin’s 6.586, 209.62.
The fifth-seeded Anderson knocked out Larry Morgan, Allen Johnson and defending race winner and reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line to reach his 104th final round- his 15th against Coughlin - and first final round appearance since winning at the US Nationals in Indianapolis last September.
“I wasn’t the quickest driver out here today, but I was very consistent,” Anderson said. “We managed to stop the big yellow Mopar (Coughlin). 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.”
FUNNY CAR – John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang, 4.080, 315.64 mph def. Mike Neff, Fishers, Ind., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.036, 316.82 mph.
TOP FUEL – Spencer Massey, Ft. Worth, Tex., Fram dragster, 3.750, 325.77 mph def. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, 3.794, 320.43 mph.
PRO STOCK – Greg Anderson, Mooresville, NC, Summit Pontiac GXP, 6.549, 210.87 mph def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, JEGS Dodge Avenger, 6.586, 209.62 mph
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