(Photos courtesy NHRA/National Dragster)
John Force raced to the $100,000 victory in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout Saturday at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
Force edged Shootout top seed Ron Capps in the final round of the lucrative specialty race that featured eight Funny Car winners from the 17-race regular season. Force powered his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to a performance of 4.218 seconds at 296.57 mph to hold off Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, who trailed with a 4.223 at 296.50.
Force beat Jack Beckman and Jeff Arend in early rounds to advance to the final.
“It’s a great day and we won,” Force said. “The 100 grand goes to my employees. I don’t take any money. It’s not about that for me. It’s about winning for them and the fans and the sponsors. Traxxas putting up that 100 grand, it’s good for our sport. It’s good to have money out here that can subsidize teams, that can help teams, and anybody can win it, and I won it.”
In qualifying, Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the second of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
Langdon captured his third consecutive No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel, as he posted a 3.827 at 322.34 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
“That run was just [team manager/tuner] Alan Johnson magic,” Langdon said. “This morning, he came out and pretty much said that he wasn’t worried about getting in the field – he wanted to go to No. 1. It was fortunate that we were in the right lane in the right conditions, and it stuck to put us No. 1 by two-thousandths of a second. Our main objective for the second run was to get a good setup tomorrow. I think we accomplished that today.”
Langdon will meet Scott Palmer in the opening round as he goes for his second straight playoff victory.
“I think the mojo is going good right now,” Langdon said. “This is the third No. 1 in a row, and we had a good race when we won in Charlotte. We’re looking to keep the car in the winner’s circle; that’s the main goal.”
Series points leader Tony Schumacher was second with a 3.829 at 320.13 in his U.S. Army dragster and Doug Kalitta was third in his Mac Tools dragster with a 3.836 at 322.34.
In Funny Car, the younger Force earned her second No. 1 qualifying position of the season, with her Friday performance of 4.081 at 308.21 in her Traxxas Ford Mustang. She will race fellow rookie driver Todd Lesenko in the first round.
“We’re going to have lane choice tomorrow, and that’s definitely where we want to be,” Courtney Force said. “It’s always good picking up the bonus points going into the Countdown to the Championship. We try to get every point we can because it’s all going to count in the end, but most importantly, we’re in the No. 1 spot and held it for three rounds. Going into race day tomorrow, I think we’ve got a good race car. This Traxxas Ford Mustang is showing in the heat, it can run when the track cools down, and I think we’re going to give everyone a run for their money.”
Tim Wilkerson was second in his Levi Ray & Shoup Mustang with a 4.089 at 302.75 and was followed by Jack Beckman, who posted a 4.109 at 303.98 in his NextGen/Valvoline Dodge Charger. Series points leader Capps will start sixth as he goes for his second straight playoff win and Shootout winner Force will try to win his eighth Texas Motorplex title from the No. 10 starting spot.
Johnson raced to a career-best 10th No. 1 qualifying position of the season in Pro Stock, powering his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to a track record performance of 6.550 at 211.99. Johnson will meet Warren Johnson in the opening round.
“I can remember my first one like it was yesterday, and you wonder if you’re ever going to get another one after that,” Johnson said. “It’s a really good feeling. It’s been a great year for our Mopar Dodge Avenger qualifying No. 1 so many times. We’re hitting on all cylinders. We have a consistent strategy right now of trying to make good, clean, safe runs every time right now without pushing it.”
Three-time season winner Erica Enders was second in her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt with a 6.557 at 210.57 and Charlotte winner Jason Line was third in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.559 at 210.64.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. claimed his second No. 1 of the season and ninth of his career with a performance of 6.852 at 195.34 on his Lucas Oil Buell. He will face Matt Guidera in the first round.
“I honestly did not [expect to improve],” Arana Jr. said. “One of the guys was down there talking, and I said, ‘We’re not going to pick up. It’s too hot.’ Surprisingly we did, but if you look at my increments, everything finally came together.”
Hector Arana Sr. was second on his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.862 at 196.24, followed by series leader Eddie Krawiec, who posted a 6.887 at 194.49 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Charlotte winner Andrew Hines was fourth on his Harley-Davidson with a 6.892 at 194.10.
Final round-by-round results for the inaugural $100,000 NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car, held Saturday at the Texas Motorplex.
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT:
ROUND ONE — Johnny Gray, Dodge Charger, 4.254, 290.82 def. Mike Neff, Ford Mustang, 4.784, 175.89; John Force, Mustang, 4.294, 268.38 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.483, 274.94; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.134, 295.01 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.199, 294.95; Jeff Arend, Toyota Camry, 4.783, 241.07 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 5.657, 132.32;
SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.234, 292.08 def. Arend, 4.253, 281.19; Capps, 4.201, 291.26 def. Gray, 4.925, 169.44;
FINAL — J. Force, 4.218, 296.57 def. Capps, 4.223, 296.50.