The smell of nitromethane was thick in the air this morning as teams get prepped for the first round of eliminations this morning. The race is on a slight delay due to some early morning showers.
Spencer Massey was getting his Top Fuel Dragster situated this morning. As we mentioned yesterday evening, Massey made the big jump from 8th to 2nd with a 3.820 @ 325.14 mph pass.
Stay Tuned! Round one of eliminations will begin shortly!
Funny Car Recap
It was definitely an interesting first round of Funny Car. Courtney Force would take her first round win in her first professional Funny Car race against Bob Tasca with a 4.204 @ 309.27, who got the hole shot on Courtney, but got out of the groove and had to pedal.
In another under dog win, Todd Lesenko won against number one qualifier Robert Height on a 4.695 @ 187.34 mph run, as Height went up in smoke at the eighth mile marker. Tim Wilkerson would run low ET of the round with a 4.068 @ 306.19 to take out Johnny Gray who’s run ended in smoke.
In the second round, Todd Lesenko had his Funny Car set on kill and went into immediate tire shake off the line, which handed the win over to Ron Capps with a 4.086 @ 311.13 mph run. Courtney Force tried all she could to out run fellow JFR teammate Mike Neff but it would be Neff with the victory with a 4.070, which was also the low ET of the round, to Force’s 4.143.
The next pairing became interesting as Jack Beckman would race Gary Densham crossed the clocks on the big end of the track. Beckman’s car made a violent move into Beckman’s lane and the pair of Funny Cars touched, though just enough to cause minor damage to the Funny Cars’ bodies.
John Force would go on to take the easy semi-final round victory as Gary Densham red lit in his duct-taped Dodge. On the other side of the ladder, Mike Neff would narrowly beat out Ron Capps 4.101 with a 4.074, with the margin of victory at the stripe being .012 of a second.
It would set the stage for an all JFR final round as Mike Neff took on John Force. The 62 year old Force showed the younger Neff how it’s done on the tree by getting the holeshot victory with a 4.080 @ 315.64 mph to Neff’s 4.036 @ 316.82 This was Force’s sixth win at this event and 15th at this track.
“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.”
“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.”
Top Fuel Recap
Shawn Langdon cut down the tree with a .010 light against Torrence during the first round of Top Fuel. Having the better reaction time allowed Langdon to take the 3.827 to 3.820 win. Another one that took the holeshot win was Brandon Bernstein against Dave Grubnic. The difference at the stripe? Shawn Langdon’s reaction time – a mere .010 of a second.
In the second round, Bernstein wouldn’t be so lucky as he would go up in smoke against Antron Brown. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get down the track,” Bernstein said. “You hate giving rounds away, but when you smoke the tires, that’s it. Antron’s run would have been tough to beat. He ran a 3.77 (second) pass, that’s a stout run, so you can’t beat yourself up too much about it.”
Number one qualifier Morgan Lucas nearly lost to 9th qualifier Shawn Langdon during the second round of Top Fuel. Lucas narrowly edged out Langdon on a holeshot victory – a 3.792 to Langdon’s 3.791.
Also for Lucas, his luck would run out in the semi final pass against Antron Brown where a new rear end broke in his dragster, halting what had been a stellar weekend. “There’s nothing that bugs you more than when a practically brand-new part that should go 40 or 50 runs breaks,” Lucas said. “It breaks my heart, to be honest with you, to know that we were out front, we were charging, we were running our career-best again and on our way to a 3.76. It’s just a bummer.”
It was a picture-perfect weekend for Spencer Massey who ran in the 3.7-range all the way through the finals. It was the his semi final pass against Tony Schumacher that made the crowd roar – a new 328.62 mph national speed record and 3.745 ET that was good for the track record. This was Massey’s seventh career Top Fuel victory and first at Pomona.
Massey posted a 3.750 @ 325.77 to hold off Brown’s 3.794 @ 320.43. “It took Schumacher a little bit longer than normal to get staged and we burned an additional two gallons of gas,” said Massey. “It carried a wheelie a long way out due to that loss of weight and when I saw the score boards on the top end, I couldn’t believe it.”
“Coming up a little short and ending up in second place last year made us that much more hungry and motivated to win a championship, so we focused this winter and acted like there wasn’t an offseason,” said Massey, who beat Steve Faria, Clay Millican and Tony Schumacher in early rounds.
We start the Pro Stock recap at the honorable mention – Jeg Coughlin. After taking a year off, Coughlin jumps into unknown territory with a Mopar, goes testing twice, and despite a 14th qualifying spot, ended up in the semi finals against Greg Anderson. Coughlin was nearly taken out in round two against Nobile where the margin of victory was .006.
“The team really showed a lot of character this weekend,” said Coughlin. “This is the third track we’ve been on since we started this program. We’re really just starting to peck away at our inefficiencies. After the three qualifying runs we were fourteenth, and we kind of clawed our way through it today.”
“We’re going to fly this engine back to Mooresville at JNR Racing engines, and Roy (Simmons) and Nick (Ferri) are going to see if they can fine-tune it through the week. We’ve got a couple of days where we might learn some things about this Mopar HEMI powerplant that is still very new to us. If we can make any gains, that’s going to be huge for us. In the meantime we’ve got to keep our focus on Phoenix.”
Erica Enders suffered a red light start against number four qualifier Allen Johnson. Mike Edwards would win on a holeshot victory against V Gaines with a 6.649 to Gaines’ 6.646. Another holeshot of the round would go to Nobile as he won against Greg Stanfield with a 6.558 to Stainfield’s 6.585
It wasn’t good news for the Johnson family when father Warren did not qualify for Sunday’s eliminations and son (Kurt) lost in the first round against Humprey.
Though in the end, it was the battle of the mail order parts stores with Summit Racing’s Greg Anderson taking the top honors. “I wasn’t the quickest driver out here today, but I was very consistent,” Anderson said. “We managed to stop the big yellow Mopar [of Jeg Coughlin in the final]. 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.”