Like Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing his arms in his prime as a body builder, John Force Racing showed its muscle in this weekend’s Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas.
Not only did JFR team president Robert Hight win his third Funny Car final of the season (in the first five races), teammate Brittany Force earned her first win of 2019 in the Top Fuel category in the fifth national event on the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.
In addition, team patriarch John Force came into Sunday’s eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier, which daughter Brittany also accomplished in Top Fuel, marking the first time in NHRA history that a father-daughter combination have qualified No. 1 in the top two nitro-fuel classes.
John Force reached the semifinals before being eliminated by Hight. The elder Force continues in his quest to earn the 150th win of his career; he remains at 149 wins heading into the next race in two weeks (April 26-28) at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Here’s how Sunday’s action played out:
IN TOP FUEL: Brittany Force earned her first win in a year, having also won at Houston in last year’s race.
The 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion covered the drag strip at an elapsed time of 3.749 seconds to defeat Antron Brown (3.995 seconds).
Also of note, it was the first win for David Grubnic as Brittany Force’s crew chief, a role he assumed during the off-season.
Force defeated Cameron Ferre, points leader Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican in the first three rounds of eliminations before holding off Brown for the win. Brown had an equally tough road to the final round, defeating Las Vegas winner Mike Salinas in the first round, followed by triumphs over Leah Pritchett and 2018 Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence before meeting Force in the money round.
“We’ve been going through a lot of adversity and we’ve just been fighting through it as a unit together,” Brown said. “Today, people saw what we are capable of. It feels good just to get back to what’s been the norm.
“We still have a ways to go, but we’re just going to keep on working and keep our heads down and everything’s going to be just fine. We can take this run today and build a little momentum and go to Charlotte and start where we left off here. We just need to keep getting better. That’s the name of the game.”
IN FUNNY CAR: Hight moved one step closer to 50 career Funny Car wins – he now has 48 – defeating Matt Hagan in the final round by a tight margin of 3.941 seconds to Hagan’s 3.966 seconds.
Hight struggled in Friday’s qualifying, but rebounded to earn the No. 5 starting spot on Saturday. But the big story for him in reaching the winner’s circle Sunday was outstanding consistency: in his four rounds of competition, Hight’s performance never wavered between 3.895 seconds and 3.941 seconds.
During Sunday’s eliminations, he defeated Jonnie Lindberg, 2018 Funny Car champ J.R. Todd and his boss, John Force.
Hagan, meanwhile, defeated two of his three Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Tommy Johnson Jr. (first round) and Ron Capps (semifinals), as well as Blake Alexander (quarterfinals) to match up with Hight in the final.
“I had a great weekend here in Houston, I’ve got a great race car and (crew chief) Dickie Venables is doing an amazing job with this car,” Hagan said. “I couldn’t be happier with the car and team I have surrounding me. We’re ready to keep things going in Charlotte.”
NOTES: This marked the first race of the season that did not include the Pro Stock class. Drivers in that class are contesting an 18-race season, as compared to the 24-race schedule that Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers compete in.
We’ll have more information, including quotes from the winning drivers, videos and a full statistics package, shortly. Please check back soon.
LONG BEACH, Fla. – Alexander Rossi won the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach from the pole position for the second consecutive year, dominating Sunday’s race from start to finish.
The Andretti Autosport driver scored his first victory of the 2019 season and sixth of his NTT IndyCar Series career in becoming the first back-to-back winner in Long Beach since Sebastien Bourdais won three straight from 2005-07 on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit.
Rossi, a native of Nevada City, Calif., said it was the 200th win across all racing series (including IndyCar, Indy Lights, Global Rallycross and more) for team owner Michael Andretti.
“What better way to do it than in that kind of fashion in California,” Rossi told NBCSN after his first win since Pocono last August. “I have a great car and a great crew behind me. Couldn’t do it without them.
“I just found out that my grandfather died yesterday. I want to dedicate it to him.”
Josef Newgarden finished second.
After a stewards’ review of a last-lap incident, Graham Rahal was ruled to have blocked Scott Dixon, who was awarded third place. Rahal finished fourth, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Rossi led 80 of 85 laps and won by more than 20 seconds while yielding the lead briefly twice to Josef Newgarden during green-flag pit stop cycles.
It’s the largest margin of victory at Long Beach since Al Unser Jr. won by more than 23 seconds in 1995.
Rossi became the eighth driver to win multiple races at Long Beach, joining Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Alex Zanardi, Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power and Mike Conway. He is the sixth to win the marquee event in consecutive years.
The IndyCar circuit now heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the May 11 prelude to NBC’s debut broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.
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NHRA: John Force Racing flexes muscle with Hight, Brittany Force wins in Houston