CHANDLER -- Twenty-four hours after the death of a female spectator cast a pall over the 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals and rain and cold suspended eliminations, Jack Beckman drove his MTS Dodge Charger to an upset of No. 1 qualifier John Force in the featured Funny Car final at Firebird Sports Park.
Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, which had dominated the Full Throttle Series, carrying the 60-year-old drag racing icon to victory in the season-opening Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., inexplicably lost traction in Monday’s rain-delayed final and slowed to 6.326 seconds at 106.24 miles per hour.
Beckman won in 4.121 seconds at 301.15 mph, joining Schumacher Racing teammate Cory McClenathan, Monday’s Top Fuel champion, in the winners’ circle.
Despite the loss, Force moves on to Gainesville, Fla., for the 41st annual Tire Kingdom Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. with a 37-point lead ahead of Beckman.
Trying to start the season with back-to-back victories for just the second time in his career, Force appeared fully capable of that achievement until the NHRA opted to postpone final round racing until Monday.
“At the end of the day,” Force said, “we’ve been in the finals of the first two races and won one of them. Sure, we would like to win them all, but we are doing our job for all our sponsors Castrol, Auto Club, Ford, Mac Tools, and BrandSource. It’s been one of those weekends.
“It was very strange with all the goings on. I am not disappointed. I am ready to move on to Gainesville. I have no reason to be disappointed in myself or my team.”
“Without a doubt, I’m glad we got finished [Monday]. I wish we could have finished it [Sunday] night [but] they had to make the call for the conditions on the track.”
On Sunday, Force appeared unbeatable, especially after a second round 4.044 at 309.77 mph that turned back Jim Head and stood as the quickest 1000-foot performance of the entire weekend. He followed up with a 4.080, 309.80 mph victory ahead of teammate and reigning series champion Robert Hight, in the semifinals, that earned Force the choice of lanes for the final.
However, overnight rain and cold conditions apparently changed the track dynamic for Force and crew chiefs Austin Coil, Mike Neff and Bernie Fedderly.
Although the elder Force dispatched teammate Ashley Force Hood in a marquee match in the second round, Hight’s Auto Club Ford had problems, which were amplified in the semifinal loss to Force.
“I told Jimmy on the radio [that the car] definitely was not happy,” Hight said after beating his sister-in-law. “It was popping and banging down there. I think the rods came out [but] I think you’re going to see a lot of these Ford Mustangs racing each other this year. You’ll get a lot of good, close, side by side races.”
Force Hood, who finished second to Hight in last year’s Countdown to the Championship, won her first competitive round at Phoenix when she drove her Castrol GTX Mustang past the Dodge of Melanie Troxel in round one.
“It was special because I don’t ever get to run [against another] girl,” Force Hood said. “Last year, I was the only girl in the category. So it’s neat for the fans. It’s neat for Melanie and [me] to race against each other. Not many people know it, but she actually went to Frank Hawley’s Driving School at the same time I was getting my Super Comp license. I have known her a lot of years. She’s a great driver and I’m proud to have her back in the Funny Car class.
“I was very lucky to get that win. [That’s] a tough team and we just got the better lane and got down it.
“Two second round [losses] in a row,” lamented Force Hood, who lost in the second round of the season-opening Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals to another teammate, her father. “Fortunately, it’s early in the year.
“You just have better luck at some tracks than others,” she continued. “We are at least going more than one round each race. It could be worse. We’ll take this hit and go on to Gainesville. We’ll try and do a little better there.
“This track was a little tricky this weekend because of the weather,” acknowledged the woman who was the first to win an NHRA Funny Car race. “It seemed like it would be nice and cool. Then it would rain; then it would get sunny. That is a huge difference in conditions for tuning the cars.”
Her father would concur.
Final round results from Sunday’s 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Sports Park, second of 23 races in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:
FUNNY CAR – Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger, 4.121, 301.15 mph def. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 6.326, 106.24 mph.
TOP FUEL – Cory McClenathan, Brownsburg, Ind., Fram/Autolite dragster, 3.813, 316.67 mph, def. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Technicoat dragster, 4.736, 219.47 mph.
PRO STOCK – To be contested Friday and Saturday, at Gainesville, Fla., in conjunction with Tire Kingdom Gatornationals.
SUPER COMP – To be contested Saturday at Firebird Sports Park.
SUPER STOCK – To be contested Saturday at Firebird Sports Park.
STOCK – To be contested Saturday at Firebird Sports Park.
SUPER GAS – To be contested Saturday at Firebird Sports Park.
TO THE POINTS
Unofficial professional points following Sunday’s 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Sports Park:
FUNNY CAR – 1. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 224; 2. Jack Beckman, MTS Dodge Charger, 187; 3. Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger, 148; 4. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 121; 5. Matt Hagan, Diehard Dodge Charger, 120; 6. Ashley Force Hood, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 111; 6. Bob Tasca III, Quick Lane/Motorcraft Ford Mustang, 111; 8. Tony Pedregon, Quaker State Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 104; 9. Del Worsham, Al Anabi Toyota Solara, 97; 10. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 86.
TOP FUEL – 1. Cory McClenathan, 201; 2. Doug Kalitta, 196; 3. Larry Dixon, 161; 4. Tony Schumacher, 144; 5. Morgan Lucas, 108; 6. Steve Torrence, 107; 7. Troy Buff, 103; 8. Shawn Langdon, 92; 9. Antron Brown, 90; 10. Brandon Bernstein, 85.
HERE WE GO ROUND-BY-ROUND
Round-by-round results from Sunday’s 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Sports Park:
First round – 1. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 4.142, 305.01 mph, def. 16. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-on Tools Toyota Solara, 4.201, 290.76 mph; 2. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Diehard Dodge Charger, 4.307, 216.90 mph, def. 15. Paul Lee, Anaheim, Calif., Canidae Pet Food Chevrolet Impala, 7.147, 92.14 mph; 14. Tony Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Nitrofish Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.198, 300.06 mph, def. 3. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Al Anabi Toyota Solara, 4.181, 304.74 mph; 4. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang, 4.075, 308.99 mph, def. 13. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 4.113, 295.66 mph; 5. Ashley Force Hood, Anaheim Hills, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.104, 306.80 mph, def. 12. Melanie Troxel, Duluth, Ga., In-N-Out Burgers Dodge Charger, 4.426, 207.05 mph; 6. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Dodge Charger, 4.097, 307.65 mph, def. 11. Gary Densham, Bellflower, Calif., Lawson Rock and Oil Chevrolet Impala, 4.250, 249.76 mph; 7. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger, 4.132, 307.27 mph, def. 10. Bob Tasca III, Cranston, R.I., Quick Lane/Motorcraft Ford Mustang, 4.196, 299.20 mph; 8. Jim Head, Columbus, Ohio, Head, Inc., Toyota Solara, 4.170, 304.87 mph, def. 9. Jeff Arend, San Dimas, Calif., DHL Toyota Solara, 4.346, 229.20 mph.
Second round – Force, 4.044, 309.77 mph, def. Head, 8.927, 79.54 mph; T. Pedregon, 4.195, 304.05 mph, def. Capps, 4.911, 216.06 mph; Beckman, 4.136, 303.78 mph, def. Hagan, 6.968, 126.64 mph; Hight, 4.107, 302.69 mph, def. Force Hood, 4.144, 295.01 mph.
Semifinals – Force, 4.080, 309.06 mph, def. Hight, 20.952, 36.81 mph; Beckman, 5.023, 262.64 mph, def. T. Pedregon, 9.335, 91.65 mph. Jack Beckman, Norco, Calif., Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger, 4.121, 301.15 mph def. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 6.326, 106.24 mph.
First round – 1. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., U.S. Army dragster, 3.824, 317.19 mph, def. 16. Andy Carter, Woodinville, Wash., Terry Haddock Racing dragster, 3.947, 301.81 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Technicoat dragster, 3,996, 313.44 mph, def. 15. Chris Karamesines, Chicago, Strange Engineering dragster, 4.559, 179.44 mph; 14. Steve Chrisman, Anaheim, Calif., Chrisman Racing dragster, 4.110, 288.77 mph, def. 3. Larry Dixon, Indianapolis, Al Anabi dragster, 4.210, 305.22 mph; 13. Troy Buff, Spring, Texas, Bill Miller Engineering dragster, 3.999, 292.08 mph, def. 4. Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, crashed, no time; 5. Cory McClenathan, Brownsburg, Ind., Fram/Autolite dragster, 3.843, 315.86 mph, def. 12. Mike Strasburg, Lindon, Utah, Pro Comp Motorsports dragster, 4.008, 306.40 mph; 11. Morgan Lucas, Brownsburg, Ind., GEICO Powersports dragster, 3.843, 315.49 mph, def. 6. Shawn Langdon, Brownsburg, Ind., Lucas Oil dragster, 6.420, 101.85 mph; 10. David Grubnic, Ennis, Mont., Kalitta Air dragster, 3.843, 313.07 mph, def. 7. Brandon Bernstein, Indianapolis, Copart/Lucas Oil dragster, 3.896, 309.13 mph; 8. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Simple Mobile dragster, 3.905, 307.58 mph, def. 9. Terry McMillen, Elkhart, Ind., Amalie Oil dragster, 10.518, 75.14 mph.
Second round – Kalitta, 3.986, 290 mph, def. Grubnic, 4.276, 272.56 mph; Lucas 3.881, 303.78 mph, def. Chrisman. 8.596, 69.13 mph; McClenathan, 3.829, 315.27 mph, def. Buff, 3.937, 295.27 mph; Torrence, 3.841, 315.27 mph, def. Schumacher, 3.837, 316.23 mph.
Semifinals – Kalitta, 3.983, 295.14 mph, def. Lucas, 6.352, 116.55 mph; McClenathan, 3.812, 311.70 mph, def. Torrence, broke.
FINAL – Cory McClenathan, Brownsburg, Ind., Fram/Autolite dragster, 3.813, 316.67 mph, def. Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Technicoat dragster, 4.736, 219.47 mph.
First round – 1. Mike Edwards, Coweta, Okla., Penhall Company Pontiac GXP, 6.617, 209.82 mph, def. 16. Warren Johnson, Sugar Hill, Ga., K&N Filters Pontiac GXP, 6.706, 206.65 mph; 2. Ron Krisher, Warren, Ohio, Valvoline Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.619, 208.84 mph, def. 15. Shane Gray, Artesia, N.M., Tire Kingdom Pontiac GXP, 6.697, 205.69 mph; 3. Rodger Brogdon, Tomball, Texas, Racers Edge Pontiac GXP, 6.652, 200.59 mph def. 14. Vinnie Deceglie, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Mountainview Tire/NAPA Dodge Avenger, no show; 4. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Mopar Dodge Avenger, 14.342, 58.30 mph, def. 13. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, broke; 5. Jason Line, Troutman, N.C., Summit Pontiac GXP, 6.777, 207.34 mph, def. 12. Kurt Johnson, Sugar Hill, Ga., Mark Christopher Auto Center Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.909, 183.92 mph; 6. Bob Yonke, Burleson, Texas, Performance Auto Pontiac GXP, 6.675, 205.16, def. 11. Rickie Jones, Galesburg, Ill., Elite Performance Pontiac GXP, 14.598, 58.41 mph; 10. Greg Stanfield, Bossier City, La., Nitrofish Pontiac GXP, 6.656, 208.29 mph, def. 7. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, Jeg’s Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.649, 201.31 mph; 9. Greg Anderson, Concord, N.C., Summit Pontiac GXP, 6.646, 207.66 mph, def. 8. Ronnie Humphrey, Jacksonville, N.C., Pro Stock Grills.com Pontiac GXP, 12.898, 67.04 mph.
Second round – To be contested during the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., March 12-13.