Monday, February 10, 2014

54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals Gets Better With Age

This weekend's 54th annual Circle K Winternationals, NHRA's 2014 Mello Yello Series season-opener at Auto Club Raceway Pomona, will mark Tommy Johnson Jr.'s eagerly anticipated return to full-time drag racing as well as the opportunity to finally show the world the eye-catching Don Schumacher Racing Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T sponsored by Terry Chandler pictured here. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals Gets Better With Age

Many people who look in on all matter of motorsports generally have a little trouble getting their minds around American drag racing. It is easy to transfer an experience of driving a car on a winding/curvy road and watch F1, IndyCar (road or street course), and Prototype/GT sportscar racing. What may be a bit harder to grasp for the casual motorsports observer are automobiles that develop 10,000 plus horsepower piloted by drivers who spend a total of five to six minutes of actual competition seat time during 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

An 8 cylinder Top Fuel or Funny Car drag racing engine develops more horsepower in one cylinder than most of the exotic open wheel racing engines in Formula One or IndyCar do in total.That being said, visiting the season opening NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Auto Club Raceway dragstrip in Pomona, California this past weekend for the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals leaves one with an experience that gets better with time and ... age.

John Force, 64, wins the funny car class for his record 139th victory. His run of 3.965 seconds is the quickest for funny cars in the era of 1,000-foot races. Image Credit: JFR PR

This excerpted and edited from Jacobs Media -

John Force powers to seventh Winternationals Funny Car win at Pomona 
By Pete McCole -

Defending NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion John Force set another new Nation Record en route to his record 139th-career NHRA victory in Sunday’s season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Force outdistanced Matt Hagan in the final round with a record-beating run of 3.965 seconds at 323.58 mph, topping the National Record of 3.966 he himself set in qualifying on Friday as well as setting a new national speed record.

Force came in to Sunday’s eliminations as the no. 1 qualifier and got a first-round bye after Paul Lee broke in staging, then bested Tommy Johnson, Jr. and Bob Tasca to reach his eighth-consecutive final round.

In the final, Hagan was into the tire shake right off the line and had to pedal it, giving Force an easy run to the finish, becoming just the third driver in Winternationals history to set a national record and take home the win, joining Don Prudhomme in 1976 and Kenny Bernstein 1987.

The new national record also earned Force a 20-point bonus, giving him a 50-point edge over Hagan in the Funny Car standings.

“We had a good race car. It's amazing,” said Force, of his 16th win at his home track and his seventh Winternationals trophy. “We're trying to build our sport and come out here and run good for you all and the fans, and it's hard sometimes. Jimmy Prock (crew chief) and that whole brain trust did a great job. We're back in the game. Everything's just going right. I don't get it. I ain't that good of a guy. I'm just excited. There’s a lot going on (with sponsors), and man, what a good time to flex your muscles.” 
 [Reference Here]

John Force, who won a record 16th funny car title last year, believes he has everything to prove. That's because the four-driver team he owns is losing two major sponsors after this season. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

It was thought by most who follow the sport that the future for John Force Racing in 2014 was exclusively held in the prospects of the family members coming up through the ranks - Top Fuel racer Brittney Force and Funny Car racer Courtney Force. One might think that after setting nearly every record in NHRA funny car drag racing, 64-year-old John Force would have nothing left to prove.

John Force Racing's Robert Hight, Brittany Force, Courtney Force, John Force, Eric J De Bord announce a multi-year agreement with Peak Antifreeze and BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid during opening day of qualifications at the 2014 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

After this weekend's new sponsorship alliance announcement as a major associate sponsor in a multi-year agreement with Peak Antifreeze and BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid, Force is on a roll. He is working hard to impress new sponsors to replace the drop in income in 2015 when Castrol and Ford leave as the major sponsors of his enterprise. Further, after crew chief Austin Coil left John Force Racing, new crew chief Jimmy Prock is doing a good job as the #ProckRocket showed in its performance on the track in the #Winnats.

In the other racing category that features engines that develop 10,000 plus horsepower - Top Fuel, Al-Alabi Racing's owner and Quatar Sheik Kalid alBalooshi took down top qualifier Doug Kalitta in the final, running a 3.974 at 324.36 mph for his third-career NHRA victory after Kalitta went up in smoke right at the tree.

It was the third career victory for Kalid alBalooshi, 34, a Dubai native who lives in Los Angeles and is starting his third season in the NHRA's top ranks driving for the Al-Anabi Racing team. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

This excerpted and edited from The National -

Al Balooshi opens NHRA season with a win for Qatar Al-Anabi
The National Staff

Emirati drag racer Khalid Al Balooshi of Qatar Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel Team won the first race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season in California on Sunday.

Al Balooshi entered the Cirlce K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California as the seventh-seeded driver. He beat seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, Al-Anabi teammate Shawn Langdon, Steve Torrence in the semi-finals and No 1 seed Doug Kalitta in the final to take home the title.

“I am so excited. There is nothing better than to leave the first race of the season with the first trophy,” Al Balooshi said in a press release.

The victory was the third of Al Balooshi’s Top Fuel career. The Al-Anabi Top Fuel team have won the last three races at Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway, where Langdon was victorious twice last season.

“The Al-Anabi car had a strong day today,” Al Balooshi said. “It’s a good win, especially when you have Tony Schumacher first round, Shawn Langdon second round, and ‘Steve-O’ (Steve Torrance), who’s been doing a good job. Doug’s (Kalitta) car was the best car all weekend, so it made it a very big day for us to take him down in the final and get the trophy.

“Last year, our car started to get better and better. I felt like our car was better down in Florida (during testing), and I’ve been telling people, ‘I think we have a hot rod to start the season with.’ I feel like our car got better and better each round.”
[Reference Here]

Khalid said in another post event interview that once he beat Schumacher in first round that he had a good car for the day, he felt his was the best, and it was ... Alan Johnson (Al-Anabi crew chief) is tough to beat, too. He's sharp and knows tons about car setups. What surprises most in this early season showing is how Tony Schumacher had lost his dominance in Top Fuel that he had achieved in the last couple seasons.

Bob Tasca III on first qualifying run at the 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Here, the left side gives up spewing fuel out of the pipes. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

Pit access in one of the incredible things common at a NHRA event. Fans were in the Tasca Racing pits when they fired up the just rebuilt Funny Car engine. Look at the crew member's hands in photo right. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2014)

To the casual observer - 16 time national champion Force came through as expected but Kalid alBalooshi of Al-Anabi was a big surprise - it can be said about the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series after round one in a 24 event series (to paraphrase the saying "nobody can be too pretty or too rich") ... it pays to be too old (64) or too rich (Dubai Sheik) in order to win at the #Winnats!

... notes from The EDJE

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