By Lee Elder
MORRISON, Colo. (July 22, 2018) – Funny Car star John Force won his 1,300th career round win in the first round of the Dodge NHRA Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway Sunday. Then he ran the total to 1,303 and won the event.
It was Force’s 149th victory, his eighth win in the Rocky Mountains and came in his 252nd career final round berth. But it was Force’s first win in more than a year and came after a difficult start to the season, when his cars suffered explosive mechanical failures. Redemption is sweet, even for a 16-time champion.
“You all know my story,” Force said. “All the crashes (earlier in the season). I was probably at my most-lowest, lower than my crash (of 2007). I was fighting to get back and I looked like a mess.”
Leah Pritchett won in Top Fuel, Greg Anderson got his first win of the season in Pro Stock and Hector Arana Jr. won an amazing Pro Stock Motorcycle final.
Force’s path to victory came against the toughest competition in the category. He knocked off Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, Courtney Force and then, in the finals, Ron Capps. Force left the line first against Capps and needed to. Despite the start, Capps led at about the 660-foot mark but Force got around him for the win. Force’s elapsed time was 4.075 seconds to 4.067 for Capps.
“John Bandimere (the owner of the race track) called me and said, ‘We need to talk,” and he sent me some stuff to read and he took me down this road and he said, ‘By the time you get to Denver, you’ll be fixed.’ He didn’t say I’d win, just that I’d be fixed and go out and show him who John Force is. And I found myself. I had the fire in me because I got tired of hearing myself snivel.”
Pritchett raced Doug Kalitta in the Top Fuel finals, just the second time the pair has met that late in a national event. Kalitta had the better reaction time but Pritchett’s elapsed time was quicker, 3.831 seconds to Kalitta’s 3.852. Pritchett’s margin of victory was just .0024 of a second. Pritchett has won both of the final round races with Kalitta. It was the second win of the season and seventh of Pritchett’s career.
Pritchett said, “This weekend we pulled it all together and I think there is something different about pressure.”
After a slow start to the season, Pritchett has unofficially moved to third place in the Top Fuel standings.
Anderson’s victory, and the fact that he raced teammate Jason Line in the final, was a shut-up run. Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock champion, had not won since 2017. He has had the best car in qualifying all season but had been unable to win a race until this weekend. It was wearing on Anderson to have to answer the inevitable question about when he was going to win his next race. In the final, Anderson had the better reaction and elapsed times, .015 of a second at the start and 6.943 seconds at the finish.
“I sure hope this starts a winning streak,” Anderson told the media. “We’ve had a heckuva battle this year.”
Anderson’s first-round victory over Joe Grose, combined with Erica Enders’ loss to Chris McGaha in their first-rounder, put Anderson into the lead in the Pro Stock standings. Anderson was the only driver among the top five in the Pro Stock standings who got past the second round.
“This is really the last place on Tour that I thought that would happen,” Anderson said. “This is a completely different way of running your race car and we’ve struggled with running our race car here.”
Arana Jr. got his victory in an unusual way. He fouled when his motorcycle left the starting line too early. But his final round opponent, Jerry Savoie, left even earlier and so had the worst foul, granting the win to Arana Jr.
“I’ve gotten over some hurdles and now we should be back on track,” Arana Jr. said. “… The bike is running great and it should run even better once we get back to sea level.” The next race is at Sonoma, California, where the track is near sea level.
It was Arana’s 12th career victory but his first since 2015.
NOTES: John Force’s first round Funny Car victory over Matt Hagan was Force’s 1,300th round win in NHRA competition. … Clay Millican’s pass in Round 1 set a track speed record for Top Fuel, 327.59 mph. … When Greg Anderson raced Jason Line in the Pro Stock final, it was Anderson’s 153rd appearance and Line’s 99th. … Jeg Coughlin raced Greg Anderson in eliminations for the 99th time when they met in the semi-finals. … In their semi-final round race, Leah Pritchett and Clay Millican posted identical elapsed times. Pritchett had a quicker reaction time (her .043 of a second to his .087) and won.