Archive for the NHRA Category

NHRA: Iconic event gets iconic winner: John Force

Posted in Blog, NHRA with tags , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by Martin Henderson

The old man still has it in him. After 39 races and 20 months without a victory, after months of self-doubt and intense physical training, John Force returned to the winner’s circle Sunday at the 50th Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Speedway in Pomona.

Force, 60, held a gold-plated Wally trophy over his head as the crowd roared its approval of the victory that snapped the longest winless drought of his career.

If you’d like to read the rest of the story written by racescribe author Martin Henderson — and there’s another 850 words about Force and top fuel winner Larry Dixon , including a funny story about what Dixon was thinking when he saw Force take the win light — you can read about it at ESPN Los Angeles. Just click here.

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NHRA: Schumacher’s season is almost heroic

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , on November 15, 2009 by Martin Henderson

The firesuit hung on the wall like a costume waiting for its superhero to pull it on. Nearby, Larry Dixon sat as cool as Clark Kent.

He is asked if it makes him feel like Superman.

“You better feel like Superman,” he replies, “or you shouldn’t put it on.”

Dixon, engaged in a classic Superman-Batman rivalry with Tony Schumacher, faced the media Sunday disappointed that he had finished second to Schumacher by the scantest of margins in the NHRA Full Throttle championship. “Two points could be 200, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We were in charge of our own fate and we lost.”

And Batman won.

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NHRA: She’s the people’s champion, for now

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , on November 15, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Robert Hight celebrated his Full Throttle NHRA Funny Car championship on Saturday when his third-place qualifying effort clinched the title.

In the six-race Countdown to the Championship, Hight had the car to beat – and it seemed like no one could. With crew chief Jimmy Prock finding his groove, Hight won three of the first five races. He was The Man.

Yet Hight’s first title didn’t come without controversy. The apparent choking of team owner John Force in a key race at the U.S. Nationals guaranteed that Hight would be in the Countdown; in the process, Hight’s free pass eliminated defending champion Cruz Pedregon from the playoff.

Chances are that Hight would have beaten Force anyway, but it clouded the integrity of the process and resulted in a first-class row between Force and his former driver, Tony Pedregon, brother of Cruz. Tony said he didn’t expect Force to get down the track, and Force didn’t get down the track. If anyone had the street cred to call out Force, it was Pedregon, who won a championship for Force in 2003.

Which brings us to Ashley Force Hood.

The people’s champion.

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Nothing fabricated about IndyCar’s championship

Posted in Column, IRL, NASCAR, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2009 by Martin Henderson

In a racing world where playoffs were created to ensure a close championship battle and maintain consumer interest, isn’t it ironic that the IndyCar Series may have the best championship of all?

Going into today’s final race of 2009 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Scott Dixon has the championship lead, teammate Dario Franchitti is five points off the pace, and Ryan Briscoe is eight points back. The series has averaged a new championship leader every other race this season.

There is nothing contrived about this battle for open wheel supremecy, nothing fabricated by artificial means or points. It will be decided in a 200-lap shootout on a 1.5-mile oval under the lights. One of those three men is going to win it, and he will earn it in the process.

Based on the whole season, not just a portion of it.

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NHRA: Kalitta’s legacy can be measured by 1,000

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Has it been a year already?

It seems like yesterday that we were burying Scott Kalitta, acquiescing to the reality of auto racing. It’s a sport that is never completely safe, but shouldn’t be unnecessarily fatal. As followers of the sport, we agree to invest our feelings toward heroes that may not return to the trailer after the next round of competition.

Kalitta’s was the third NHRA professional fatality in five years when a series of events conspired to steal Connie Kalitta’s son from our presence. Top-fuel driver Darrell Russell (2004) and funny car driver Eric Medlen (2007) preceded Kalitta in death, tragically.

Kalitta’s was among the horrific crashes of the ages, a flaming fireball crashing into the end of the shutdown area at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., site of today’s United Association NHRA SuperNationals.

Doug Herbert likes to believe that “God takes over” in moments like those, grabbing the soul before any pain is felt. It’s a comforting thought, and I’m all for adopting it.

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NHRA: Johnson’s impact could snap a Coil

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by Martin Henderson

You could see Austin Coil bristle when the question was asked. A man of intense pride and accomplishment, perhaps the question was worded poorly, or the context misunderstood completely.

Whatever, there was a moment when slapping the reporter silly crossed his mind. He might never admit to it, but that’s not what his eyes said.

“I’ve won 16 championships,” said Coil, who won 14 since joining John Force to become the most dominant crew chief/driver combination in racing history. “How many has he won?”

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NHRA: Lucas puts his foot down, finally

Posted in Blog, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Score one for the gecko.

It was good to see Morgan Lucas score a victory — his first — in a pedalfest at the Summit NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. I’m not sure there is a driver out there who needed a victory more than Lucas.

He has been at it for a few years, and with sponsorship so difficult to get — and maintain — you have to hope this top fuel victory goes a long way toward keeping that GEICO program together.

I’ve always had the feeling that Lucas, 25, might be one of those drivers who wins once, and then becomes a factor every week. With a little confidence, and a little success, it may be that he becomes a player in the championship. The more solid competitors there are in top fuel — and right now it’s trailing the funny car field in that area — the better for the sport.

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