Archive for John Force

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: Golden Greek isn’t age-challenged as Winternationals celebrates golden anniversary

Posted in Column, NASCAR with tags , , , , , on February 13, 2010 by Martin Henderson

Chris Karamesines’ head may have never lifted up to look at his interviewer as he slipped rings on pistons inside his far too small trailer. He considered the questions like a Western cowboy, the kind whose hands are tattered by years of working on cattle fences, the kind whose answers come from years of riding the range.

But instead of riding a single horse, Karamesines rides 8,000 of them. A top fuel driver who is among those celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, the man known as the Golden Greek began his 58th season of professional racing.

Age? Well, apart from being a state of mind, Karamesines says he is “a little over 80.” This may or may not be in conflict with the National Hot Rod Association’s media department which says Karamesines is either 81 or 78, depending on whether he was born November 11, 1931 or 1928. Afterall, for a guy in his 80s, an extra year could be “a little over.”

But forget about the specifics for a moment and consider this: Karamesines is closer in age to John Wooden than John Force.

He goes into final eliminations on Sunday with a qualifying speed of 305.91 mph.

Think about that for a minute: Imagine Grandpa, whether 78 or 80 or 81, driving a dragster 305 mph over 1,000 feet!

Not only does he get to drive really fast, but he still has a full head of hair and a boss nickname. On the cool meter, he leaves Phil Jackson in the dust.

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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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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: 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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NHRA: Maybe God drives a Mustang

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

It’s stuff like this that forces you to believe in providence. The Ford Mustang is celebrating its 45th anniversary this weekend.

The Ford Mustang is No. 1-2 in funny car qualifying at the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.

The two drivers are Ashley Force Hood and her father, John Force.

Who faced each other a year ago in the finals of the same event.

Where Ashley became the first female winner in a funny car.

And beat her dad, the winningest driver in NHRA history.

Driving a Mustang.

NHRA: Capps tops Head after remembering the past

Posted in Column, NHRA with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2009 by Martin Henderson

Gary Densham had a sign on the back of his trailer asking for financial support for his racing operation. His car was black, devoid of the color livery of a sponsored team.

Same with Jim Head. No sponsor, no commitment to running the full NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season.

Yet Densham and Head faced off in the Funny Car semifinals at the 49th Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. What does that say about the economics at play in professional motorsports when a couple of independents can get just as far as cars backed by NAPA Auto Parts and the Auto Club of Southern California?

Well, it says there are still sponsor bargains to be had. It also says that Densham and Head know what they’re doing, that professional racers have become notoriously adept and learning to steal from Peter to pay Paul, that they will manipulate parts and favors and do everything they can to squeeze every ounce of horsepower out of an engine that produces 7,000 of them.
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