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Force ends drought, claims Funny Car victory No. 135 at Thunder Valley Nationals

June 16th, 2013 8:31 pm by Dave Ongie

Force ends drought, claims Funny Car victory No. 135 at Thunder Valley Nationals

John Force heats up his tires Sunday during the final day of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. (Dave Boyd photo)

BRISTOL, Tenn.  —  For Rodger Brogdon, Sunday’s win at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals was the first Pro Stock victory of his career.

And Steve Torrence’s win in Top Fuel was his first of the season. But neither man was more relieved than John Force, who broke out of a long slump by beating longtime rival Cruz Pedregon in the Funny Car final.

For Force, who went nearly 18 months without a Funny Car victory, win No. 135 felt like the first one. His last victory prior to Sunday came at the Winternationals in Pomona in the first race of the 2012 season.

“I’m going after (Richard) Petty’s 200 if I don’t fall over before then,” Force said. “So many fans wanted me to win on Father’s Day, and last year and the year before I failed. Boy, they get on you and they don’t want to hear that you’re struggling.

“It had been 31 races. They were printing me up a T-shirt that said, ‘John Force: extinct’ and it would have been a big seller. So I can get rid of that.” 

To score the win, Force had to go through Pedregon, a man he has gone head to head with 88 times in his career with 23 of those meetings coming in the final round. Sunday’s race was too close to call until Pedregon’s engine appeared to give out over the final few feet, allowing Force to streak past the finish line with the win. 

Force’s 4.148 ET was enough to beat Pedregon’s 4.335.

“The losing is the part that guts you on the inside, that makes you want it,” Force said. “I’ve seen guys come out and win and they’re over it. You’ve got to earn that deal, and I’ve been trying to earn it. And then to do it on Father’s Day? The good Lord must love me.” 

The other two divisions featured a foursome of racers from Texas in the finals, and none of them gave an inch with the hardware on the line.

In Pro Stock, Brogdon finally broke into the winner’s circle with a narrow victory over Erica Enders-Stevens. Enders-Stevens seemed to have the better car for most of the day, but Brogdon’s 6.745 ET in the finals was just enough to get past Enders-Stevens, who posted a 6.752 ET.

Upon hearing of Brogdon’s breakthrough victory, Force referred to the 52-year-old as a kid — giving Brogdon a good chuckle.

“I feel like a kid today, I can tell you that for sure,” Brogdon said. “We put a great team together. I’m up here getting all the pictures taken, but I couldn’t have done it without my team.” 

Brogdon’s win broke the four-year winning streak posted by Mike Edwards. Edwards, the top qualifier, was knocked out in the quarterfinals when he blew an engine in a head-to-head matchup against Greg Anderson.

Brogdon said a testing session in Bristol a couple weeks ago helped get him ready to cash in on Sunday’s golden opportunity.

“That testing sure paid off for us,” he said. “We made nine runs in two days and we were so much better when we left than when we got here. We had a great test session and it paid off.” 

In Top Fuel, Texans Torrence and Spencer Massey locked up in a close race, and Torrence came out on top. He put up a 3.871 ET to edge out Massey, the polesitter, who ran a 3.894.

It was Torrence’s first victory since winning in Seattle last season. After getting off to a slow start this season, he recently made some personnel changes within his team. Those moves paid off big on Sunday.

“I didn’t expect the car to turn around nearly as quick as it did,” Torrence said. “But those guys have come in and worked their tails off. They’ve been working 14 hours a day to get the car where they want it.” 

All that work proved to be enough to beat Massey, a driver Torrence has been squaring off against since the early days of their careers. Torrence said all the head-to-head battles made Sunday’s meeting more special.

“It gives you a respect for that guy,” Torrence said. “I’ve raced him in Super Comp, I’ve raced him in Top Alcohol Dragster and now I’m racing him in Fuel. Every class I’ve ever raced, I’ve raced Spencer Massey in it. He’s a great driver and always good on the tree, so I knew I had to be on my game in the final.” 

NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals Results
At Bristol Dragway
Bristol, Tenn.
Final Finish Order

Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence. 2. Spencer Massey. 3. Clay Millican. 4. Morgan Lucas. 5. Brittany Force. 6. Tony Schumacher. 7. Doug Kalitta. 8. Shawn Langdon. 9. Khalid alBalooshi. 10. Bob Vandergriff. 11. David Grubnic. 12. J.R. Todd. 13. Chris Karamesines. 14. Leah Pruett. 15. Antron Brown. 16. Doug Herbert.
Funny Car
1. John Force. 2. Cruz Pedregon. 3. Del Worsham. 4. Blake Alexander. 5. Matt Hagan. 6. Alexis DeJoria. 7. Bob Tasca III. 8. Chad Head. 9. Courtney Force. 10. Tony Pedregon. 11. Jeff Arend. 12. Jack Beckman. 13. Johnny Gray. 14. Robert Hight. 15. Tim Wilkerson. 16. Ron Capps.
Pro Stock
1. Rodger Brogdon. 2. Erica Enders-Stevens. 3. Greg Anderson. 4. Jason Line. 5. Jeg Coughlin. 6. Shane Gray. 7. Allen Johnson. 8. Mike Edwards. 9. Rickie Jones. 10. Vincent Nobile. 11. Larry Morgan. 12. V. Gaines. 13. JR Carr. 14. Steve Kent. 15. Lewis Worden. 16. Greg Stanfield.

Final Results
Top Fuel — Steve Torrence, 3.871 seconds, 320.13 mph def. Spencer Massey, 3.894 seconds, 317.19 mph.
Funny Car — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.148, 305.29 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.335, 224.02.
Pro Stock — Rodger Brogdon, Chevy Camaro, 6.745, 205.38 def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.752, 205.66.
Pro Modified — Rickie Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.991, 240.47 def. Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.984, 246.26.
Super Stock — Anthony Bertozzi, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.172, 141.97 def. Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 10.365, 121.55.
Stock Eliminator — Drew Skillman, Ford Mustang, 9.065, 150.73 def. Brian Rogers, Chevy Camaro, foul.
Super Comp — Ed Richardson, Dragster, 8.950, 171.97 def. Greg Slack, Dragster, 8.939, 162.86.
Super Gas — Sherman Adcock, Pontiac Trans Am, 9.904, 163.47 def. Jason Lynch, Chevy Cobalt, 9.913, 159.78.
Top Sportsman — Marco Abruzzi, Chevy Camaro, 6.910, 193.24 def. Ronnie Proctor, Ford Mustang, 7.041, 195.87.

Final round-by-round Results
Top Fuel

Round One — Shawn Langdon, 3.807, 323.89 def. Bob Vandergriff, 3.885, 320.66. Doug Kalitta, 3.818, 322.19 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.821, 319.22. Clay Millican, 3.814, 324.05 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.024, 287.29. Spencer Massey, 6.374, 95.92 def. Doug Herbert, broke. Steve Torrence, 3.833, 320.05 def. Leah Pruett, 4.261, 240.64. Morgan Lucas, 3.882, 315.42 def. David Grubnic, 3.899, 309.34. Tony Schumacher, 3.848, 323.12 def. Antron Brown, 4.607, 184.95. Brittany Force, 3.872, 318.09 def J.R. Todd, 3.947, 290.57.
Quarterfinals — Massey, 3.864, 319.98 def. Force, 3.871, 319.75. Lucas, 3.864, 314.61 def. Schumacher, 3.882, 323.66. Millican, 3.821, 322.58 def. Kalitta, 3.962, 309.49. Torrence, 3.856, 319.22 def. Langdon, 4.202, 308.85.
Semifinals — Massey, 3.857, 321.04 def. Lucas, 4.909, 165.80. Torrence, 3.892, 314.39 def. Millican, 4.410, 195.59.
Final — Torrence, 3.871, 320.13 def. Massey, 3.894, 317.19.
Funny Car
Round One — Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.183, 298.27 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 5.007, 160.59. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.449, 227.57 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.746, 191.84. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.161, 310.13 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.238, 294.37. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.242, 283.67 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.513, 202.33. Chad Head, Camry, 4.880, 225.48 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 10.767, 84.08. John Force, Mustang, 4.125, 309.49 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.132, 311.13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.151, 307.30 def. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.583, 189.95. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.298, 292.84 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.505, 211.83.
Quarterfinals — Worsham, 4.171, 301.67 def. DeJoria, foul. C. Pedregon, 4.196, 297.16 def. Head, 4.793, 223.99. J. Force, 4.167, 305.29 def. Hagan, 4.195, 304.25. Alexander, 4.283, 298.67 def. Tasca III, 4.675, 226.51.
Semifinals — C. Pedregon, 4.150, 303.50 def. Worsham, 4.199, 298.87. J. Force, 4.117, 308.00 def. Alexander, 4.199, 300.20.
Final — J. Force, 4.148, 305.29 def. C. Pedregon, 4.335, 224.02.
Pro Stock
Round One — Rodger Brogdon, Chevy Camaro, 6.730, 205.57 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.757, 205.94. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.705, 206.67 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, foul. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.668, 206.80 def. Rickie Jones, Camaro, 6.706, 206.99. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.710, 206.73 def. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.711, 206.20. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.680, 206.54 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.743, 205.29. Mike Edwards, Camaro, 6.676, 206.51 def. JR Carr, Mustang, 6.785, 203.43. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.692, 206.73 def. Lewis Worden, Mustang, foul. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.708, 206.83 def. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.806, 203.89.
Quarterfinals — Line, 6.719, 206.67 def. Gray, foul. Anderson, 6.723, 206.13 def. A. Johnson, 6.715, 206.45. Brogdon, 6.724, 206.01 def. Edwards, 10.138, 70.34. Enders-Stevens, 6.694, 205.94 def. Coughlin, 6.690, 206.23.
Semifinals — Brogdon, 6.777, 205.22 def. Line, 12.543, 68.70. Enders-Stevens, 6.706, 205.88 def. Anderson, 6.739, 205.98.
Final — Brogdon, 6.745, 205.38 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.752, 205.66.

Additional Photos

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