Funny Car driver John Force has been the hottest driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series during the Countdown to the Championship, and he continued his quest for a 16th championship with a victory in Sunday’s Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pennsylvania. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also earned Wallys at Maple Grove Raceway.
Force took the lead in Funny Car points this weekend over Matt Hagan, whom Force beat for his last title in 2010. Force earned early-round wins over Jeff Arend, Cruz Pedregon and Ron Capps to reach the finals against rookie Chad Head. It was Force’s seventh win at Maple Grove, the most for any NHRA competitor, and his third win of the season.
“You give credit where it’s due, and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and this team is just great,” said Force. “What I look at as most exciting is the teamwork with this group. To get this win meant a lot to me, but they all mean a lot. I’ve got a good hot rod right now. What we have right now is consistency. We had to beat good competition (Sunday). We stayed with our strategy and stayed with what we knew we could do.”
Langdon defeated defending Top Fuel champ Antron Brown in the finals for his sixth Wally of the year. Langdon took round wins from Leah Pruett, Bob Vandergriff Jr. and Doug Kalitta to reach the finals and extend his points lead.
“We have a good grasp on things, but there’s two races left and anything can happen,” said Langdon. “The competition level is so tough right now so you can’t take anything for granted. We had a little bit of luck and you need that on Sundays. Going into the semifinals, that was a huge pressure situation. As a driver, I’m just trying to calm myself down. This Al-Anabi team knows how to win championships and I’m just trying to do the best I can. My mentality is just don’t mess anything up.”
Coughlin Jr. took over the Pro Stock points lead with his fourth victory this season over his teammate and defending world champion Allen Johnson; it was Coughlin’s fourth win at Maple Grove. He earned round wins over Larry Morgan, Shane Gray and Jason Line on his way to the finals.
“To come out with the points lead certainly feels fantastic, but we’ve got a lot of racing left,” said Coughlin. “We’d love to say this thing is all but over, but there’s a lot of racing left and we’re looking forward to it. To get that win in such a huge final round, that was big for us. In our case, with the way things have played out, we made a pretty good jump and we’re happy to have the points lead. We’re racing hard and we’re racing smart, and that’s how we raced this weekend.”
Smith earned his second straight win in PSM and extended his points lead with a victory over Eddie Krawiec in the finals. Smith defeated Chaz Kennedy, John Hall and Michael Ray to reach the finals.
“I can’t say enough about our crew,” said Smith, who is looking for his second championship. “We hurt our good motor (Saturday), but things worked out for us. All in all, we beat big competitors in the semifinals and finals, extended our points lead and I’m really happy right now. This thing’s not over yet. I’m still looking at every round as just 20 points. But we’ll be strong, I guarantee you, in Vegas.”
The fifth event in the six-race Countdown to the Championship is the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Thursday through Sunday, October 24th through 27th. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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