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2014 Circle K NHRA Winternationals: Force kicks off defense with a win

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2013 Funny Car champ John Force began his title defense with a win and a national elapsed time record at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in California. Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also took home Wallys from the season opener.

Force, racing in his sixth-consecutive final round appearance dating back to last season, lowered his record-run of 3.966 seconds from Friday’s qualifying sessions to 3.965 seconds at 323.58 mph in his win over Matt Hagan on Sunday. Force, who took early-round wins over Paul Lee, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Bob Tasca III, earned a 20-point bonus for the national e.t. record; he also set the national speed record at 324.12 mph during Friday qualifying.

“We had a good race car. It's amazing,” said Force. “We're trying to build our sport and come out here and run good for you all and the fans, and it's hard sometimes. Jimmy Prock and that whole brain trust did a great job. We're back in the game. Everything's just going right. I don't get it. I ain't that good of a guy. I'm just excited. There’s a lot going on (with sponsors), and man, what a good time to flex your muscles.”

alBalooshi took the third win of his career by holding off Doug Kalitta in the Top Fuel final round. alBalooshi took out Tony Schumacher, Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence on his way to the finals.

“We had a strong day today,” said alBalooshi. “It's a good win, especially when you have Tony Schumacher first round, Shawn Langdon second round, and 'Steve-O' (Torrence), who's been doing a good job. Doug's car was the best car all weekend, so it made it a very big day for us to take him down in the final and get the trophy.”

Line defeated Matt Hartford, Dave Connolly and Shane Gray on his way to the finals against V. Gaines, going on to earn his third Winternationals title.

“My day was great,” said Line. “It’s a huge deal to start the season off with a win. It’s a big deal. The last few years we’ve struggled and wasn’t what we had hoped for. We worked really hard over the winter and I think we improved. This sport is just crazy hard right now. It’s tough to separate yourself out here it’s so competitive.”

The 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule continues Friday through Sunday, February 21st through 23rd with the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Arizona. Keep up with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at www.nhra.com.

Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.

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