By: Drew Hierwarter
The 49th edition of the NHRA Winternationals got under way yesterday in Pomona, California under leaden skies and 15 time Funny Car champion John Force got his 34th season underway with a victory.
It’s the sixth time Force has won the Winternationals, the 15th time he has won at Pomona, and the 143th win of his amazing career.
At the age of 62 Force shows no signs of slowing down. And why should he. He has, arguably, the strongest team in the division. All four of the team’s cars are fully funded by major sponsors, crew by the best people in the business and driven by experienced drivers that are proven winners. Well, all but one of those drivers.
Force’s 23 year old daughter, Courtney, made her professional Funny Car debut at this event and she did her old dad proud by getting her very first round win against Bob Tasca. She was defeated in the second round by teammate Mike Neff who eventually go on to meet the boss in the final.
Even though Neff went quicker and faster in the final than Force (4.036 @ 316.82 to Force’s 4.080 @ 315.64), Force’s much better reaction of .067 to Neff’s .175 proved to be the difference.
Neff admitted that something distracted him on the starting line and he was, in his own words; “. . .dead late.”
The duo of Force and Neff were easily the class of the field as Neff’s 4.036 was low ET of the meet and his first round 316.97 mph in defeating Tony Pederegon was the top speed. John Force’s final round reaction time .067 was the best of the division.
In the other pro divisions, Spencer Massy defeated Steve Faria, Clay Millican, and 7 time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher before facing his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown in the Top Fuel final. He beat Brown 3.750 to 3.794 in spite of Brown’s slightly better reaction time.
Over in Pro Stock it was Greg Anderson over the returning Jeg Coughlin in a squeaker, 6.549 to Coughlin’s 6.586.
So the 2012 NHRA season is no officially under way and now the teams all head down to Phoenix, Arizona for the second event next weekend.
Given the way he and the team performed in Pomona, for John Force, this could very well be the beginning of his unprecedented 16th championship season.