After running with the No. 1 qualifying time after Friday and Saturday’s qualifying at the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals, many die-hard fans of the 15-time Funny Car champion and winningest driver in drag racing history thought Sunday might be the day.
However, Force and his signature Castrol GTX Mustang went up in smoke early in his quarterfinal run to finish eighth in the field.
In a tight side-by-side final round Funny Car duel, Johnny Gray picked up his fourth win of 2013 on with a victory against Ron Capps in the Funny Car finale Sunday at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.
Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, the 13th of 24 races in the 2013 season.
“The fans here get you so excited, you just want to win for them and for our sponsors,” John Force said. “I was glad I was No. 1 and I was hoping to get to race (daughter) Courtney in the final, but it didn’t work out.
“I have to thank the Baders for giving us such a great place to race. They are great promoters. I love being out here, and I’ll keep coming back until I win a national event here.”
It wasn’t all lost for Team Force Racing this weekend, however. Courtney Force moved up from a No. 10 qualifying time to finish third, and set a track speed record.
The 25-year-old female racer, who will grace the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue on Friday, posted a 4.07 in the opening round against Tim Wilkerson to set the track speed record with the first round run of 319.67 mph.
After winning in the quarters, Force took on Ron Capps in the semifinals without lane choice. Her Ford Mustang smoked the tires and got sideways, giving Capps the win.
“We got down there and had a great pass in the first round and were able to outrun him,” Courtney Force said. “But the track heated up by the semifinals, so it was a little different situation compared to the first round. We lost lane choice, but I left on him and our Funny Car was a ways out ahead of him.
“We hit a little bump out there and it sent the tires spinning and put me sideways. By the time I got straight, he was already getting the win light. Ron Douglas (crew chief) did a great job tuning this car, so it was a tough loss for me and for the team. We made a lot of changes in qualifying, so I’m looking forward to the next race and seeing what we can bring to the table,” Force added.
In the championship round, both Gray and Capps powered to identical times of 4.103 seconds, but Gray posted the quicker .061 reaction time to win by.006.
“Everybody said it was back-andforth all the way down the track, and it was just a great drag race,” said Gray, who won for the first time in Norwalk. “We came to Norwalk and the car never missed a step. When I get a race car like this, it’s really hard to screw it up.”
In Top Fuel, alBalooshi claimed his first victory of the season and second of his career, knocking off No. 1 qualifier Doug Kalitta in the final round, finishing in 4.215 seconds.
“The last race I lost in the first round last year was at this track, and this week I won my first trophy (in 2013) at this track,” alBalooshi said. “I’ve been looking forward to this race for a long time, especially when I was in Englishtown in the final with our teammate (Shawn Langdon).”
Edwards, the current points leader in Pro Stock, claimed his fourth victory in 2013 and 38th for his career by knocking off defending world champion Allen Johnson. Edwards posted a 6.616 time at 209.56 mph, while Johnson slowed to a 15.969 at 52.46.
“I just could never get a handle on this place, but it sure feels good to finally come here and win a race,” said Edwards, who posted his first win in Norwalk. “We made a really nice run in the final, and we were very proud of that.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith claimed his 14th career win and first since 2011, a span of 34 races. Smith went 6.954 at 192.44 against Scotty Pollacheck, who had a final round time of 7.008 at 191.16.
The tour gets a couple weeks off before resuming July 19-21 with the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver.