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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Kalitta, Force, and W. Johnson Win at Firebird Raceway

By NHRA.com

CHANDLER, Ariz. - John Force scored his 93rd career Funny Car victory Sunday at the 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird Raceway, the second race of the NHRA's 50th anniversary season.

Doug Kalitta and Warren Johnson also were winners of their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the second of 24 races in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Force's first victory of the season came when be blasted down the track in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in 4.929 seconds at 285.77 mph as final round opponent Bruce Sarver had some parts fail in his e-moola.com Pontiac Firebird at half track and rolled to a 6.956 at 121.91. Force's win also gave Austin Coil 100 victories as a crew chief.

Force drove past Sarver, Al Hofmann, Chuck Etchells, and Ron Capps for the win. Force has now won the last three national events at Firebird Raceway and seven of the last eight at the facility.

"I thought Sarver was going to come around me because my hot rod was nosing over," said Force. "I kept it right on the gas and just killed (the engine). There is some real good competition and some bad old teams out there now. Every year I honestly say that Funny Car will be tough this year so it makes it exciting for the fans. The real truth is, it's going to be tough this year. It really is. Now, there is not just one guy, there are a bunch of guys out here that can whip you."

This event also marked the fastest Funny Car field in NHRA history and the first all four-second Funny Car field. Dean Skuza was the No. 1 qualifier with a 4.805 pass while No. 16 qualifier Gary Densham anchored the category with his 4.961 pass.

Kalitta won his sixth career national event as covered the distance in 4.628 at 309.84 in his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster to defeat rookie Darrell Russell who lost traction and slowed to a 7.416 at 111.94. Kalitta, who became a father earlier in the week, drove past David Grubnic, Larry Dixon, Kenny Bernstein, and Russell en route to the victory. Getting the win was quite a turnaround since Kalitta successfully drove his dragster down the track only once during qualifying. He failed to qualify for last year's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals.

"On Sunday last week I thought we were going to have to induce labor because I thought we were getting a little close to this race," said Kalitta. "But the timing worked out well and I never even had to have the conversation with her. Our Phoenix curse was something we were all thinking about. We're starting to breathe a little easier. We struggled a little bit this morning with some engine problems but we were able to work it out and I think that was our lucky round. We all re-grouped and went round by round and we were fortunate to get the win. I think this will build some momentum for us and we are hoping for that because we really want to take a shot at winning the championship this year."

Russell was trying to become only the second driver ever to win his first two professional starts in NHRA competition, a feat accomplished by Team Winston driver Gary Scelzi in 1997.

Johnson earned his 82nd career Pro Stock victory with his pass of 6.924 at 199.20 edging out fellow Pontiac Grand Am driver Brad Jeter and his pass of 6.967 at 198.23. Johnson defeated Bruce Allen, Jeg Coughlin, and Mark Pawuk before meeting Jeter in the final.

With the win, Johnson leaves Arizona with the Winston points lead. It is the first time he has been atop the standings since November of 1999, his last Winston championship. 

Jeter almost stole the victory on a holeshot but Johnson made up the difference near the end of the track and won by one thousandths of a second. Johnson's son Kurt won the season opener in the new Chevy Cavalier and now the new Pontiac Grand Am also has visited the winner's circle.

"The only time you need to be in the points lead is after the last race," said Johnson. "Don't get me wrong, you don't want to be so far out that you can't get the lead, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Kurt's team, my team, we feel extremely happy with the progress we've made with these cars considering the limited amount of time we've had to test them. 

The NHRA's 50th anniversary season continues with the 32nd annual Mac Tools GatorNationals, March 15-18, at historic Gainesville Raceway.

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Final finish order (1-16) for professional categories at the 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Firebird International Raceway. The $1.8 million race is the second of 24 events in the $50-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

1. Doug Kalitta; 2. Darrell Russell; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Kenny Bernstein; 5. Gary Scelzi; 6. Larry Dixon; 7. Mike Dunn; 8. Doug Herbert; 9. Andrew Cowin; 10. Robert Reehl; 11. Rhonda Hartman-Smith; 12. Paul Romine; 13. Bobby Baldwin; 14. Tim Gibson; 15. David Grubnic. 

1. John Force, Ford Mustang; 2. Bruce Sarver, Pontiac Firebird; 3. Gary Densham, Chevy Camaro; 4. Ron Capps, Camaro; 5. Scotty Cannon, Firebird; 6. Del Worsham, Firebird; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Camaro; 8. Chuck Etchells, Camaro; 9. Whit Bazemore, Firebird; 10. Jerry Toliver, Firebird; 11. Tony Pedregon, Mustang; 12. Bob Gilbertson, Camaro; 13. Al Hofmann, Firebird; 14. Dean Skuza, Dodge R/T; 15. Frank Pedregon, Firebird; 16. Jim Epler, Camaro. 

1. Warren Johnson, Pontiac Grand Am; 2. Brad Jeter, Grand Am; 3. Jim Yates, Grand Am; 4. Mark Pawuk, Grand Am; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Oldsmobile Cutlass; 6. Mike Edwards, Pontiac Firebird; 7. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cavalier; 8. Ron Krisher, Firebird; 9. John Nobile, Cutlass; 10. Darrell Alderman, Dodge R/T; 11. Larry Morgan, R/T; 12. Richie Stevens, Grand Am; 13. Mark Osborne, R/T; 14. George Marnell, Grand Am; 15. Robert Patrick, Ford Mustang; 16. Bruce Allen, Grand Am. 

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Sunday's final results from the 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Firebird International Raceway. The $1.6-million race is the second of 24 events in the $50-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel -- Doug Kalitta, 4.628 seconds, 309.84 mph def. Darrell Russell, 7.416 seconds, 111.94 mph. 

Funny Car -- John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.929, 285.77 def. Bruce Sarver, Pontiac Firebird, 6.956, 121.91. 

Pro Stock -- Warren Johnson, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.924, 199.20 def. Brad Jeter, Grand Am, 6.967, 198.23. 

Federal-Mogul Dragster -- Rick Santos, Santos, 5.457, 259.51 def. Mark Hentges, Hadman, 5.534, 257.83. 

Federal-Mogul Funny Car -- Pat Austin, Firebird, 6.400, 161.21 def. Steve Gasparrelli, Firebird, 7.878, 122.48. 

Comp Eliminator -- Dean Howerton, Dragster, 7.171, 174.05 def. Edward Shalkowski, Dragster, 8.498, 151.66. 

Super Stock -- Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 13.798, 64.16 def. Abe Loewen, Pontiac Grand Am, foul. 

Stock -- Al Corda, Pontiac Firebird, 10.755, 119.44 def. Mark Dickerson, Dodge Duster, 11.310, 116.43. 

Super Comp -- Rob Slavinski, Dragster, 8.991, 168.98 def. Keith Downing, Dragster, 8.942, 154.90. 

Super Gas -- Jed Bourquin, Dodge Daytona, 10.137, 130.66 def. Ken Harkema, '27-T Ford, 10.138, 137.60. 

Super Street -- Gary Thompson, Chevrolet Corvette, 11.049, 124.13 def. Dwight Downing, Plymouth Arrow, 11.039, 123.34. 

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Final round-by-round results from the 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Firebird International Raceway, the second of 24 events in the $50-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series:

ROUND ONE -- Doug Kalitta, 4.609, 313.66 def. David Grubnic, 7.498, 92.75; Darrell Russell, 4.658, 309.34 def. Andrew Cowin, 4.774, 306.40; Tony Schumacher, 4.628, 315.49 def. Robert Reehl, 4.994, 238.47; Doug Herbert, 4.955, 287.72 def. Paul Romine, 5.815, 154.76; Mike Dunn, 9.332, 87.79 was unopposed; 
Larry Dixon, 5.407, 286.07 def. Bobby Baldwin, 6.516, 130.54; Gary Scelzi, 4.640, 313.51 def. Rhonda Hartman-Smith, 5.177, 202.12; Kenny Bernstein, 4.651, 313.15 def. Tim Gibson, 7.120, 109.56.
QUARTERFINALS -- Russell, 4.634, 311.85 def. Dunn, 6.070, 158.09; Bernstein, 4.647, 309.84 def. Herbert, 7.337, 112.67; Schumacher, 4.620, 314.31 def. Scelzi, 4.656, 313.66; Kalitta, 4.672, 310.41 def. Dixon, 4.703, 312.13; 
SEMIFINALS -- Kalitta, 4.631, 313.15 def. Bernstein, 11.279, 91.97; Russell, 4.622, 312.28 def. Schumacher, 4.844, 289.57; 
FINAL -- Kalitta, 4.628, 309.84 def. Russell, 7.416, 111.94. 

ROUND ONE -- Gary Densham, Chevy Camaro, 5.041, 295.21 def. Dean Skuza, Dodge R/T, 6.752, 138.40; Bruce Sarver, Pontiac Firebird, 4.932, 304.53 def. Jerry Toliver, Firebird, foul; John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.911, 311.34 def. Al Hofmann, Firebird, 6.317, 142.34; Scotty Cannon, Firebird, 4.902, 309.34 def. Bob Gilbertson, Camaro, 4.958, 304.67; Del Worsham, Firebird, 4.927, 306.81 def. Whit Bazemore, Firebird, 4.877, 313.73; Ron Capps, Camaro, 4.841, 314.24 def. Tony Pedregon, Mustang, 4.906, 306.33; Chuck Etchells, Camaro, 9.414, 87.78 def. Jim Epler, Camaro, broke; Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Camaro, 4.881, 310.05 def. Frank Pedregon, Firebird, 7.225, 114.02; 
QUARTERFINALS -- Force, 5.057, 284.56 def. Etchells, 8.008, 103.95; Capps, 4.863, 309.06 def. Worsham, foul; Sarver, 4.869, 309.84 def. Cannon, 4.925, 310.20; Densham, 5.045, 279.21 def. Johnson Jr., 6.715, 128.54; 
SEMIFINALS -- Sarver, 4.938, 305.01 def. Densham, 5.276, 221.82; Force, 4.926, 306.05 def. Capps, 6.023, 164.13; 
FINAL -- Force, 4.929, 285.77 def. Sarver, 6.956, 121.91. 

ROUND ONE -- Brad Jeter, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.922, 198.88 def. Darrell Alderman, Dodge R/T, 6.930, 198.90; Mark Pawuk, Grand Am, 6.914, 198.73 def. Robert Patrick, Ford Mustang, 8.188, 122.70; Jeg Coughlin, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 6.931, 198.93 def. Richie Stevens, Grand Am, 6.961, 197.83; Jim Yates, Grand Am, 6.927, 199.26 def. Mark Osborne, R/T, 6.975, 198.96; Ron Krisher, Pontiac Firebird, 6.888, 200.08 def. Larry Morgan, R/T, 6.936, 198.30; Warren Johnson, Grand Am, 6.922, 200.56 def. Bruce Allen, Grand Am, 8.997, 106.60; Mike Edwards, Firebird, 6.915, 199.46 def. John Nobile, Cutlass, 6.916, 198.29; Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cavalier, 6.919, 200.50 def. George Marnell, Grand Am, 7.085, 198.44; 
QUARTERFINALS -- W. Johnson, 6.959, 199.26 def. J. Coughlin, foul; Jeter, 6.939, 198.64 def. Edwards, 6.972, 197.83; Pawuk, 6.945, 198.79 def. K. Johnson, 8.435, 116.83; Yates, 6.943, 198.20 def. Krisher, 9.588, 96.37; 
SEMIFINALS -- W. Johnson, 6.929, 199.08 def. Pawuk, 6.965, 198.26; Jeter, 6.949, 197.94 def. Yates, 6.936, 198.76; 
FINAL -- W. Johnson, 6.924, 199.20 def. Jeter, 6.967, 198.23. 

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Firebird International Raceway, the second of 24 events in the $50-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series:

1. Darrell Russell, 205; 2. Doug Kalitta, 170; 3. Mike Dunn, 155; 4. Larry Dixon, 133; 5. Gary Scelzi, 108; 6. Tony Schumacher, 107; 7. Kenny Bernstein, 106; 8. Bobby Baldwin, 102; 9. Doug Herbert, 91; 10. David Grubnic, 87.

1. Bruce Sarver, 208; 2. John Force, 150; 3. Ron Capps, 129; 4. (tie) Tony Pedregon, 126; Chuck Etchells, 126; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 110; 7. Whit Bazemore, 108; 8. Gary Densham, 102; 9. Frank Pedregon, 90; 10. Scotty Cannon, 87.

1. Warren Johnson, 193; 2. Kurt Johnson, 171; 3. Darrell Alderman, 126; 4. Brad Jeter, 124; 5. Mike Edwards, 113; 6. Bruce Allen, 109; 7. Jim Yates, 107; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 106; 9. Mark Pawuk, 105; 10. Ron Krisher, 91.


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