In a fast paced weekend of racing, Brittany Force and Robert Hight combined to “double up” for John Force Racing, winning Top Fuel and Funny Car at the NHRA Virginia Nationals.
Force qualified number one with a 3.654 at 333.33 mph and marched into the final round, where she matched up against one of her toughest rivals, Steve Torrence. Over the last four years, Torrence sort of had her number on the way to four consecutive NHRA Top Fuel Championships. This season, Force has started to turn the tables, at least early on, as she has made strong improvements in her starting line reaction times. She has been working very diligently on this and so far this season it is paying off, as she often leaves with or ahead of her opponents getting to the finish line first on hole shots. In previous years, she relied on having the quickest car. Now she still has one of the quickest cars, but also wins against opponents when their cars run slightly quicker. She did this earlier this season to claim a win in Houston. In the final in Virginia, she left on Torrence (0.074 to 0.078) and never looked back, as she streaked to a 3.770 at 334.07 mph to 3,781 at 326.24 mph win. The win is her third in the last four races and 14th of her Top Fuel career.
Robert Hight struggled to a 10th spot in qualifying, but his crew chief, Jimmy Prock, figured it out in eliminations, as Hight dominantly marched to a final round match up with Matt Hagan of Tony Stewart Racing. Hagan came in as the series points leader (by 60 points). Both drivers came in with two wins, setting up for a big on-track battle. Hagan got away first (0.070 to 0.075), but Hight made that up within the first 60 feet and charged to his third win of the season, 3.907 at 328.86 mph to 3.948 at 327.59 mph. The win is Hight’s 74th of his career. Hight is now within 22 points of Hagan in the NHRA Camping World Funny Car season points battle after seven events.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Steve Johnson has been the dominating rider for much of the season. His arch class rival, Matt Smith jokingly said in an interview that it was all about the “magic tires” that were helping to propel Johnson to his strong performances this season. Mickey Thompson (M/T) manufacturing supplies most of the Pro Stock Motorcycle tires, so Johnson played along with the gag, joking with TV interviewers that the “M/T” must stand for “magic tires”. As the tires are manufactured in groups, Johnson contacted the M/T folks and bought all the tires manufactured in that group. With that, his performances at the event were equal to (but mostly) better than all the other competitors in the category. The “Mickey Thompson magic” appeared to be working, as he advanced to the final round where he would match up against none other than Matt Smith. Apparently, the “magic tires” work for the bike but not the rider, as Smith took a 0.048 to 0.110 second starting line advantage and turned it into a 6.842 at 198.35 mph to (quicker) 6.786 at 198.06 mph hole shot victory. Johnson had been getting the starting line advantage on the other riders all day, until the final round. But, the bike was still the quickest one all the way through his elimination round match ups. Johnson still became the leader in the season point battle, now with a six point lead over Karen Stoffer.