The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series made its annual trip to the desert in Phoenix for the 34th Annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Raceway. Over the course of the three-day event track records fell in both Top Fuel and Funny Car and the race was hindered by some wild on track incidents.
Sixteen-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force had his second big engine explosion in two races. Force’s Peak Chevrolet exploded at the finish line, shredding the carbon fiber body to pieces and lifting the car off the ground. His race car then careened across the track slamming into the concrete retaining wall, sending the car up on two wheels and was then hit from behind by competitor Jonnie Lindberg. Lindberg then passed Force but his parachute lines tangled up around Force’s car, sending the two cars as a tandem into the opposite side guard rail before coming to a stop. Safety crews were right on scene. Lindberg climbed from his mangled race car. Meanwhile Force was alert and responsive to the medical staff on scene and was extricated from his car and taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
In Funny Car Courtney Force, daughter of John Force, mended some of the team’s wounds by capturing the pole with a track record 3.826 @ 335 mph. Then on Sunday, she captured the race win. Force wheeled her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet past Del Worsham in the opening round. In the second round she took down two-time champion Matt Hagan with a 3.965 @ 319 mph. She was given a solo run in the semifinal round because she was set to square off against her father. As her father watched on TV from the hospital, she defeated a tire smoking Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round with a 3.834 @ 337 mph to capture her first win of the 2018 season and the sixth of her career and resetting the track speed record.
In top Fuel Steve Torrence crushed the field on elimination day. Torrence made short work of Steve Chrisman in round one when Chrisman’s car broke on the starting line dumping oil on the racing surface. In round two he took on Top Fuel rookie Blake Alexander and laid down a 3.690 @ 331 mph run to a 3.784 @ 306 to advance to the next round. In the semi-final round, Torrence would square off against his father, Billy, making it an all-Team Capco run. Billy gave Steve a run but came up a hair short with runs of 3.722@ 328 mph (Steve) to 3.726 @ 328 mph (Billy). In the final round he took on Scott Palmer. In his first ever final round, Palmer gave all he had but Torrence was not to be denied: 3.729 @ 330 mph to a 6.449 @ 102. This was Torrence’s first win of the year and 17th of his career.
In Pro Stock Chris McGaha scored his sixth career win. He mowed through the field taking down Tanner Gray, two-time champ Erica enders, Alex Laughlin, and three-time champ Jason Line in the final.
Funny Car racer Richard Townsend of Oakdale qualified in the 14th spot for his first career start and second race on the NHRA circuit. He got his first career round win by taking out 2012 Funny Car champion Jack Beckman.
Beckman’s Infinite Hero Dodge exploded an engine around 330 feet and coasted to a stop short of the finish line. Townsend wheeled his Nitroholic Toyota to a tire smoking 5.503 @ 179 mph. Townsend would then take on Tommy Johnson Jr. Both drivers lost traction but Townsend could not catch Johnson and his day came to an end.