Complete Virginia NHRA Nationals Results: Brittany Force Defies Weather, Caps Perfect Weekend

·12 min read
Photo credit: JERRY FOSS NHRA/NATIONAL DRAGSTER
Photo credit: JERRY FOSS NHRA/NATIONAL DRAGSTER

Weather extremes caused a variety of problems—persistent rain, then sun in the drivers’ eyes, and finally a hot, tricky racetrack—in the NHRA’s first trip in three years to Virginia Motorsports Park.

“You go through these long days of qualifying with bad weather and rain delays, and it puts a lot of stress on the crew chiefs as they try to adapt to the conditions. This was just another one of those weekends where it . . . went from cloudy and cool with a chance of rain, to some of the hottest track temperatures we’ve seen this year,” Funny Car racer Ron Capps said.

Ultimately, fans at the Virginia Nationals were treated to classic race-day match-ups and final rounds just south of Richmond that saw a John Force Racing double-up with Brittany Force in Top Fuel and Robert Hight in Funny Car. Matt Smith earned the Pro Stock Motorcycle trophy.

Brittany Force Shuts Door On Hungry Steve Torrence

Top Fuel points leader Force claimed her class-best third victory in the past four races, leaving Torrence seeking his first. And in earning her 14th overall triumph, she sent a clear message that she is showing no mercy to her competition.

She set both ends of the track record (3.654-second elapsed time, 335.82-mph speed) en route to her 34th No. 1 qualifying position, set low elapsed time and top speed of the meet, and won the race by 15-thousandths of a second over winless Steve Torrence, her four-time champion nemesis.

“This has been our greatest season yet, to come on this strong with this many wins” Force said after clinching her organization’s fifth double-nitro sweep and first since last August 15th at Topeka.

Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster
Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster

“The first round [on a bye run] we blew the tires off the thing,” she said, referring to her Flav-R-Pac Dragster. “It’s hard to get confident after a run like that, when there’s heat all day. We just kept stepping up our runs. This Wally (trophy) is for (crew chief) Dave Grubnic, because he makes the impossible happen.”

Torrence, driver of the Capco Contractors Dragster, said recording that first victory of the season—after most of his 51 victories have come with striking regularity in the past handful of years—would have been “a big morale boost for us. We’ve been struggling. Everybody knows it. The car’s running well, and we’re still in the top three or four in points. So it’s not that bad of a struggle. But it’s definitely something we’re not as accustomed to as going out there and winning races consistently. These Capco Boys have stuck with it. Everybody’s kept a good attitude. That’s what it’s all about, because these things are Top Fuel cars. They’ll make you look like a hero one day and a zero the next.”

His car chief, Bobby Lagana, said, “This is not a struggle. Bad things that happen in life are real struggles. We’re here drag racing. Everybody’s got somebody who’s sick or just having a tough time. Just pick ’em up. This is drag racing. Life is tough. This is fun.”

Force won in April as she and Torrence finished 1-2 in the final quad at the Las Vegas four-wide event. But in two-wide format, Force hadn’t defeated Torrence in a final-round match-up since Sept. 24, 2017, at Reading, Pa.

Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster
Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster

Robert Hight Puts Brakes On Matt Hagan

This was the second time this year but surprisingly only the sixth time in the past five years that Funny Car powerhouses Matt Hagan and Robert Hight have met in a final round. And Hight has had the upper hand the past five times, including this February at Phoenix.

This time, the points lead was at stake when they came to the starting line Sunday. Hagan entered the weekend with a 22-point advantage in the standings over No. 2 Hight and maintains the lead as the teams eye the June 3-5 New England Nationals at Epping, N.H.

This was a model match-up of crew chiefs, as well, for longtime friends Jimmy Prock of John Force Racing and Dickie Venables, who tunes Hagan’s car at Tony Stewart Racing. Prock said afterward, “It’s always fun racing against him. This weekend was challenging, and we had to make adjustments as we went. And we did enough to get it done. Everyone always puts so much effort into doing this, so it’s gratifying when you win.”

It was especially satisfying Sunday, because Hight didn’t make a full pass under power in any of his three qualifying sessions. “We’ve got to get some things fixed,” he said Saturday evening. “The first run [Friday] was mechanical failure. And the second run, we were just behind, and it shook. That run there, it had a cylinder out. I’ve gone into race day with a lot of runs like that.” So Hight wasn’t overly concerned, the crew fixed whatever needed fixing, and he grabbed his 56th victory in the Auto Club Chevy Camaro. He said he is going to present the trophy to General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra.

Hagan—a two-time winner and top qualifier this weekend with both the track elapsed-time and speed records (3.853 seconds, 335.82 mph), was making his fifth final-round appearance in the season’s first seven events. It was the 300th start for the cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va., who was flying the Smithfield colors on his Dodge Charger for the first time.

Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster
Photo credit: NHRA/National Dragster

Matt Smith Cools Streaking Rival Steve Johnson In Bikes

Five-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Matt Smith was looking for his first victory of the season in this rematch of the Houston final against rival Steve Johnson.

He got it on his Suzuki, his first with that manufacturer, denying Johnson a third consecutive victory on his Tull Plumbing/Slick 50 Suzuki.

“He’s got a fast hot rod this year. He’s going to be tough to beat all year long,” Smith said of Johnson, with whom he has an ongoing feud that both seem to enjoy stoking.

But Smith saved some accolades for himself after winning by a mere six-thousandths of a second: “We are going to be bad [as in good] at the end of the year, I can promise you that.”

Johnson had said earlier, “Matt and I don’t get along. But it’s OK we don’t like each other. It’s probably only the real rivalry that we have in our sport. He ain’t coming to my place for my party. I send him an invite, but he ain’t coming to the party. But it’s great. It’s cool. It’s fantastic. I do want to say what I feel. That’s what our sport’s all about.

"So I don’t get along with him. I get mad at him when he dogs out other people who work their butts off to work their jobs eight hours a day then go home and work on their motorcycles or their car and they come out here and spend all their time and their love to race in the NHRA. He calls those people hobbyists. Roger Penske doesn’t do his own engines. Is he a hobbyist? This sport is everything to me, and we couldn’t do it by ourselves.”

Virginia NHRA Nationals

Results

Sunday's final results from the Third annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. The race is the seventh of 22 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel -- Brittany Force, 3.770 seconds, 334.07 mph def. Steve Torrence, 3.781 seconds, 326.24 mph.

Funny Car -- Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.907, 328.86 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.948, 327.59.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.842, 198.35 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.786, 198.06.

Competition Eliminator -- David Eaton, Roadster, 6.805, 155.11 def. William Scott, Dragster, 7.669, 136.88.

Super Stock -- Bryan Worner, Chevy Camaro, 10.150, 130.28 def. Sterling Simmons, Chevy Cavalier, 9.456, 138.94.

Stock Eliminator -- Jeff Longhany, Chevy Corvette, 10.516, 121.03 def. Wallace Dent, Chevy Camaro, 10.700, 121.20.

Super Comp -- John Labbous Jr., Dragster, 8.934, 163.35 def. Deb Moses, Dragster, 8.897, 180.77.

Super Gas -- Frank Altilio, S-10, 9.977, 153.54 def. Jerry Heffelfinger, Roadster, Foul - Red Light.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers -- Chad Traylor, Dragster, 7.029, 187.89 def. Robert Houston, Dragster, 7.123, 186.82.

Factory Stock Showdown -- Bill Skillman, Ford Mustang, 7.813, 183.54 def. Dan Condon, Chevy Camaro, 7.848, 174.46.

Pro Modified -- Tylor Miller, Chevy Camaro, 5.798, 251.02 def. Rickie Smith, Ford Mustang, Foul - Centerline.

Top Fuel Harley -- Tii Tharpe, Harley, 6.344, 217.11 def. Bill Jackson, Harley, 41.222, 155.56.

Mountain Motor Pro Stock -- JR Carr, Chevy Camaro, 6.349, 221.42 def. Elijah Morton, Ford Mustang, Foul - Red Light.

Round-by-Round Results

Final round-by-round results from the Third annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park, the seventh of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE -- Tony Schumacher, 3.792, 319.52 def. Justin Ashley, 8.368, 76.72; Mike Salinas, 5.384, 259.66 def. Antron Brown, 5.833, 143.66; Brittany Force, 9.811, 72.37 was unopposed; Austin Prock, 3.727, 333.16 def. Lex Joon, 20.760, no speed; Steve Torrence, 3.772, 323.58 def. Scott Palmer, 3.926, 293.15; Josh Hart, 3.801, 326.87 def. Clay Millican, 9.786, 80.10; Doug Kalitta, 5.995, 234.33 def. Leah Pruett, 7.253, 129.35; Shawn Langdon, 3.769, 328.38 def. Doug Foley, Broke;

QUARTERFINALS -- Salinas, 6.686, 204.39 def. Hart, 8.512, 87.59; Torrence, 4.402, 234.98 def. Schumacher, 5.309, 253.56; Prock, 3.837, 313.88 def. Kalitta, 5.946, 143.05; Force, 3.788, 328.94 def. Langdon, 4.512, 203.22;

SEMIFINALS -- Torrence, 3.803, 325.61 def. Prock, 4.932, 155.85; Force, 3.770, 332.26 def. Salinas, 9.494, 84.36;

FINAL -- Force, 3.770, 334.07 def. Torrence, 3.781, 326.24.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE -- Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 4.269, 230.02 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, Foul - Centerline; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.948, 331.45 def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, Foul - Red Light; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.964, 328.38 was unopposed; Ron Capps, Supra, 5.481, 151.43 def. Mike McIntire, Toyota Camry, 8.027, 97.91; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.038, 317.57 def. Phil Burkart, Chevy Monte Carlo, 11.252, 72.81; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.922, 329.67 def. J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.994, 325.85; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.919, 329.83 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.942, 325.92; Chad Green, Mustang, 4.133, 307.30 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 6.296, 109.89;

QUARTERFINALS -- Tasca III, 3.949, 327.66 def. Alexander, 9.462, 87.41; Force, 3.992, 329.91 def. Pedregon, 10.719, 75.87; Hight, 3.935, 325.30 def. Capps, 9.626, 79.84; Hagan, 3.965, 322.65 def. Green, 4.021, 317.05;

SEMIFINALS -- Hagan, 3.955, 327.03 def. Force, Foul - Red Light; Hight, 3.906, 324.20 def. Tasca III, 4.015, 328.06;

FINAL -- Hight, 3.907, 328.86 def. Hagan, 3.948, 327.59.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

ROUND ONE -- Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.823, 196.30 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, Foul - Red Light; Marc Ingwersen, 6.950, 193.16 def. Ron Tornow, 6.980, 189.39; Angie Smith, 7.009, 197.51 was unopposed; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.846, 197.91 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 13.221, 58.42; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.784, 199.26 def. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 7.299, 149.20; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.807, 196.56 def. Lance Bonham, Buell, Foul - Red Light; Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.871, 197.57 def. Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 7.042, 188.83; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.888, 195.65 def. Ryan Oehler, Foul - Red Light;

QUARTERFINALS -- M. Smith, 6.860, 196.67 def. Underdahl, 6.886, 197.13; Krawiec, 6.869, 196.99 def. A. Smith, 9.496, 89.39; Johnson, 6.813, 196.64 def. Stoffer, 6.897, 197.19; Ingwersen, 6.884, 194.32 def. Sampey, Foul - Red Light;

SEMIFINALS -- M. Smith, 6.868, 197.86 def. Krawiec, 6.898, 196.56; Johnson, 6.850, 196.19 def. Ingwersen, 6.918, 194.52;

FINAL -- M. Smith, 6.842, 198.35 def. Johnson, 6.786, 198.06.

Updated Standings

Point standings (top 10) following the Third annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park, the seventh of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel

1, Brittany Force, 605; 2. Steve Torrence, 524; 3. Mike Salinas, 521; 4. Justin Ashley, 468; 5. Austin Prock, 367; 6. Clay Millican, 365; 7. Josh Hart, 345; 8. Doug Kalitta, 316; 9. Tony Schumacher, 295; 10.Shawn Langdon, 269.

Funny Car

1. Matt Hagan, 673; 2. Robert Hight, 658; 3. Ron Capps, 561; 4. John Force, 447; 5. Cruz Pedregon, 395; 6. Bob Tasca III, 354; 7. J.R. Todd, 331; 8. Chad Green, 321; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 310; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 277.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1. Steve Johnson, 393; 2. Karen Stoffer, 343; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 279; 4. Matt Smith, 272; 5. Angie Smith, 245; 6. Joey Gladstone, 229; 7. Angelle Sampey, 209; 8. Jim Underdahl, 194; 9. Marc Ingwersen, 186; 10.Jerry Savoie, 158.