Force, a 15-time champion as a driver, outgunned Mike Neff in the final round despite a slower time. Thanks to his quick reaction time, Force won on a hole-shot with a 4.080-second run at 315.64 mph in his Ford Mustang. (Neff went 4.036 but was slower out of the gate.)
The victory could be a good omen for Force, who was a disappointing ninth in the standings last year. The last time Force won the Winternationals, in 2010, he went on to win the Funny Car championship.
“It was good to get a win under my belt,” Force said. “Last year we struggled all year and only won one race. You really want to perform because it’s going to be tough to make the top 10 out here this year. We knew we had to go after (Neff), and it just went. It wasn’t quick enough to beat him. He was late (reaction time), and I got the win. We have the old brain trust back together like the way it used to be.”
Spencer Massey capped a dominant weekend in Top Fuel, taking down Antron Brown in the final round with a run of 3.750 seconds at 325.77 mph.
Morgan Lucas, who raced to the No. 1 qualifying spot in Saturday’s rain-shortened session with a 3.783-second run at 325.06 mph, was denied a repeat win at the Winternationals after a semifinal loss to Brown.
Four-time champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s return to the Pro Stock class after a one-year hiatus proved successful. He reached the final round, where he lost to Greg Anderson(6.549 seconds and 210.87 mph). It was Anderson’s 71st career victory and fifth at the Winternationals
The Winternationals also marked the first chance to see two female rookies in action in Funny Car.
Courtney Force, the 23-year-old daughter of John Force, qualified 12th in her Funny Car debut and reached the second round of eliminations, where she lost to teammate Neff. Force’s run of 4.143 seconds and 313.88 mph against Neff was her best of the weekend.
Alexis DeJoria, the heiress to the John Paul Mitchell hair-care empire, lost to John Force in the first round of eliminations.
The series heads to Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix next weekend for the NHRA Arizona Nationals.
Top Fuel — 1. Spencer Massey; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Morgan Lucas; 5. Shawn Langdon; 6. Bob Vandergriff; 7. Clay Millican; 8. Brandon Bernstein; 9. David Grubnic; 10. Steve Torrence; 11. Khalid alBalooshi; 12. Rod Fuller; 13. Terry McMillen; 14. Steve Faria; 15. Cory McClenathan; 16. Doug Kalitta.
Funny Car — 1. John Force; 2. Mike Neff; 3. Ron Capps; 4. Gary Densham; 5. Courtney Force; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Todd Lesenko; 8. Jack Beckman; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Jeff Arend; 11. Tony Pedregon; 12. Matt Hagan; 13. Bob Tasca III; 14. Bob Bode; 15. Robert Hight; 16. Johnny Gray.
Pro Stock — 1. Greg Anderson; 2. Jeg Coughlin; 3. Jason Line; 4. Mike Edwards; 5.Allen Johnson; 6. Shane Gray; 7. Vincent Nobile; 8. Rodger Brogdon; 9. Ronnie Humphrey; 10. Greg Stanfield; 11. Kurt Johnson; 12. Ron Krisher; 13. Larry Morgan; 14. V. Gaines; 15. Grace Howell; 16. Erica Enders.
Top Fuel — 1. Spencer Massey, 119; 2. Antron Brown, 95; 3. Morgan Lucas, 87; 4. Tony Schumacher, 78; 5. Bob Vandergriff, 57; 6. (tie) Brandon Bernstein, 54; Shawn Langdon, 54; 8. Clay Millican, 52; 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 34; 10. (tie) David Grubnic, 32; Doug Kalitta, 32; Steve Torrence, 32; Steve Faria, 32.
Funny Car — 1. John Force, 114; 2. Mike Neff, 95; 3. (tie) Ron Capps, 73; Gary Densham, 73; 5. Jack Beckman, 62; 6. Courtney Force, 52; 7. (tie) Todd Lesenko, 51; Tim Wilkerson, 51; 9. Robert Hight, 41; 10. Bob Tasca III, 39.
Pro Stock — 1. Greg Anderson, 114; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 91; 3. Jason Line, 82; 4. Mike Edwards, 81; 5. Allen Johnson, 59; 6. Vincent Nobile, 55; 7. (tie) Rodger Brogdon, 53; Shane Gray, 53; 9. Ronnie Humphrey, 41; 10. (tie) Kurt Johnson, 32; Ron Krisher, 32; Larry Morgan, 32; Greg Stanfield, 32; Erica Enders, 32.
Thanks to: www.usatoday.com
Main image thanks to: www.autoweek.com; other images thanks to: www.nationalspeedsportnews.com and www.nhra.com