Date published: November 26, 2010
Incoming points leader Matt Hagan had lost in the first round only four times all year and not since June in Norwalk, and he certainly didn't expect to here. But he did, and it cost him the championship. "When you have an opportunity like this, you hate to let it slip through your fingers," said Hagan, a finalist at the last three races. "You don't know how long your career out here in drag racing is going to be because it's so sponsor dependent. It could be 10 more years, or it could be done right now. We had a great race car all year, and we were two rounds ahead, but John [Force] did everything he was supposed to do. I sure would have liked for our teammate [Jack Beckman] to have had an opportunity in the second round to take him out, but it just didn't work that way. If I had a crystal ball at home, I wouldn't have even showed up. But you don't know. You come out here and just try to do the best job you can do, and we just weren't good enough today."
No one played a bigger role in deciding the championship than Bob Tasca III, whose first-round victory over Hagan set the stage for Force's improbable comeback. "That was probably one of the biggest rounds of my career, even compared to some of the wins that I had," said Tasca. "When a championship is on the line and you can help your sister team, it's pretty cool. Obviously, our goal was to win the race, but I've been to 10 semifinals this year, which isn't too shabby. It was a great year for our team and a great day for Ford with John winning the championship, and it's very exciting to be part of making that happen."
Bob Bode found himself smack-dab in the middle of the title fight after beating Beckman on a holeshot in round one. "I was just happy to beat Jack and get the round-win, and here I am up against a guy who needs to win the round to win the championship," said Bode of his championship-deciding second-round race against Force. "We had the bad [left] lane, and we knew we'd smoke the tires if we tried too hard, but we probably backed it down a little more than we should have. But just being in the middle of that was exciting."
For the second time this season, Tim Wilkerson failed to qualify when the one run that would have qualified him was disallowed. Wilkerson, who also failed to qualify in Charlotte when his best run was thrown out because the rocker plate behind the right front wheel was an eighth-inch too low, ran a 4.29 Friday but was on fire when he did and oiled the track. "That one would have qualified me," said Wilkerson. "It blew a spark plug out early and put a hole out, and I just drove it down there too far, and when I shut it off, it broke a rod. It wasn't on fire at that point, but the fuel tank ignited, and that's where all the fire came from." Per NHRA's new oildown policy, instituted at this race, Wilkerson not only lost the run but also was fined $2,500.
Robert Hight's championship reign came to an unceremonious end when he smoked the tires and lost to Melanie Troxel in round one. "We didn't win a round in the playoffs, and that's amazing to me," said Hight. "But it's been an incredible year. Being the NHRA Funny Car champion is an experience I'll never forget. I'm just glad that I can peel that No. 1 off and put it on another Ford Mustang. We operate as one big team, and we didn't let it get away."
Hight is slightly quicker off the line and has the lead when he strikes the tires before half-track. Troxel is pulling away when she also loses traction. She pedals once and backfires the supercharger just before the finish line, but Hight has tossed in the towel.
Capps won this first-round match in Las Vegas and moves first here, but he doesn't have the performance to hold off Worsham, who wins by more than a car length.
T. Pedregon-C. Pedregon
Tony cuts a great .043 light against his brother's none-too-shabby .056 and holds on for a narrow 4.23 to 4.22 holeshot victory, by .0046-second.
Force Hood, who qualified No. 1 for the second straight race and sixth time this year, trails Head off the line but runs a 4.113, best of the round, against Head's cylinder-dropping 4.24.
Needing a win to keep John Force from possibly picking up one of the two rounds he needs to pass him, Hagan leaves with Tasca and is pulling away when his car noses over a couple of hundred feet before the finish line, and Tasca drives around him.
Bode takes a shot at the Tree and comes up .013 green, then runs a 4.20 to hold off Beckman's much quicker 4.14.
Arend solos to victory after Lee's car backfires the supercharger on the burnout when the throttle stop breaks, causing the engine to rev to 10,500 rpm.
With Hagan's loss, Force needs to win this round and one more to clinch his 15th championship. He leaves first and wins easily when Densham strikes the tires before half-track. Force runs a 4.116, second-best of the round.
Worsham trails off the line, then smokes the tires almost immediately. Troxel wins easily despite dropping a cylinder before the finish line.
Arend leaves first and pulls away for an easy victory when the No. 1 qualifier loses traction at about halftrack.
With the championship on the line, Force leaves first by a bunch and never looks back en route to a 4.16 to 4.22 victory and his 15th title.
Pedregon cuts another .04 light, but Tasca isn't far behind and quickly catches and passes his good friend to take a relatively easy win.
Arend cuts a great .048 light and runs a 4.183 against Tasca's 4.186 to advance to his third final of the season.
Troxel smokes the tires almost immediately, and Force advances to his class-leading 11th final of the season with an easy wire-to-wire win.
A great race from start to finish; Arend is a tad quicker off the line and makes his best run of the weekend, a 4.10, but comes up just short. Force runs a 4.08, low e.t. of eliminations, for his second straight win and sixth of the season.