Goodyear, NHRA at Norwalk

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Lee Elder

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Force wins for first time at Norwalk track


            NORWALK, Ohio (July 6, 2014) – The list of accomplishments John Force has yet to achieve is a short one and he cut it some more when he won the Funny Car final in the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

            The 16-time NHRA champion had not won a points-paying event at the Ohio facility, but he collected career win number 140 when he beat Ron Capps in the final.

            Force was one of six drivers to win in Goodyear-shod cars at Norwalk. That was the best total among tiremakers at the event. The other Goodyear-equipped winners included Antron Brown (in Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock), Sal Biondo (Stock Eliminator), Philip Smida (Super Gas) and Mike Strasburg (Top Alcohol Dragster). Biondo, Smida and Strasburg race in the NHRA’s Lucas oil Drag Racing Series for sportsman teams.

            The picture-perfect conditions, sunny but without than the usual summer heat and humidity, allowed tremendous performance by the cars and Goodyear’s tires. Five track records were set in the three four-wheeled professional categories during the weekend.

            “Our tires performed very well this weekend,” said Goodyear’s Bryce Jones. “Conditions allowed the crew chiefs to apply a lot of power with the engines, and our Eagle Dragway Specials provided plenty of grip. The cars were just flying this weekend.”

            Force said winning at Norwalk, where he has raced many times in special events as well as in Mello Yello events, was a goal he wanted to complete.

            “I just couldn’t get a national event win here and I’ve won ‘em all,” Force said. “I really wanted to win for them and help pack this race track.”

            Force beat Ron Capps in the final round. Earlier in the day, he beat Cruz Pedregon in the 93rd meeting between the two, the most meetings between two racers in NHRA history.

            The victory vaulted Force back into second place in the Funny Car standings. Robert Hight leads the pack with 1,067 and Force has 889.

            Brown beat Shawn Langdon in the Top Fuel final, but not without late-day drama. Brown’s crew discovered a bad bearing during the engine warm-up prior to leaving the pit for the staging lanes and worked furiously to make repairs in time to make the race.

            “That’s what it takes to win championships and that’s what we did,” Brown said. The victory was his fifth of the season.

            Doug Kalitta leads the Top Fuel standings but Brown narrowed Kalitta’s advantage. Kalitta’s 1,130 points leads Brown’s 1,082.

            Enders-Stevens became the first top qualifier to win since the US Nationals in 2013, a span of 19 races.

            “That was something, my goal going into this weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “I felt good all weekend, I felt confident…I’m just glad we could get it done.”

            She beat Dave Connolly in the final round.

            Enders-Stevens padded her lead in the Pro Stock standings. Her 1,166 points are well ahead of Allen Johnson’s 925.

            Goodyear employs about 69,000 people at manufacturing plants and facilities in 22 nations. Based in Akron, Ohio, Goodyear is among the largest tiremakers in the world and is the worldwide leader in race tire innovation.