Denver: Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals final report

W. Johnson and Savoie Establish Win Records, Force and Dixon also Score Big at Bandimere Speedway MORRISON, Colo. - Warren Johnson and Angelle Savoie made NHRA history Sunday at the 22nd annual Mopar Parts Mile High Nationals...

W. Johnson and Savoie Establish Win Records, Force and Dixon also Score Big at Bandimere Speedway

MORRISON, Colo. - Warren Johnson and Angelle Savoie made NHRA history Sunday at the 22nd annual Mopar Parts Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.

Larry Dixon and John Force also won their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 14th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Johnson became the most prolific winner in Pro Stock when he defeated his son Kurt in the final for his 86th career victory and his first in Colorado since 1991. The elder Johnson used a holeshot and sped down the track in 7.347 seconds at 188.28 mph in his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Grand Am to hold off Kurt who ran a quicker 7.335 at 188.73. W. Johnson used wins against Troy Coughlin, V. Gaines and Mike Edwards earlier in the day to set up the all-Johnson final. Setting the win mark was the least of Johnson's concerns.

"Now everyone can stop asking me when I am going to win 86," said Johnson, from Buford, Ga. "It's nice to get it out of the way, but a win is a win. The rounds are what count, that's what allows you to win championships, and that's what we're out here to do. A win is a win and we are just happy to get it."

With his fifth win of the year, Johnson extended his Winston points lead to 112 over Jim Yates and to 183 over Jeg Coughlin Jr. W. Johnson has now defeated his son in 10 of 13 career final round matches.

Savoie, from New Orleans, sped down the quarter-mile in an elapsed time track record 7.595 at 171.01 atop her Team Winston Suzuki for her 19th career Pro Stock Motorcycle victory. The win broke a tie between Savoie and Shirley Muldowney for the most NHRA national event wins by a female. Savoie scored her category-leading fourth win of the year when she outran rival Antron Brown and his numbers of 7.637 at 177.04 in the all-Suzuki final.

"When I started my career five years ago, I never in my wildest dreams expected to have this kind of success," said the 30-year-old Savoie. "This is such an amazing accomplishment, to move past Shirley as the winningest female driver in history. Shirley paved the way for the women in motorsports and I have all the respect in the world for what she means to our sport. I never thought this record would mean as much to me as it does, but this is one of the biggest thrills of my life."

With the win Savoie extended her Winston points lead to 72 over Brown and 144 over Matt Hines. Last season Savoie collected her first NHRA Winston championship, joining Muldowney as the only female professional champions in NHRA history.

Indianapolis' Dixon captured the win and tightened up the Winston points chase when he blasted his Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite Top Fuel dragster down the track in 4.844 at 298.47 as Doug Kalitta lost traction and slowed to a 5.364 at 257.24. Dixon used a strong performance all day as he drove past John Smith, Paul Romine, Doug Herbert and Kalitta for his third win of the season and the 13th of his career.

"Two races the team used to get aggravated about going to were Columbus (Ohio) and Denver, and we finally won at both places this year," said 34-year-old Dixon. "(Crew chief) Dick LaHaie seems to be the magic. We had some lucky rounds today, and we did struggle a little bit in qualifying, but it didn't matter because we got the win. When you won the race, you've done the best you can do and that's how I look at it. The points don't matter until that final Sunday of the season. I don't care about the points right now, I am just trying to win races. I've gone into to the U.S. Nationals in Indy several times just a few rounds out of first place and it didn't buy us jack. I just look at the next race and try and do well and go from there. If we do better than everybody else, we'll get the points."

The win moved the second-place Dixon within three points of current Winston points leader Kenny Bernstein, who lost in the second round to Doug Herbert.

Force scored his 97th career win and fifth of the year as he drove his Ford Mustang to a run of 5.225 at 288.39 to drive past the upstart Bob Gilbertson who lost traction early and rolled to a 8.834 at 91.32. Force won on the mountainside track for the first time since 1996 and his four career victories at the facility are the most by any Funny Car driver.

"We weren't (the quickest or fastest) this weekend," said Force. "I ran a loose 22 and dropped a cylinder in the final, but I have always believed in (crew chief) Austin Coil and we're happy to come up on this mountain and get the win. I love racing (at Bandimere) and I am glad they are not moving the facility. It's part of our history, an institution. An institution for of us crazy racers to race at. I want to get that 100th win, and I want to get that 11th Winston championship. With Winston leaving, I would like to have that record. Others may break my record down the road, but they will never be an 11-time Winston champ.

"I got motivated after Warren won and now he's passed Glidden and behind me in the record books. Then Angelle wins to set a record. When a woman does it, that's exciting for the sport. Someone keeps coming up with records for me to set, but I don't want anymore."

The win increases Force's lead in the Winston standings to 407 over his closest competitor. Force defeated Johnny Gray, teammate Tony Pedregon, and Ron Capps en route to his meeting with Gilbertson, who was making his first final round appearance of the season and the second of his career.

The NHRA's 50th Anniversary season continues with the 14th annual Prolong Super Lubricants NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, July 27-29, at Seattle International Raceway.

-NHRA-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Doug Herbert , Shirley Muldowney , Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Bob Gilbertson , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie , Johnny Gray , Austin Coil , Mike Edwards