BATTLE OF NITRO TEAMMATES FAVORS BECKMAN, FULLER; SMITH, JOHNSON ALSO SCORE DENVER - Top Fuel points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller handled teammate Whit Bazemore in Sunday's final of the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway...
BATTLE OF NITRO TEAMMATES FAVORS BECKMAN, FULLER; SMITH, JOHNSON ALSO SCORE
DENVER - Top Fuel points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller handled teammate Whit Bazemore in Sunday's final of the 28th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to win for the second time this year.
In Funny Car, "Fast Jack" Beckman did the same thing, beating his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps to claim his first Wally of 2007.
Pro Stock victor Allen Johnson and Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Matt Smith joined them in the winner's circle.
Bazemore got the jump on Fuller in the Top Fuel final, leaving with a .077-second start to Fuller's .106-second launch. But Fuller had passed his stablemate before they crossed the halftrack timers and went on to win with a 4.683 at 312.93 mph in his Wagner CAT dragster to Bazemore's 4.770 at 308.35 mph in the Matco Tools rail.
"There's something about this win. It's almost like it makes me feel legit," Fuller said of his fifth career victory. "We're still looking for a full-time sponsor and we're down a couple of crew guys and probably don't have all the parts we need in reserve, but we're still one of the quickest cars every round."
The POWERade Series standings now show Fuller 144 points ahead of Larry Dixon, who moved into second place earlier in the day. Bazemore moved into the Countdown to the Championship field and is now in a tie for seventh place overall.
Neither driver had lane choice in the semifinals but Bazemore got past Tony Schumacher and Fuller outlasted Larry Dixon.
Beckman earned lane choice with his huge semifinal win over a red-lighting John Force and that might have made the difference in the final as his Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T was able to creep away from Capps' Brut Test Drive Dodge Charger to take the win with a 4.932 at 312.86 mph to Capps' 5.001 at 307.86 mph.
"I think our car and our team should have won three races by now," Beckman said. "I replaced Whit Bazemore over here and the guy, I mean tomorrow he could get back in a Funny Car and be one of the top three drivers in the class. I'm on a steep learning curve and I've definitely been the weakest link so to get our first win of the year is huge."
Combined with second-place points earner Robert Hight's unlikely loss to Scott Kalitta in the quarterfinals, Capps was able to pad his Funny Car points lead to 154 with his sixth final-round showing of the year. Beckman padded his seventh-place perch in the Countdown rankings as he now leads eighth-place Cruz Pedregon by 90 markers.
Given up for a dead a few races ago, 14-time champion Force is just 16 points behind Pedregon in ninth place.
Johnson has four other Pro Stock wins to his credit but this one might be the most meaningful. Earlier this year Johnson's father Roy, who builds his motors, suffered two heart attacks at the Phoenix event. Amazingly, he returned to work three days later. Sunday his motor carried his son through a 7.132-second pass at 192.47 mph that was good enough for the win.
"Everything you can do, we've done this weekend," Johnson said. "You couldn't ask for more. That one race in Phoenix was a set-back for all of us but Dad's come back better than ever and we've been a win waiting to happen ever since.
"We've tested our butts off and the guys have put in some real long hours at the shop. I feel like we've come together as a team. Going into the final we knew Ron would be tough because they'd been running strong all day. We might have got a break because I only went 192 so we probably wounded our motor, but Ron broke a transmission early on so we got the win."
The POWERade standings now show Johnson in fourth place. His final round record improved to 5-6, while Krisher fell to 5-8 with a trophy on the line.
Smith pushed his lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle to triple digits after running the table in Denver -- racing from the No. 1 qualifying position to the victory circle on his Torco/Skull Gear S&S Buell V-Twin. It was his second win of the year in six final-round showings.
This one was over at the starting line when U.S. Army racer Angelle Sampey left early by -.047 seconds to disqualify herself. Smith raced through the scoreboards with a 7.400 at 177.81 mph just to be sure.
"I had to get a monkey off my back," Smith said. "We have been getting to the finals but we couldn't finish the deal it seemed like. We've had parts failures that have cost us a couple of wins at least. We broke a piston in Round 1 but luckily Mike Berry had red-lit or we'd have been done right then. You just never know, I guess. It all worked out today."
Smith now leads Sampey by 104 points. Sampey leads third-place runner Andrew Hines by 85 points. Smith is 4-6 in finals, while Sampey drops to 41-24.