GRUBNIC BECOMES FIRST NON-NORTH AMERICAN TO WIN AN NHRA TOP FUEL EVENT, DOWNS DIXON AT O'REILLY NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS Force wins third straight in Funny Car, NHRA-record 118th overall; Anderson wins third straight in Pro Stock TOPEKA, Kan. --...
GRUBNIC BECOMES FIRST NON-NORTH AMERICAN TO WIN AN NHRA TOP FUEL EVENT, DOWNS DIXON AT O'REILLY NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS
Force wins third straight in Funny Car, NHRA-record 118th overall; Anderson wins third straight in Pro Stock
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Australian Dave Grubnic sped past Larry Dixon in the finals of the 17th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka to become the first non-North American to win an NHRA Top Fuel event.
"Being the first Australian to win an NHRA event is big," Grubnic said. "You don't think about that stuff in the car but I'm sure it'll be party time down there when word reaches my fans. That's what it's all about but I wouldn't be able to accomplish a thing without my crew, (team owner) Connie Kalitta, and our sponsors, who are all very good friends of mine."
In the other two pro categories, John Force (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) extended their respective event winning streaks to three at the $1.8 million race, the ninth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Grubnic, who had an 0-for-7 career final round record (0-for-5 in 2004), drove his Zantrex-3 dragster to the finish line in 4.600 seconds at 320.28 mph for his first-ever Top Fuel victory.
"You do start to wonder to yourself if you can win, especially after seven runner-up finishes," said Grubnic, who had no trouble with Dixon's Miller Lite dragster, which lost traction almost immediately and spun its wheels near the starting line. "You wonder when people are going to give up on you and get someone who's lucky in the car or something. But all you can do is keep slogging away until it finally happens. Now the flood gates should open, right?"
Force, the NHRA POWERade Funny Car points leader, ran a 4.809 at 320.97 in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to easily defeat Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo and win his NHRA-record 118th career race and eighth overall at Heartland Park Topeka.
"It's been awhile since we've done a stretch of three wins in a row," Force said. "This one was a lot of hard work. We all saw how many people smoked the tires and our guys had to pull (the tune-up) back and back and you wonder when you're gonna hit that point where it's too weak to go."
Anderson, the reigning motorsports Driver of the Year in his Summit Racing Pontiac, edged Dave Connolly for his third straight win at Heartland Park Topeka and, like Force, his third win in as many weeks. Connolly was driving on a one-week deal with Carrier Boyz Racing after his previous team owner disbanded the team earlier in the week because of a lack of funding.
"This brings back the feeling we had last year when we were winning lots of races," Anderson said. "I told the guys awhile back that the real measure of a championship team is not how they act when they're winning everything but how a group responds to adversity. That's where you find the difference between a team that wins one or two championships and then fades away and one that is at a championship level for many, many years."
Anderson was winless in 2005 up until the O'Reilly NHRA Southern Nationals May 12-15 and since then he has reeled off two more wins (Pontiac Performance Nationals May 19-22 and this week) to pull within 13 points of Warren Johnson for the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock points lead.
"A couple, three, four races ago I thought to myself that if we don't get started soon it was going to be impossible to pull this thing out," Anderson said. "We made some serious moves, even down to me switching cars, and luckily it all worked out. I credit the rest of the class for forcing us to find another level. That's what this class is all about."
This was the third straight week of racing for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series in a stretch where there will be races in six of seven weeks. After having this week off, the Series will return to action June 9-12 at the Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway outside Chicago.