John Force, 65, beats Gary Densham, 67, in oldest NHRA final | Northwest Nationals
John Force caps stellar weekend by winning Funny Car title over longtime friend Gary Densham. Doug Kalitta wins in Top Fuel and Jason Line takes Pro Stock.
Special to The Seattle Times
KENT — The “young gun” won at Pacific Raceways on Sunday and, almost unbelievably, that was good news for John Force.
Force, 65, outraced Gary Densham, 67, in the oldest side-by-side final in NHRA history at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals.
It was the record 141st win for Force in his storied career and his eighth at Pacific Raceways.
The Force vs. Densham matchup brought back fond memories for both drivers. The two first raced against each other 40 years ago in Australia and went head-to-head for the first time in an NHRA race in Montreal in 1990.
“We were having so much fun down there in the staging line,” Force said. “I know I’m supposed to be serious, but when you’re racing a friend, it’s hard. I always say if I lose to my teammates, I didn’t lose. If I would have lost to Gary Densham, I would not have lost.”
The win completed a perfect weekend for Force. He was the fastest qualifier both Friday and Saturday and then was only challenged once and was still able to beat Alexis DeJoria in the semifinals.
Densham, who has eight career wins, raced in his first final in 1995 when he lost to Al Hoffman.
Asked if he ever thought two racers aged 65 and 67 could compete in a NHRA final, Densham just laughed.
“Well, I wanted to think it could happen,” he said. “We had fun with it. The guy has 16 world championships and more money than God. After the first round, I thought we had a chance. Before then? No.”
Densham, in only his eighth race this season, upset Courtney Force, Tim Wilkerson and Matt Hagan to make it to his first final since 2004.
In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta won his first ever championship here and the 35th of his career. That ties him with Don “Big Daddy” Garlits for fifth on the all-time NHRA list.
“I have been keeping an eye on that one for a while,” Kalitta said. “Growing up around the sport, it’s a big deal for me. He’s somebody I’ve looked up to and continue to look up to.”
Kalitta, the points leader, picked up his second win of the season in his ninth trip to the final.
“We’ve definitely been banging on the door and we couldn’t get it at a better place than Seattle,” Kalitta said. “We have a lot of momentum going into the next races.”
Jason Line defeated teammate Greg Anderson to take the Pro Stock title, his second in a row and third at Pacific Raceways.
Anderson, who has 74 career wins, hasn’t won since 2012, a span of 53 races that included some time off after a heart operation. A four-time world champion, Anderson moved up into the Top 10 in points.
“It was a very good day of racing for our team,” Line said. “We got both cars to the final and Greg into the top 10. He’s not going to look back, he’s got a great car.”
Racing was delayed due to a fiery crash by Top Alcohol racer Mark Taliaeferro of Odessa, Texas. Taliaeferro crossed the centerline, flipped over and rode the top of the wall down the track before finally grinding to a halt. He escaped unharmed.