John Force Racing swept the nitro classes on Sunday at zMAX Dragway, as Austin Prock and Robert Hight rolled to wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively, at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the fifth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
In the Top Fuel final quad, Prock went 3.684s at 330.88mph in his Montana Brands/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster, beating a group that also included points leader Steve Torrence, Josh Hart and Leah Pruett. It gives Prock his first win this season and fourth in his career, along with his first-early season victory, which could bode well for season-long momentum.
He finished first in all three quads, posting a 3.686s in the opening quad and then making the quickest run of eliminations in the final round. After struggling at the four-wide race in Las Vegas, Prock enjoyed a strong bounce back weekend in Charlotte, moving to fourth in points.
“It was a great weekend overall, Prock said. “To rebound like we did after an awful weekend in Vegas shows how strong this team is. I’ve never had any success in Charlotte, so I’m super proud of my team. This category is just booming right now, so this is extra special.
“All my wins have come pretty late in the season, so it feels really good to get a win early like this. It sets us up to do our part at JFR and give ourselves a chance at the championship. This is just the start.”
Pruett finished as the runner-up with her run of 3.708s at 329.99mph, with Hart taking third. Torrence maintains his points lead in the class.
In Funny Car, Hight powered to a 3.888s at 328.30mph in his 11,000-horsepower Flav-R-Pac Chevrolet Camaro SS to beat John Force, defending world champ Ron Capps and Alexis DeJoria. It’s the second win this season for Hight and helped give John Force Racing its 13th overall win in Charlotte. Before this weekend, Hight had endured a rare slump, suffering back-to-back first-round losses.
But the multi-time champ and his team didn’t disappoint in Charlotte, rolling to the win in every quad as he collected his 63rd career Wally. It’s also his seventh career win at zMAX Dragway, which is the most for anyone in Funny Car.
“I love this place. Everybody always asks me my favorite racetrack, and without a doubt, it’s this place. This facility is like none other; it’s amazing, the fans are great, and luckily, we get to come here twice a year,” Hight said.
“We did change our car around, we stayed and tested Monday after Vegas. We had some ignition problems and I was thinking, ‘Oh man, we’re not going to get the data we need.’ But Jimmy (Prock, crew chief) said, ‘Nope, we’re going to be fine.’ To come here and make seven respectable runs, you can see it in his eyes; he’s excited. I’m proud of him for not overdoing it and giving me a chance to win. That was a big, big deal.”
DeJoria finished as the runner-up as she continued her solid season, while Capps was third. Despite a first-round exit, Hagan maintained the points lead in Funny Car over DeJoria.
Kramer enjoyed a huge turnaround in Charlotte, driving to his first win in nearly four years by going 6.555s at 208.88mph in his Get BioFuel Chevrolet Camaro in the championship round. Kramer ousted the likes of points leader Dallas Glenn, who was after his third straight win, No. 1 qualifier Matt Hartford and Fernando Cuadra Jr. to earn his fifth career victory. But it was also Kramer’s first win since earning the Wally at the fall race in Charlotte in 2019, which left the veteran plenty excited on Sunday.
“The Get BioFuel Chevy Camaro is a fun car to drive, first and foremost, and that right there is enough to keep someone wanting to be out here. Once you hoist that Wally, you want to win another. The drought is so long, and when it finally happens again, the euphoria just washes over you,” Kramer said.
“I think we’ve been, as a team, struggling with the car the last few years. It was a lot of small stuff. But we got to the finals (in Vegas), stayed and tested the day after, and it’s just been getting more and more laps, getting more comfortable, getting more data, and compiling it all to get a victory.”
Kramer finished second to Hartford in the opening-round quad and then won a round later, finishing his day with back-to-back 6.55s runs. After making it to the final quad in Las Vegas, Kramer took an impressive next step in Charlotte, as Glenn finished second with his 6.581s at 208.81mph and extended his points lead over Hartford in the process.
Herrera continued to be incredible to open the 2023 season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, staying perfect with another dominant performance, breaking the track E.T. record with a stellar run of 6.710s at 202.00mph in the final round on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki. After qualifying No. 1 for the second straight race, Herrera made the quickest run in two of the three rounds on Sunday, delivering an epic performance in the final quad against teammate Eddie Krawiec, defending world champ Matt Smith and defending event winner Steve Johnson.
Herrera finished first in both quads heading into the final and then ran away from his competition in the final round, posting a 0.013s reaction time and making the quickest PSM run at zMAX Dragway.
“I’m on cloud nine. To be out here and go No. 1 back-to-back, win the race back-to-back, it’s a lot to take in. I’m enjoying the ride,” Herrera said. “There are plenty of good riders out there, so to be able to be in the final with those three and come out on top, that’s awesome. It’s going to be a tough season. We’re out here basically dominating, but it’s the beginning of the season, and it’s going to be a long ride. (Four-wide) is a different kind of pressure. To be up there with three other rides, you have to focus. I didn’t want to wait or get timed out, so pretty much every round I put it on the two-step and made sure I was ready for anything that happened.”
Smith finished as the runner-up, going 6.780s at 199.61mph, with Krawiec, who was seeking his 50th career win, taking third and Johnson following in fourth.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action May 19-21 with the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by PEAK Performance at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago.