Force finally wins in Las Vegas;

Dual celebrations for Dixon, Coughlin, Savoie at

NHRA ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals


It's all over.  Well, almost over.  Larry Dixon, John Force, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Angelle Savoie won their respective Pro categories at Sunday's second annual NHRA ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

For Dixon, Coughlin and Savoie, it's over because they clinched points championships in Las Vegas, the next-to-last event on the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series trail. 

For 11-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, it's over because he finally scored a victory in Las Vegas, the final entry on his "to-win" list.  But it's also not over for Force, because he is locked in an intense battle -- with teammate/employee Tony Pedregon -- for the 2002 NHRA Funny Car title.  Force faced Pedregon in the Funny Car finale and won, giving him a 31-point edge going into the final race of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series at Pomona, Calif. 

"It's big for me to win Vegas," Force said.  "You never know when your winnin' stops and I wanted there not be any on the trail that I never won.  It¿s a good day for all of us.  

"The run before (the final), our car shook pretty hard and (crew chief Austin Coil) pulled her back just a hair.  He was afraid it wouldn't go -- and you don't want to give it away. 

"I didn't know if I won or lost.  I got right at the lights, and I didn't know, because you can't see out of the Mustang, and as I got there, I saw the (finish line) and it threw the (supercharger) belt.  I thought, 'that's it, it's over, he'll go around me.'  But he threw the belt back 100 feet back, so it slowed him to an .86 and me to an .84 or whatever. 

"It¿s really all destiny.  I believe there's some¿plan, right?  Not my plan!  It's hard for me because we've been teammates for so long and he's really a good kid and he can drive a racecar." 

Force owns three formidable NHRA Funny Car teams, the third captained by Gary Densham.  It is tough enough to race other teams for victories and championships, let alone your own teammates. 

"We always tried to help each team get up in the points if they needed help.  But once the championship is locked up for one of us, and we kept it away from GM, we just raced.  Densham, Tony -- it's hard.  We're rootin' for Tony to take out (Del) Worsham and there I am with Densham and Densham takes me out -- he moves up in the points.  I'm still trying to get (10 consecutive championships).  We just gave 'em some good old drag racin', like we promised. 

"I yelled over to Tony, 'good luck.'  He's trying to win.  I'm trying to win 10 straight.  The kid's really pretty funny.  He said he's trying to win one straight.  We just went out there and took our hot rods and went after it." 

TOP FUEL DRAGSTER: Larry Dixon iced his celebratory cake by winning the Top Fuel Dragster finale over Tony Schumacher.  Dixon defeated Scott Weis in the opening round, then marched past Rhonda Hartman-Smith and Andrew Cowin to meet Schumacher in the final round.  Schumacher defeated Yuichi Oyama, Shirley Muldowney (who beat Kenny Bernstein in the first round) and Doug Herbert. 

Andrew Cowin set a new track speed record (328.38 mph) during the first round of Top Fuel Dragster competition. 

PRO STOCK: Jeg Coughlin Jr. defeated Warren Johnson for the Pro Stock trophy after cementing the class title in the first round.  Coughlin defeated Scott Geoffrion, Ron Krisher and Allen Johnson to meet the NHRA's all-time Pro Stock winner in the final. 

Las Vegas' George Marnell was defeated in the first round of Pro Stock competition by Allen Johnson.   

PRO STOCK BIKE: After capturing her third consecutive NHRA Pro Stock Bike championship, Angelle Savoie also won the PSB finale over Matt Hines.  Savoie waded past Minden, Nevada's Karen Stoffer, Geno Scali and championship contender Craig Treble to meet Hines in the final round.  When Treble fouled in the third round, the championship belonged to Savoie. 

Sean Conner of Boulder City was defeated by Shawn Gann in the first round.   

SPORTSMAN LOCALS: Errol Farmer of Las Vegas was defeated in the quarterfinals of Stock Eliminator competition by Dan Fletcher of Churchville, N.Y., and Becky Landram lost in the quarterfinal round of Super Street to Vince Porter of Napa, Calif. 

COMPETITION ELIMINATOR: Adam Bowdish of West Linn, Ore., defeated Jeff Gillette of Benicia, Calif. 

SUPER STOCK: Jerry Jenkins of Modesto, Calif., defeated Korey Mawhee of Frisco, Tex. 

STOCK ELIMINATOR: Al Corda of Elk Mound, Wis., defeated Dan Fletcher of Churchville, N.Y. 

SUPER COMP: Grant Pederson of Brookings, S.D., defeated Dick Vander Meer of Nampa, Ida. 

SUPER GAS: Billy Leber of Tonawanda, N.Y., defeated John Peterson of Basin City, Wash.

SUPER STREET: Ray Todd of Friendswood, Tex., defeated Vince Porter of Napa, Calif.