Ford second as dust settles on elite field

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 8, 2013 at 8:14 PM

Jensen Ford finished runner-up to “Rambo” at the FasTrack Racing Series World Championship last Saturday in West Virginia.Ford, a 2006 Science Hill graduate, ended about a car length behind race winner Dennis “Rambo” Franklin of Gaffney, S.C., after starting 18th in the 75-lap race for Crate Late Models.By lap 25, Ford had worked his way into the top 10. The Piney Flats driver moved up to fourth place on lap 50, and after a caution period, wasted no time getting up to the runner-up spot. His Chevrolet quickly closed on Franklin’s Chevy before the 3?8-mile dirt track dried out and tightened up. “The race track locked down to one groove,” Ford said. “I could run with him, but it was too late. The whole race track got wore out and there wasn’t any grip but down at the bottom. “From about lap 58 on, you couldn’t get up in the race track. I had made passes everywhere — in the middle, at the bottom, at the top. At the end of the race, you had to be running at the bottom.” Ford described the track surface as a powder, coal-mine dirt that got really slimy when wet. Once it dried, the dirt didn’t stick together, which created extreme dust.Overall, Ford adapted well to the track, fourth-fastest of 70 qualifiers. Still, his No. 83 Impala was lucky to be part of the 24-car feature. He was wrecked in a Friday heat race, but advanced to Saturday’s main event due to being in the top 10 of national points.His teammate, Tim Byrd of Jonesborough, made it through the first round of heat races, and advanced to Saturday’s second round of eliminations. Although Byrd didn’t make the feature, the trip capped off a memorable season which he scored his first two career wins. “Tim had a really good season, while I had a little bit of an off year,” Ford said. “We both have been fast everywhere we’ve gone. We’ve gotten taken out a few times, and have had some flat tires and motor issues. I thought it was going to be another of those weekends after Friday night, but I finally got a little luck on my side for Saturday.”———John Force has had plenty of luck on his side lately.The 64-year-old drag racer extended his NHRA record to 137 national-event wins Sunday with his Funny Car victory at the Auto Plus Nationals at Maple Grove (Pa.) Raceway.Following the previous week’s win in St. Louis, it marked the 28th time in his career he has won back-to-back races.The 15-time NHRA world champion came into the weekend trailing Matt Hagan by six points in the Funny Car standings, but left Maple Grove with his third win of the season and a 65-point lead. It’s the 19th different season Force has led the points during his legendary career.The key was a clean run by his Ford Mustang in the final round, going 4.106 seconds (313.37 mph) while opponent Chad Head lost traction.Winning from the No. 1 qualifying position for the first time since 2004, Force defeated Ron Capps in the semifinals, Cruz Pedregon in the quarterfinals and Jeff Arend in the opening round.———Defending NHRA Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson lost a heartbreaker to teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in Sunday’s final after winning a pair of close races in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.The Greeneville driver opened the day with a win over Greg Stanfield before a .019 reaction time led to a victory over Erica Enders-Stevens in the quarterfinals. Johnson won by inches over Greg Anderson in the semifinal before Coughlin’s near-perfect reaction time (.004) was the difference in the final.Johnson remains in the championship hunt, fourth in the standings and 73 points behind Coughlin with two races to go.———Volunteer Speedway will host the $6,000-to-win Steel Head Late Model “Fall Clash at The Gap”on Saturday night.The top-nine cars will be locked into a 50-lap main event from qualifying. The rest of the 24-car field will be set by heat races. If more than 45 cars show up, there will be an additional starting spot available in a last chance qualifying race.The Modified Hobby division will also be in action with a 30-lap feature and the night’s activities will end with a Demolition Derby.Grandstands open at 5 p.m. with on-track action to begin around 7 p.m.———Kingsport Speedway was well represented at Sunday’s “Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300” Late Model Stock race at Martinsville Speedway.Track champion Chad Finchum was the fastest qualifier out of 87 drivers. After winning his heat race, the 19-year-old Knoxville driver started on the pole and ran in the top five until getting wrecked on lap 37 which resulted in a 35th-place finish.Fellow Kingsport Speedway regular Ryan Stiltner was fourth fastest in qualifying and finished fifth in the race.Hayden Woods, an 18-year-old Providence Academy student, finished eighth after making it to the feature the hard way. He finished 11th in his heat race, but was fourth in a last-chance qualifier. He started 36th in the main event, but improved to 20th by the halfway point. He raced up to fifth before losing three spots on a final restart.———Jonesborough riders Jacob Austin, Alex Dorton and Chandler Carver won two races apiece this past Saturday in Round No. 14 of the Hot Summer Nights Motocross Series at the Appalachian Fairgrounds. Austin won the 250C and 125cc 2-stroke divisions, while Dorton was victorious in the Unlimited B and College Boy Amateur classes. The young Carver won two divisions for 51cc bikes.Other winners included Keith Hensley of Johnson City in the 40+ division, and Chance Markland of Elizabethton who won both motos in 65cc Unlimited.Jeff Birchfield is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at jbirchfield@johnsoncitypress.com.

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