The victory gives Force, a 15-time world champion, a 65-point lead over Matt Hagan, and is his third this season and 137th in his career. Head appeared in his second career final round in his Head Racing Toyota Camry. The victory also gave Force seven victories at Maple Grove Raceway, the most for any NHRA competitor.
“You give credit where it’s due, and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and this team is just great,” Force said. “What I look at as most exciting is the teamwork with this group. To get this win meant a lot to me, but they all mean a lot. I’ve got a good hot rod right now.”
Force beat Countdown contenders Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon, as well as Jeff Arend to move to the championship round, going as quick as 4.061 at 317.12 on Sunday. Hagan fell in the second round to Capps and will have to make up ground at the next two events to catch the red-hot Force.
“What we have right now is consistency,” Force said. “We had to beat good competition (Sunday). We stayed with our strategy and stayed with what we knew we could do.”
Pro Stock’s Coughlin moved into the points lead and earned his fourth victory this season with a holeshot victory against defending world champion Allen Johnson. Coughlin, who has 56 career wins, posted a winning time of 6.616 at 208.75 in his JEGS.com Dodge Avenger, and his quicker reaction time overcame Johnson’s quicker, but losing Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, which finished in 6.588 at 209.39.
“To come out with the points lead certainly feels fantastic, but we’ve got a lot of racing left,” said Coughlin, who had an impressive .004 reaction time in the final round. “We’d love to say this thing is all but over, but there’s a lot of racing left and we’re looking forward to it. To get that win in such a huge final round, that was big for us.”
Coughlin, whose four wins at Maple Grove tied Warren Johnson for the most in Pro Stock history, leads Mike Edwards by 45 points and Jason Line by 48 points. Coughlin earned a crucial semifinal win against No. 1 qualifier Line on Sunday, and also defeated Larry Morgan and Shane Gray en route to the victory.
“In our case, with the way things have played out, we made a pretty good jump and we’re happy to have the points lead,” Coughlin said. “We’re racing hard and we’re racing smart, and that’s how we raced this weekend.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, points leader Matt Smith zoned in on his second world championship by beating defending world champion Eddie Krawiec in the final round. Smith rode his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell to a winning performance of 6.936 at 193.32 to earn his second straight victory, third this season and 16th in his career. Krawiec went 6.965 at 190.43 in the final round on his Vance & Hines Screamin-Eagle Harley Davidson in his second final round appearance during the Countdown.
“I can’t say enough about our crew,” Smith said. “We hurt our good motor (Saturday), but things worked out for us. All in all, we beat big competitors in the semifinals and finals, extended our points lead and I’m really happy right now.”
Smith’s second career win at Maple Grove Raceway pushed his lead to 125 points against Hector Arana Jr. The King, N.C. native, who won his first world championship in 2007, beat Michael Ray, John Hall and Chaz Kenney to reach the final round.
“This thing’s not over yet,” Smith said. “I’m still looking at every round as just 20 points. But we’ll be strong, I guarantee you, in Vegas.”