Traxxas means having good luck.
How else can one explain the fortune the company experienced with their debut of the Traxxas Funny Car Nitro Shootout. Disappointment from the cancellation from Indy because of remnants of Hurricane Isaac plagued the Indy inaugural – not once but twice in successive weekends – the Shootout found the Texas Fall Nationals a stellar replacement with sunny skies and enthusiastic crowds – topped by dramatic racing.
The premier all-star event of the Funny Car class may, by happenstance, found a happy home in the state big enough to hold that horsepower: Texas, the home of Traxxas.
The ESPN2 broadcast informed viewers "lots of fans and customers" of the company attended the race. In a brilliant stroke with the sponsorship of Courtney Force, Traxxas aligned themselves with a bright star in her first year as a professional.
Looking at the ladder, having four of the eight qualifiers of this Shootout in the John Force camp gave heavy odds of a JFR driver winning.
Not surprising, their competitors paid no due to any of that.
Johnny Gray's Service Central Charger sent Mike Neff back to the pits to prepare for Sunday; his Castrol Mustang was gone.
Robert Hight's Auto Club Mustang lost a pedalfest with Jeff Arend's DHL Toyota in the winning lane.
In short order Ron Capps' NAPA Dodge drove around the Traxxas Mustang of young Force in a designated "great drag race" by the FastNews Network. Feeling the weight of obligation to win your sponsor's feature race but getting tossed in the first go at it crushed the young star.
No matter the excitement of the pass and the talent and experience she faced with Capps, John Force said, "She is so down."
The veteran 15-time champion showed his prowess in a race of oil companies in the oil state taking the race by the horns right from the hit, with the Castrol Mustang's .053-second reaction time to Jack Beckman's .082.
Two laps won and Force is the only horse left from the JFR stable, meeting Capps in the final.
That he won the Traxxas Shootout over Capps in "a great side-by-side" race, noted ESPN broadcaster Paul Page, is not a shock but it could have easily gone the other way.
A "good ol' car race" is how ESPN commentator Mike Dunn phrased it after predicting Capps winning by a narrow "edge."
The results are widely known now, but what this win revealed is intriguingly important.
Force gave his due to the other lane: "You're up against Ron Capps and that young stuff, and I've got that ol' man for me."
A long preview during the Sunday eliminations broadcast flashed back five years to the 15-time champion's crash here with Kenny Bernstein. The film renewed any blanks of just how horrible that accident was and how the outcome could have been much worse.
Courtney Force, the No. 1 qualifier for Dallas national event, choked up remembering that day during an interview. It was hard not to do the same just listening to her description of that day and the long aftermath.
Page asked Dunn, a former racer, this insightful question: "What is (Force's) mindset coming back to a place you crashed?"
Dunn described the key as "(He is asking himself), 'Do I want to keep doing this?' For John Force, I don't think there's any doubt."
Force didn't win eliminations as his double-up chance went by the wayside as Matt Hagen's Aaron's Charger, ultimately racing the finals, parked him.
Dunn later noted, "It's a day for the spoilers." And perhaps some measure of payback for Hagen from losing the championship at Pomona's 2010 Auto Club Finals.
A festive atmosphere and plenty of features highlighted the Texas broadcast:
The Upset Alert: Dunn selected Bob Vandergriff's C&J Energy entry over Morgan Lucas's GEICO dragster. Vandergriff led off the line, but Lucas won the lap.
Having the experienced Dunn choose a winner – whether he is right or wrong – adds an additional element of fun to the broadcast.
The Marquee Matchup: Dunn chose the Hight-Tim Wilkerson pairing in the opening Funny Car set. In the pits, reporter Dave Rieff asked "Wilk" about the coming round, facing Hight. "I hope he's saying, 'Why did I have to get Wilk in the first round?'"
Wilkerson's Levi Ray & Shoup Mustang won the round but burned as he crossed the line.
Dunn explained, "He's got cylinders out on both sides. Gotta stay in it, this is the Countdown."
Wilkerson later described riding in that fiery cockpit that it was "nasty in there." He knew he had "lost 10 points" because of oil, but the booth quickly informed viewers he did not. There was no oil left on the track.
The Traxxas Extreme Power feature: Dunn covered the cylinder's firing order by showing and numbering the exhaust pipes while a nitro Funny Car pumped smoke, power and heat. Most interesting? The lesson that the order is varied if they believe it can help their power.
He further added this thought about recent breaks in the input shafts. Predicting more and more of these failures, he reasoned teams are going to have to change those and other parts more frequently. "Keep making more power, the life cycle of these parts shorten up." Good point.
How about the special cameras mounted on the four-wheelers pushing dragsters off the strip by using an extension that fits against the back of the right-rear wheel. Live images of the dragster turning the corner, heading back to the interview/recovery area before getting the tow to the pit, is terrific stuff.
The helmet cam in Doug Kalitta's pit, too, gave viewers a unique view of the work of a crew member working on the ground in a Top Fuel pit.
That team was of particular interest as the Kalitta Mac Tools dragster became a feature in the Lincoln-Tech Fix-It report. Dunn noted the opening round of Top Fuel eliminations "goes terribly wrong (for Kalitta), knocking that (supercharger) off for the second time. Tough break."
Rieff explained the first occasion for the team's fireball, the last round of qualifying, as an intake rocker-arm breaking. Today's big blow? "Could be the ignition."
The weekend's best reply in an interview had to be Capps answering Jamie Howe's "What are you gonna do having never won a championship?"
He calmly and dryly answered that he will "forget you guys keep telling me I haven't won."
Dunn voted the most improved Funny Car team as that of Tony Pedregon's STP Camry even as he went home in the first round.
Rieff voiced a startling realization: "If Medlin had not lost his life, wonder if we would have ever seen Mike Neff driving a dragster."
What about the blankets and jackets Pro Stock teams keep wrapping their carburetors in whenever the hood is up or crashed or whatever circumstance? Past champion Greg Anderson obviously has something up his sleeve as he answered, "Maybe nothing but people might think there is."
Larry Morgan probably understated his real feelings, sarcastically replying, "I could care less."
The broadcast team gets to the nitty-grittyof details when it comes to a problem on the track such as the last round of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying. Scott Pollacheck's Sovereign Star Racing Buell quickly and shockingly began a horrific wobble, forcing him right in to Karen Stoffer's lane.
Her GEICO Suzuki stayed in front of his slowing bike, but the fear of what might have been appeared on the faces of those back on the start.
Multiple views and angles along with analysis by the reporters and the broadcast booth solved the question of "Why?" A tire went down. Later, the errant rubber was shown so we could see the problem.
"Nice job of driving," as Dunn gave props to Pollacheck, who commented he wanted to get noticed but not in this way.
Pro Stock Motorcycles were noted by ESPN's Statman, Lewis Bloom, at an earlier event as a class of "V-rod domination" when two Harley-Davidsons again made the finals. Just like in real life, the regulatory body was watching and instituted more rules, changes, to "even" the competition.
Something worked as Michael Ray wins his first race on new sponsor's Viper Motorcycle Buell against Stoffer.
There were more firsts like Greg Stanfield blowing off his hood scoop crossing the finish, a rare occurrence. "Peeled it right off," Dunn added.
Page opened the broadcast day with his note of "strange happenings" at this race. As the race proved, that was also foresight.
But the most interesting wasn't necessary strange but of deep interest to those who love the fun, the characters, the intensity of single-round eliminations on crazy brackets that link uncertainty with determination, guts and the moxie necessary to earn a spot in the show.
Force can't give it up, the sport of drag racing; he said so, at least not until he reaches an important goal. Is that goal yet another championship? His wife driving a Funny Car? No, not those.
He confessed he can't stop until he whips the Texas track for whipping him five years ago.
Reporter Gary Gerould asked him about the importance of winning the Traxxas trophy. Besides his obvious bow "to keep them as a sponsor," and a tip of his hat "for the fans and people who supported him," he simply laid out his motivator for all to know: "I want to win the race that took
There is a Texas-sized challenge driving him to stay in the sport, rewarding race fans everywhere watching his intensity while enjoying the efforts of others to out-race him first.
In some measure he succeeded here winning the Traxxas Shootout. In celebration on the award platform he kissed the Traxxas president in a photo for the ages.
Wonder what Force might do when sometime he settles the score by winning the Texas Fall Nationals ...