|Auto Imagery, Inc|
Courtney Force raced to her first Funny Car victory of the season Sunday at the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway. It is the fifth consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event that has featured a female winner.
Force posted a 3.913-second pass at 327.90 mph in her Chevrolet Camaro to defeat No. 1 qualifier Tim Wilkerson, who powered his Ford Shelby Mustang to a 3.943 at 323.81. This is Force’s eighth career win and first since 2014 in St. Louis. She now shares the Funny Car points lead with Wilkerson.
“It was a pretty amazing weekend for our Chevy Camaro team," Force said. “I was nervous going into the final against Wilkerson. I knew what kind of numbers he could put on the board and I knew I just had to be right there with him. We’ve been working really hard and I feel like this one felt even better than my first ever career win. We wanted it more than anything."
The NHRA Mello Yello Series has now seen four different female winners in Nitro so far this season – the most in a single season in NHRA history.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also were winners at the sixth of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the season.
Kalitta powered to his first victory of 2016 and third at the NHRA SpringNationals with a final round pass of 3.813 at 280.60 for a holeshot victory over No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence. Torrence, a Kilgore, Texas native, raced to a 3.810 at 306.81 but his slower reaction time proved to be the difference. Kalitta, the defending and three-time event winner, earned his 39th career victory to tie Antron Brown and Kenny Bernstein for fourth on the Top Fuel all-time wins list.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]
In Pro Stock, Anderson won his third race of the season on a holeshot against teammate Jason Line. Anderson pushed his Chevy Camaro to a 6.630 at 209.43 to defeat points-leader Line’s 6.597 at 209.95 in his Chevy Camaro. Anderson, who has three career wins at the SpringNationals, was also the No. 1 qualifier. The duo has combined to win the first six races of the 2016 season, sharing three victories apiece.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues May 13-15 with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.
For the first time in National Hot Rod Association history, women sit atop the Top Fuel and Funny Car standings. And they happen to be sisters driving Chevrolets.
Courtney Force, driving the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, won the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway for her first Funny Car victory since St. Louis on Sept. 28, 2014. Force, who earned her eighth career Funny Car win in her 101st event, is tied with race runner-up Tim Wilkerson for first in points through six rounds of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Her sister, Brittany Force, a two-time winner this season in the Monster Energy Chevrolet Dragster, retained the Top Fuel points lead following the event in Baytown, Texas.
“It’s amazing to get this win," said Courtney Force, who advanced to the final round for the 15th time in her Funny Car career. “It seems a lot harder than the first one and took a lot longer, but definitely worth it. I felt we fought hard and it definitely feels good to win here in Texas. I’m going to cherish this moment for a long time."
No. 3 qualifier Force, who has qualified in the top four the past five races, had a pass of 3.913 seconds at 327.90 mph in the final to best the top qualifier (3.943). Force, who is the fifth female Pro winner this season, tied her sister Ashley Force Hood with 105 career round wins.
Chevrolet also continued its domination of the Pro Stock class as Greg Anderson won for the third time this season – all against KB Racing teammate Jason Line, who has won the other three races. Anderson became the first No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock to win at Houston since 2006. Chevy drivers have been the top qualifier in all six races.
“He is a tough competitor, a tough out," said Anderson, who recorded his 81st Pro Stock career win that includes three at Houston. “I do not want a rerun. It’s in the books; we got the victory. I feel just a little bit bad for him, but I’ll get over it. OK, I’m over it."
Line remains the Pro Stock points leader, with Anderson in second in the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team. The car has been a dream to drive all weekend, and it’s a 100 percent team effort," Anderson added.
Line reached his sixth consecutive final with a pass of 3.605 seconds to defeat Bo Butner (Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS) in one of the semifinals. Butner has advanced to the semifinals in five of the six races. Anderson had a pass of 3.604 seconds to top Allen Johnson in the other semifinal.
“I did great until the final," Line said. “My car was really good all day. All in all a great weekend. (The team) is 6-0 so it’s been a fantastic start to the season."
In the quarterfinals, Anderson bested Vincent Nobile (Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro SS), Butner was quicker than Texan Chris McGaha (Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevrolet Camaro SS), and Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro SS) fell to Allen Johnson.
“Congratulations to Courtney Force of John Force Racing and Greg Anderson of KB Racing for their victories in the NHRA SpringNationals," Chevrolet Racing NHRA program manager Roger Allen said. “Courtney has displayed such consistency this season in the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, and it came to fruition at Houston with her first victory of the year – and first in a Camaro — and eight of her Funny Car career.
“In Pro Stock, KB Racing continued its domination through six races. Both Greg and teammate Jason Line have won three races in their Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS cars. And Brittany Force continues to pace the Top Fuel point standings in her Monster Energy Chevrolet Dragster. We're looking forward to Atlanta in two weeks for additional success for Chevrolet drivers."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Robert Hight, who won at Houston in 2005 and ’14, fell in the first round of Funny Car eliminations after qualifying No. 5 in the AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS for John Force Racing. Teammate John Force, who qualified No. 10 in the Advance Auto Parts PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS, also lost in the first round.
In Top Fuel, Brittany Force, who won the previous Sunday at Charlotte, North Carolina, in the Monster Energy Chevrolet Dragster, fell in the first round of eliminations. The John Force Racing driver entered eliminations as the No. 7 qualifier with a best run of 3.761 seconds at 307.30 mph.
Stephen Bell (1320 LLC Chevrolet COPO Camaro) was the No. 1 qualifier in Super Stock but fell in the first round of eliminations. Brandon Bakies (School Automotive Machinist Chevrolet COPO Camaro) qualified 17th and advanced to the second round.
In Stock Eliminator, Brett Candies (Candies Family Motorsports Chevrolet COPO Camaro) was the No. 3 qualifier and advanced to the quarterfinals. Brian Massingill (SAMTECH.EDU Chevrolet COPO Camaro) was the No. 2 qualifier but fell in the first round. Jeff Lopez (Ace Door and Repair Chevrolet COPO Camaro) and Phillip Giles (Giles Racing Chevrolet COPO Camaro) won their first-round matchups before losing in the second round.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues May 13-15 with the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS: An interview with Funny Car winner COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, TRAXXAS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS
Q: You endured and you won.
COURTNEY FORCE: It was a pretty amazing weekend for our Traxxas Chevy Camaro team. Honestly, going against Tim Wilkerson; we’ve been watching him since the start of the season and he’s the one to beat out here. He has a car that everyone is looking to outrun and he’s doing such a great job. I was nervous going in to the final against him. I knew what kind of number he could put on the board, and I knew I had to be right there with him. My guys have really turned things around this season for us. With Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson tuning this car and with the help of everyone at John Force Racing, they gave me a great car in the final and we were able to take home the win today. It’s such an amazing victory. We’ve been working really hard for this and it felt even better than my first-ever career win. It took a lot longer. With a winless streak last season and coming into this year we wanted it more than anything.
Q: This is your first final round appearance at Houston and you have 105 round wins, which ties you with your sister Ashley.
COURTNEY FORCE: It’s pretty incredible. My sister Ashley won at this track, too. It’s pretty amazing for the females in our sport to continue the win streak. Nothing like a little bit of pressure. That was in the back of my mind the entire time. To be in the points lead, tied with Tim Wilkerson, I didn’t even know that was possible this weekend so that was music to my ears. To be in the points lead with my sister Brittany in Top Fuel is something that is something I can’t even describe. I’m going to cherish this moment for a long time. It’s been a great weekend for our team and I think it goes to show we’re on the right track with this car and heading in the right direction for many more wins to come.
Q: This qualifies you for the Traxxas Shootout. Important with your sponsor being Traxxas.
COURTNEY FORCE: It is definitely important and something that has been on my mind since the start of the season. Every time we go out we’re looking to get that win to get locked into the Traxxas Nitro Shootout. The fact that Traxxas puts this on every year is amazing for our sport, amazing for the fans and for the drivers, so thank you to them and it definitely feels good driving for Traxxas and now to be locked in. And to win here in Texas, the home state of Traxxas, is pretty amazing.
Q: Do you feel like you came from behind to beat everybody?
COURTNEY FORCE: He was the one to beat out here. Everybody knew that. He was running good in the worst conditions. Half the field wasn’t getting down the racetrack and he’s out there outrunning everybody and improving his time running in the 3s. The first thing I said was at least I won’t have to run (against him) until the final. I knew he had a good race car. For our Traxxas team to improve and come from behind and be able to take him down for the win is pretty amazing. He’s the one who has been leading the charge since the start of this year and everyone is really gunning for him. It’s really exciting that we were able to get the job done. This wasn’t even a great weekend for our car. We were probably not as consistent at this track in Houston than we have been in the past so that actually gives me a little more confidence going into the rest of the season because I know we have a better race car than we showed this week and we were able to take home the win.
Q: Can you talk about overall for Brittany to have this breakout season?
COURTNEY FORCE: I’m so proud of her. I’ve actually had a couple of fans say ‘Your sister is showing you up’ and I’m glad that she is. I’m so proud of what she’s been able to accomplish, and it’s been a long time coming. The fact that her team has been to so many final rounds in the past and she’s been fighting hard – she practices all the time and tries to improve like every driver out here – and they made a lot of changes this year and it seems to be working for her. It’s exciting to see her in the points lead and exciting to see what she’s going to do the rest of the year as well.
Q: Getting a win before unveiling the new Chevrolet body must be exciting?
COURTNEY FORCE: It is exciting. For the fans it will be pretty amazing. We’re all excited and can’t wait for the unveiling. Chevy has put in all this time and worked with our team and our engineers building this and it’s going to be good for our team.
An interview with Pro Stock winner GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS:
Q: Talk about getting your 81st career win.
GREG ANDERSON: It was a tremendous day today. I was having a ball out there. I kept wondering when it was going to rain, and then kept saying please don't, because I felt great. The car was great. The car was just a dream to drive. I knew I had a chance today to win an event so I didn't want it to rain. Didn't want to try and come back another day. Didn't want to try to come back at another track and finish it. The weatherman he came through for me-he was wrong again! So thank the Lord. He missed all three days and we got every run in throughout the weekend which is a miracle. It was a great weekend for the KB Racing team. Rob and the boys did a great job with the cars. They are a blast to drive. When you can make it all the way to the finals with your teammate, then the gloves come off and you go duke it out. You have fun and then you have bragging rights for a week. I guess we have a weekend off so I have bragging rights for two weeks so that is kind of cool.
I felt a little bit bad for Jason there because you want it to be a tough race and you both do your very best job. Obviously he missed the Tree there, and my car didn't make a good run there, so there was a bobble on each side and it ended up being a very close race. It was a good side-by-side Pro Stock race. You never know what you are going to get. You have to go out there and race them on the race track. If you look at the scoreboard in previous rounds, our reaction times were within thousandths of each other and our times were within thousandths of each other. It came down to the cars still being very close in a different way. It was a fun day and thank the weatherman again for being wrong."
Q: Talk about how the field is catching up on the fuel injection.
GREAG ANDERSON: We think they are going to every week. That is the mindset we have so we go back every week and as soon as we get back Monday morning, we try to find something better for the next race. We just know in our minds that they are going to figure it out and they are going to be bad-to-the-bone the next week. That is how we live and how we play it. And, I certainly expect it to happen when we get to the next race. These are very sharp individuals we race against and there is a lot of talent in those pits and they chased our tails all over the track the last few years! We know they can do it and they know it is coming. The good news is we are enjoying it while we have got this opportunity. We are making the most of it while we can because you know it is not going to last forever. So, while we have this performance advantage, we aren't making mistakes. We are finding a way to get to the winner’s circle so that makes us feel extra special. It is great to have a performance advantage but there is a mine field out there. There are a million ways you can screw up. Just proud of Jason and myself and our teams. Total team effort. Six races, three wins each. That about as good as anyone could have possibly dreamed. We are living life. Having a ball. We will pick up from here with a smile on our face and go home and dig in and head to Atlanta for the Summit Nationals and see if we can do it again.
Q: What were you thinking setup-wise when you woke up this morning?
GREG ANDERSON: It certainly looked like it was going to rain. The humidity was higher than it was even on Friday. We made adjustments and tuned on it through the day. We made the right tuning moves. We had no idea that we would be able to succeed under these conditions, and now we know we can. We’re really starting to feel good about the job we’ve done with the EFI.
Q: It doesn’t appear the drivability of the car has affected you the past couple of weeks.
GREG ANDERSON: We’ve gotten a lot better at that and it’s really a non-issue. We’re all learning. We’re all learning about EFI and there’s still a lot more to be learned. It’s definitely got the blood flowing. It’s certainly played into our hands.
Q: Is your win number something you think about?
GREG ANDERSON: I really don’t. I just love going to every race trying to get one more trophy because you don’t know if it’s going to be your last one. I cherish every one of them, and whatever that number ends up being it ends up being. I live for the moment. I love to go to a race and try to win that very next Wally.