History Made in the Heartland!
Courtney Force raced into the history books during the 26th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka. By winning the Funny Car title she secured the much anticipated and highest profile 100th victory for female professionals in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series….
It was Force’s second attempt at earning this important win. Last week Force fell to red-hot teammate Robert Hight in the Southern Nationals final round in Atlanta. Today against Cruz Pedregon the third year driver was not going let this opportunity slip through her Simpson Racing gloves again.
“This is huge. You could see the emotion on my face after I lost last weekend. It is a big deal and it is a milestone for women. Every girl out here wanted to get it. It was close every girl put her heart out there to try and get it. I was crushed after last weekend because I thought to myself that opportunity will never come again and that chance to get 100 will be gone forever,” said an excited Force. “I am still trying to soak it in right now. I have to thank my team and all my sponsors. Once my dad and Robert went out today you could see all those colors coming over to our pit area and thrashing on my car. I want to thank all them and all the crew chiefs. They gave me a good consistent race car all weekend and that is what we were missing from the start of the season.”
The win was not without some self-inflicted drama. Force admitted that nerves and pressure were at an all-time high as she rolled her Traxxas Ford Mustang up to face the two-time Mello Yello Funny Car champion. As she tried to give herself every starting line advantage she inadvertently lit the pre-stage and stage bulbs before Cruz had a chance to pre-stage. This racing faux pas weighed heavily on Force both before and after she ran.
“I almost screwed up on the starting line. I almost failed at my job. I was so nervous and the pressure was through the roof. I was pulling up to the starting line and all I was thinking was Cruz got a hole shot on Robert (Hight). I didn’t want to lose on a hole shot, too,” said Force. “There was a lot on the line. I wanted to roll in a little deep on my pre-stage. I screwed up and rolled it too much and lit both bulbs before he was even staged. Luckily, I left when I needed to. I apologized to Cruz and I sure as heck wasn’t trying to screw him up. I screwed myself up. Luckily we got away with it today.”
This was Courtney Force’s first win in three final round meetings with Cruz Pedregon to whom she lost in the final at the last race of 2012 at Pomona and the first 2013 race at Las Vegas. It’s the second time she has gone wire-to-wire for a win as the No. 1 qualifier. She also won from No. 1 at Pomona in 2013. This was the first time in her career that she reached back-to-back finals. It was the 231st Funny Car win for John Force Racing and continued a streak of 15 consecutive final rounds for the team and now four wins in a row.
“Last week I was in seventh place in the points and now I have shot up to fifth with a shot at the top three. Everybody is close together. All I am trying to do is create the Grand Canyon gap between me and the No. 11 driver. That is all I really care about,” said Force. “We are inching forward every weekend. Two go to back to back finals for my team is huge. I think this is a big weekend for women all together. Brittany and I were No. 1 qualifiers Erica Enders Stevens was so close today in Pro Stock. It just shows that we can dominate fields.”
The fact that she had come so close to getting the 100th win last week Force was asked in the media center if that loss entered her head before the final. The 2012 Auto Club NHRA Rookie of the Year was candid in her response to the media.
“I was thinking about it. That was all that was running through my head. I was thinking about going to another final and thinking about what happened last weekend. That sucked and you don’t want that to happen again. I was telling myself to not lose my focus,” added Force. “Don’t think about the 100th win. So now I was already thinking about it. You try and not screw up. You try and clear your mind. You look at the fans and think I am in the greatest place on earth. I get to be at an NHRA track and I get to drive one of these hot rods and there are little girls coming up to my ropes to wish me luck.
Fourteen women have contributed to the victory total. Four in Funny Car, one in Pro Stock, three in Pro Stock Bike and six in Top Fuel. Shirley Muldowney secured the first pro win June 13, 1976 so it spans 38 years. There have been four wins by women this year prior to Courtney; two each for Erica Enders Stevens (Pro Stock) and Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car).
Force was the No. 1 qualifier, set low ET and Top Speed on the way to her fourth career win which ties her with sister Ashley Force Hood. The Traxxas Ford Mustang driver defeated Dale Creasy Jr., Jeff Arend and Tommy Johnson Jr. to reach her final round race with Pedregon.
The other Professional winners at Topeka were Allen Johnson in Pro Stock and Spencer Massey in Top Fuel.
“Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart driver Allen Johnson raced to his second victory in three years and third straight final-round appearance at the NHRA Kansas Nationals, defeating teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in a repeat of last year’s all-Mopar final at Heartland Park Topeka. Flipping the results from his runner-up finish against Coughlin at the venue in 2013, Johnson drove to his class-leading third victory of the season, third overall at Topeka and 23rd of his career.
Following on the heels of Coughlin’s win in the rain-delayed NHRA Atlanta event on Monday, Johnson’s triumph is the second in less than a week for Mopar Dodge Dart drivers, and third overall since Johnson inaugurated the new Mopar Dodge Dart Pro Stock body with a win in its race debut at the NHRA Gatornationals in March. Counting Johnson’s victory at Phoenix in his since retired Dodge Avenger, Mopar Pro Stockers have accounted for four wins in the eight 2014 NHRA events held to date.
“It is fantastic to see Allen Johnson take the new Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart to the Kansas Nationals winner’s circle for his third win this season,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “There really is no better way to validate all the hard work that he and his team have put in combined with the work of our Mopar engineers. It’s a great way to get the season rolling and we look forward to seeing what more Allen and this new Dodge Dart can continue to do in such a competitive Pro Stock field.”
Johnson, who moved up to second in the Pro Stock standings with his win, used a 6.676 elapsed time at 206.95 mph to defeat Larry Morgan to begin eliminations and a 6.637/207.21 to best Shane Gray in the quarterfinals. Johnson’s quick reflexes proved the difference against points leader Erica Enders-Stevens in the semis. The pair posted near identical runs, Johnson with a 6.657/206.32 and Enders-Stevens with a matching 6.657 ET but faster speed of 206.51 mph. Johnson took the holeshot win with a quicker .022 reaction time to his opponent’s .046 to set up an all-Mopar showdown with Coughlin, who also competes with Mopar HEMI engines supplied by Johnson & Johnson Racing.
Coughlin, hot off his Atlanta victory, dispatched Rodger Brogdon, Dave Connolly and Vincent Nobile to reach the money round. Johnson, the overall 2012 Pro Stock series champ, was once again first out of the gate with a .028 to the .048 posted by Coughlin, the defending series champ, in his Mopar/Jegs Dodge Dart. Johnson never trailed, recording a 6.663/207.18 mark to Coughlin’s 6.664/207.05 to earn his third Topeka Wally trophy, following victories in 2009 and 2012.
“What a great relief when you get to the final with your teammate,” said Johnson, who combined with his 2010 runner-up at Topeka now has five final appearances in the last six years at the venue. “You feel like you’ve won either way. Any time I’m in a final with Jeg it raises my IQ about 50 points, because he’s that good. It makes me want to be better to race him and gets me up for the challenge.”
With his runner-up spot, Coughlin moved to fourth in the Pro Stock standings. Dodge Dart driver V. Gaines, who took out Greg Anderson before falling to Enders-Stevens in the quarterfinals, is eighth in points.
Massey earned his second Top Fuel victory in a row and second win at Topeka, defeating defending world champion Shawn Langdon in the final round. Massey sped to a performance of 3.871 at 314.02 in his Schumacher Electric dragster to claim his 16th career win, while Langdon’s Al-Anabi Racing dragster slowed to a 4.278 at 233.68.
“It was a struggle that started with running (teammate) Tony Schumacher and every round after that,” said Massey. “We kept trying to get the car to perform. Like everybody else we were trying to run a .70, but the car just wouldn’t do it. We’d give it more clutch, then more clutch again, then more motor. It kept running a .86 and then an .87, but it was enough.”
After outrunning Schumacher in the first round, Massey also defeated Terry McMillen and Brittany Force en route to the victory.
“I went to (crew chief Phil Shuler) before the final round and reminded him the sun was out just like the run before,” Massey said. “We didn’t want to beat ourselves. We wanted to go down the track and make them beat us. When you can beat Alan Johnson’s race car, especially with a good leaver like Shawn Langdon in the seat, that’s saying something. You’re racing a championship-caliber team every time you race an Al-Anabi car.”
Massey moved to third place in the standings, and now trails series leader Doug Kalitta by 138. Antron Brown is second, 30 back of the leader.
“Whenever you get your momentum going, everything seems to fall into place,” Massey said. “I like these races that are back-to-back-to-back. When the summer months come along and it gets hot, that weather works good with our tune-up.”
Event Essentials: NHRA Kansas Nationals (May 23-25th, 2014) Topeka KS.
|Low ET:||KH alBalooshi||3.780|
|Top Speed:||Doug Kalitta||324.36|
|Low ET:||John Force||4.058|
|Top Speed:||John Force||315.49|
|Low ET:||Jason Line||6.533|
|Top Speed:||Jason Line||210.93|
|Pro Stock Motorcycle|
|Low ET:||Eddie Krawiec||6.841|
|Top Speed||Hector Arana Jr.||195.48|
Posted with files from Elon Werner, Pat Caporali and NHRA Communications
Photos Courtesy of : Auto Imagery Inc., Gary Nastase and NHRA
THE LUCAS OIL LOWDOWN
Shayne Lawson and Dale Brand led the list of first time winner’s in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national event tour taking home the wins in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car respectively while Shaun Vincent and Jeremiah Vandeventer also bagged their first wins.
Lawson faced off with Monroe Guest in the final round laying down a lap of 5.329 seconds at 269.19 mph to take home his first NHRA national event Wally trophy to Guest’s 5.548, 250.04 mph. Lawson ran 5.20’s and 5.30’s all weekend as he qualified No. 2 and worked his way through the field.
Brand, in his forth alcohol funny car final, was better at both ends of the track taking the holeshot on Brian Hough and posting a time of 5.639 seconds, 255.58 to Hough’s 5.689, 251.39. Brand definitely earned the win this weekend taking out John Lombardo Jr., Jay Payne and Doug Gordon in rounds one, two and three.
Vincent and Vandeventer added first time wins to their resumes with Vincent driving his Chevy S-10 to the win over Clark Smiley in Comp Eliminator and Vandeventer defeating Norman Brungardt with his Ford Mustang in Top Sportsman. Vincent clocked in at 8.521, 155.26 and Vandeventer covered the quarter-mile in 7.338, 186.77 for his win.
David Rampy scored his 84th national event win as he and Tyler Wudarczyk were nearly identical off the line in Super Stock with Rampy taking the win light. Austin Williams captured his 7th win and third this year winning beating Brett Speer in Stock Eliminator while reigning Super Comp Lucas Oil National Champion Luke Bogacki won in Super Gas over former Super Gas National Champion Jeff Lopez for his 7th national event win. Gary Wamboldt rounded out the winners taking home his 3rd in Super Comp riding a perfect 0.000 second reaction time to the win over Steve Williams.
|Top Alcohol Dragster||Shayne Lawson||5.329||269.19|
|Top Alcohol Funny Car||Dale Brand||5.639||255.58|
|Top Sportsman||Jeremiah Vandeventer||7.338||186.77|
|Super Stock||David Rampy||10.40||124.35|
|Super Comp (8.90)||Gary Wamboldt||8.933||172.74|
|Super Gas (9.90)||Luke Bogacki||9.905||146.56|
(DragRaceCanada File Photos)