Season stop #5 for NHRA’s Mello Yello Series produced some marquee winners as well as some nasty incidents….
Courtney Force raced to her first Funny Car victory of the season during NHRA’s SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston Texas. With that win, it is the fifth consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event this season that has featured a female winner.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also were winners at the sixth of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events on the season.
Force posted a 3.913-second pass at 327.90 mph in her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS to defeat No. 1 qualifier Tim Wilkerson, who powered his Levi, Ray & Shoup 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 Traxxas 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.”
Force defeated Bob Bode, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. in the early rounds before facing Wilkerson in the final.
Wilkerson, a two-time 2016 event winner, battled past Jim Campbell and former world champions Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman to make it to the final round.
With Force’s victory, the NHRA Mello Yello Series has now seen four different female winners in the Nitro categories so far this season – the most in a single season in NHRA history.
Also post the weekend’s action, 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 despite a first round loss.
Top Fuel winner 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 in his Mac Tools dragster over No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence. Torrence, a Kilgore, Texas native and driver of the Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster, 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.
“I actually didn’t realize I had won until I had gotten to the end and turned around and came back,” Kalitta said. “I was real happy. It’s good to get a win and get the momentum going. It just charges everybody up. It was just a really good day for us.”
Kalitta outlasted Terry Haddock, Kebin Kinsley and Phoenix winner Leah Pritchett in the earlier rounds.
Torrence had no easy route to the final round. He sprinted past Rob Passey in the first, and then beat eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher and reigning world champ Brown in the second and third rounds, respectively.
With the win, Kalitta moved to second in points behind Brittany Force by just one point. Antron Brown is third and Torrence is fourth.
In Pro Stock, Anderson won his third race of the season on a holeshot against Ken Black Racing teammate Jason Line. Anderson pushed his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a 6.630 at 209.43 to defeat the point-leader’s 6.597 at 209.95 in his Summit Racing Equipment 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 and share three victories apiece.
“It was a tremendous day today,” Anderson said. “I was having a ball today. I just kept wondering, ‘When’s it going to rain? When’s it going to rain? Please don’t because I feel great today.’ My car is great. My car was just a dream to drive every run and I knew I had a great chance today to win an event.”
Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock world champion, opened eliminations with a bye before defeating Vincent Nobile and Allen Johnson in the second round and semifinals, respectively. Anderson trails Line in the points standings by 79.
Two-time world champion Line extended final-round-appearance streak to six – racing for a Wally in every race so far this season. He defeated veteran V. Gaines in the opening round before he had a bye in the second and outlasting teammate Bo Butner in the semifinals.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues May 13-15 with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.
Some Nastiness in Pro Mod!
NHRA’s 2nd J&A Services Pro Modified event of the season was a crash marred affair that included a few serious incidents – including even the final round!
Colorado’s Steven Whiteley emerged victorious for the first time in his career and was declared the event winner despite not making it to the finish line in the championship round. That was because his opponent – NHRA 2014 World Champion Rickie Smith — lost control of his machine and collected both guard walls immediately in front of him (narrow miss) which forced him to stop on the race track.
Whiteley shut off his J&A Service/Y-NOT Racing ’69 Chevrolet Chevelle shortly after leaving the starting line and Smith’s late model IDG Chevy Camaro was disqualified after it shook and made an immediate right turn to cross into the right lane and hit the right wall before turning back across the lanes to hit the left wall.
Prior to that, Whiteley, who had qualified #16, had upset Pete Farber, Shane Molinari and Troy Coughlin in earlier rounds of Pro Mod class action.
The event included some other incidents during Pro Mod class qualifying involving racers Jonathan Gray and Sidnei Frigo.
Gray was forced to withdraw from class competition after Friday’s first session when his Precision Turbo-sponsored late model Camaro clipped the guard wall on the top end hard after an apparent rear tire failure. Thankfully the New Mexico-based Pro Mod rookie class driver was not injured in that incident.
Then later that day, Sidnei Frigo, 44, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, was involved in a much more serious incident when his turbocharged Corvette went out of control on the top end – flipped over the guard wall and rolling several times, Sidnei was airlifted by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston after the second round qualifying incident. Reports later confirmed that he had suffered a broken left arm and had corrective surgery on the arm Saturday, April 30. Thankfully his prognosis is for a full recovery – however his C7 Corvette was destroyed in the very frightening incident.
You can check out YouTube video of Sidnei’s deal : HERE
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
The NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway, saw local racer Lee Callaway upset 2015 national champion Joey Severance for his first career win in Top Alcohol Dragster. Despite this being his first-ever final round appearance in the racing class, the Baytown, Texas, resident showed no signs of nervousness as he made his best pass of the weekend.
Callaway opened the final round with a small lead after posting a quicker reaction time, then pulled away to earn the Wally after Severance started hazing the tires at approximately 400 feet. Final round results were a 5.285 second, 271.84 mph pass for Callaway, compared to Severance’s 6.610 second, 141.46 mph finish.
In Comp Eliminator, veteran racer David Rampy of Piedmont, Al., collected his 91st overall career win, with 73 having been earned in the Comp Eliminator racing class. Rampy faced off against Dick Maris, Montgomery, Texas, and posted a winning run of 7.344 seconds, 164.69 mph in his ’32 Bantam.
In Stock, Kevin Helms, Schriever, La., gave up a little at the tree, but made up for it down the lane to defeat Jeremy Emmons, Pasadena, Texas. This was Helms’ 24th career Wally trophy, sixteenth in Stock to go along with eight previous he has earned in Super Stock. Helms has won this event four times; twice in both Stock and Super Stock, with his last win here in 2007.
Other racers visiting the winner’s circle this weekend were Steve Gasparrelli, West Covina, Calif., in Top Alcohol Funny Car; Tommy Phillips, Forney, Texas, in Super Stock; Rustin Mayse in Super Gas; and Steve Collier of Benton, La., took his first National event trophy in Super Comp. J.R. Baxter, Waxahachie, Texas won in Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com.
Photos by NHRA – Gary Nastase and DragRaceCanada File Photos
Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Mario Hirose & Bruce Biegler