NHRA’s annual season stop at scenic Brainerd International Raceway has mixed things up nicely within NHRA’s Mello Yello Series chase…
The event was highlighted by John Force’s daughter Brittany Force who raced to her 3rd career victory in Top Fuel during the Lucas Oil sponsored NHRA Nationals event. Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious in their respective categories at the 17th event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. This is the penultimate event of the regular season.
Force powered her Monster Energy dragster to a 4.169-second pass at 180.21 mph to outrun reigning world champion Antron Brown’s 6.566 at 103.47 in his Matco Tools dragster. Brown rattled and lost traction early while Force’s dragster backfired and released the parachutes just a little farther down track than Brown and she coasted to the finish line in front.
Force claimed the third win of her career and her third in four final rounds in the 2016 season. She raced to her first career victory earlier this year at Gainesville, Fla., then became the first female to win in Nitro at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C. Force outlasted Terry Haddock, three-time 2016 winner Doug Kalitta and two-time 2016 winner Shawn Langdon in the earlier rounds before defeating Brown in the final.
“It’s awesome to be able to win here,” said Force, who is fourth in the Top Fuel points standings. “I felt good coming in this weekend because we had some success last year and I’m pretty sure we did well the year before. We are exactly where we want to be as we go into the Countdown and our biggest race of the season in Indy. It feels so good to bring home another win.”
Brown, the 2011 Brainerd winner, sprinted past Chris Karamesines, Clay Millican and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher en route to his eighth final round of the season. The points leader has four wins so far this year and has clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
2014 top rookie Richie Crampton, from Adelaide, South Australia, secured his spot in the Countdown with a second round appearance.
In Funny Car, reigning world champ Worsham pushed his DHL Toyota Camry to a 3.908 at 327.27 to outrun Matt Hagan’s 8.095 at 71.33 after Hagan smoked the tires in his Mopar / Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T.
“I’m very excited,” said Worsham, who moved to third in the points standings with the win. “I came in here with a lot of confidence, thinking we were going to do well and Friday came around and we couldn’t have made any better runs. Along came Saturday and we smoked the tires. We had to take a little step back today, but they put it together. Brainerd has always been a special place to me. Going back to 1991, my first No. 1 qualifier came here 25 years ago. I’m excited to be here. It’s a great place, great facility and the team did a great job. I’m happy to get the win, go to Indy and start the NHRA Mello Yello Series Countdown.”
Worsham, who won the world championship last season without a regular season win, tallied his first victory of 2016, 39th of his career and 31st of his Funny Car career. This was his first final round appearance at Brainerd. He outlasted Bob Bode, Tim Wilkerson, who clinched a spot in the playoff, and Courtney Force before beating Hagan in the final round.
Hagan, who has two wins in four final rounds this year, qualified No. 1 with a world record elapsed time pass of 3.822. The two-time Funny Car world champion sprinted past John Bojec, Robert Hight and five-time 2016 winner Ron Capps before falling to Worsham.
Capps, pilot of the NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, secured his spot as the No. 1 seed in the Countdown to the Championship playoff after his semifinal round apperance.
Drew Skillman earned his first Pro Stock victory of the year and second of his career by posting a 6.648 at 208.97 in his Chevy Camaro to better seven-time 2016 event winner Jason Line’s 6.681 at 206.64 in his Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevy Camaro. Skillman, the 2015 Rookie of the Year, won his first race since last year in St. Louis and clinched a spot in the Countdown after beating Dave River in the first round. Skillman also outran Bo Butner and No. 1 qualifier Vincent Nobile before racing Line in the final.
“When I heard the rule changes, I thought we were going to be on top or on the bottom,” said Skillman, who is sixth in points. “We were on the latter of that situation. My guys have been working very hard and this is for their hard work today. (The class) is getting much, much closer. I think by the end of the season we’ll be very tight and next year I think you will see a very competitive class across the board.”
Line, a two-time Pro Stock world champion, raced past Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha and two-time and reigning world champ Erica Enders in the earlier rounds. With the runner-up finish, Line maintained control of the points lead.
Andrew Hines posted a perfect .000 reaction time in the final round to defeat alligator farmer Jerry Savoie in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round. Hines’ 6.866 at 194.94 with the perfect reaction time on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson was enough for a holeshot victory against Savoie’s 6.863 at 194.88 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. This is Hines’ fourth win of the season, 46th of his career and third at Brainerd International Raceway. He rode past veteran Steve Johnson, Cory Reed and Hector Arana Jr. in the earlier rounds.
“I was definitely a little nervous because we came here with the intentions of preparing for the Countdown,” said Hines, the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in NHRA history. “We put brand new tires on the bike which turned out, in hindsight, to be a very bad decision because the track is so good here. We were battling with the tune up on Friday. We just pecked away at it all weekend. We took our chance at it in the final round, put an old tire back on it, and it went nice and straight. I was pressing it because I knew I needed an advantage over Jerry.”
Savoie, who has three runner-up finishes this season, rode past Scotty Pollacheck, No. 1 qualifier and Englishtown winner Angelle Sampey and Eddie Krawiec in the first three rounds.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Joey Severance captured his 14th National event win in Top Alcohol Dragster. While Jonnie Lindberg rode a string of 5.40s to the national event title in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
In the Top Alcohol Dragster final, veteran racers Duane Shields of Boulder City, Nevada, and Joey Severance of Woodburn, Oregon faced off. Severance had the lead at the start and finished with a 5.275 second pass at 273.22 mph. Shields had trouble as he hit the throttle and coasted down the track with an 11.502 second run at 77.68 mph. Severance has earned his fourth National event Wally this year.
In Top Alcohol Funny Car, Lindberg captured his fourth national event win overall with a pass of 5.443 seconds at 270.54 mph in his ’10 Monte Carlo. Lindberg faced off against Annie Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colorado who had a 5.457second, 269.83 mph lap for her runner up finish.
Tommy Phillips had the starting line advantage that led to the capture of his 36th National event title. This is his 16th win in Super Gas, and his second win at this track.
Gary Loeffelholtz had the starting line advantage and took home his first National event Wally trophy in Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs.com. In Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs.com Angie Travis was better at the tree, and the stripe, to earn a career first National event win.
Other racers visiting the winner’s circle this weekend were Bill Feist, Maple Grove, Minn., in Stock; Austin Sharpe had a near perfect reaction time to capture the win in Super Comp; and Marion Stephenson, Williamsport, Indiana, took home the trophy in Super Gas.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will continue in Indianapolis, Aug. 31-Sept.5, with the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway for the final race of the regular season.
Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Mandy Ramirez and Bruce Biegler
All photos by Jim Kampmann