Final round results from Sunday’s 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals, sixth race in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
FUNNY CAR – Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 3.913, 327.90 mph def. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, IL, Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang, 3.943, 323.81 mph.
TOP FUEL – Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Mac Tools dragster 3.813, 280.60 mph def. Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco dragster, 3.810, 306.81 mph.
PRO STOCK – Greg Anderson, Mooresville, NC, Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, 6.630, 209.43 mph def. Jason Line, Mooresville, NC, Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, 6.597, 209.95 mph.
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COURTNEY FORCE WINS NHRA SPRINGNATIONALS
BAYTOWN, TX --- For the first time in the history of NHRA two women sit atop the Top Fuel and Funny Car point standings. Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team held onto their points lead and Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car won the event and jumped from sixth to a tie for first place with Tim Wilkerson in Funny Car today at the NHRA SpringNationals.
Force dismissed Bob Bode, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr. and finally Tim Wilkerson to claim her eighth career Funny Car victory. She is leaving Houston tied for the points lead in Funny Car while her sister Brittany occupies the top spot in the Top Fuel point standings.
"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, that's something that I can't even describe. It's a moment I can't even put into words. My sister and I are both leading right now and I'm going to cherish this moment for a long time.
I'm just excited. It's been a great weekend for our team and I think this shows we're on the right track with this car and headed in the right direction for more wins to come," said an emotional Force.
"This wasn't even a great weekend for our car. We were probably not as consistent at this track in Houston as we have been in the past so that gives us a little more confidence going into the rest of the season because we know we have a better race car than what we showed this weekend and we were able to take home the win," said Force.
The Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car driver picked up one bonus point for making the third-quickest pass of Q2 to steal the No. 3 starting spot and drew a first round match-up against Bob Bode for race day. Her best qualifying pass was 3.915 ET at 320.66 mph in Q2 on Friday night when track and weather conditions were near perfect for crew chiefs Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson.
She has only raced Bob Bode once in previous events; two races ago at the NHRA DENSO Spark Plugs Nationals at Las Vegas.
Force had lane choice and took the starting line advantage. She posted a 3.951 ET at 321.04 mph to Bode's 5.847 ET at 125.66 mph and sailed into the second round.
The 2012 Rookie of the Year for NHRA matched up with Ron Capps in the second round of eliminations and had lane choice over the veteran driver. This was the 18th time the pair have met on race day, but the first time this season. They have raced once before at Houston in 2012 which ended in Capps turning on the win light.
Force snagged the win with a 3.962 ET at 318.17 mph to Capps' 4.674 ET at 179.56 mph and took lane choice in the semifinal round. She is now 7-11 to Capps. Out of 18 match-ups, they have only met twice in the second round and two of those have now occurred at Houston.
Force met Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semifinals. This was the ninth time they have met in eliminations, but only the second time this season. They met earlier this year in the second round at Phoenix and Force turned on the win light. Today was the first time they have met at Houston, but the fifth time they have lined up beside one another in the semi-finals. Force scored the win and is now 5-4 to Johnson Jr.
In the final round, it was Force lining up beside veteran driver Tim Wilkerson to go for the Wally.
"He [Wilkerson] was the one to beat out here. I think everybody knew that. I mean, he was running good in the worst conditions. Half of the field wasn't getting down the race track and he's out there outrunning everybody and improving his time running in the 3.0's. The first thing I did was look [at the ladder] and say, 'well at least I won't have to run him until the final' because I knew he had a good race car and everyone out here knows that. For our Traxxas team to be able to improve and come from behind and really be able to take him done for the win is pretty amazing. He's the one who's really leading the charge since the start of the year and everyone's really gunning for him right now."
"I get to be out here with my sister Brittany and my whole family and my dad. We get to do what we love because of Traxxas and all the sponsors and all of you fans. It's great to be out here. Alexis (DeJoria) gave me a pep talk before that final round and it's just great to have all the female support," said Force.
Force has only ever met Wilkerson in the first or second round, but never the semi-finals or finals. They have met 11 times in the past with Force winning eight of those. This was their first meeting this season and the second time they have raced against each other at Houston.
"It was a pretty amazing weekend for our Traxxas Chevy Camaro team. Honestly going up against Tim Wilkerson, we've been watching him since the start of the season and he's the one to beat out here. I feel like he's got a car that everyone's looking to outrun and he's doing such a great job over there. I was nervous going into the final against him. I knew what kind of number he could put on the board and I knew I just had to be right there with him. Lucky for me and my Traxxas team, my guys, they have worked so hard on this race car and really turned things around this season for us with Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson tuning this car with the help of everyone at John Force Racing. The entire brain trust over there. 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 I feel like this on felt even better than my first ever career win. It definitely took a lot longer with a winless streak last year and coming in this season we wanted it more than anything," said Force.
Force has qualified in the top four at the last five races. She has qualified in the top half of the field at every event so far this season and gone into race day with lane choice. Today was her 105th career Funny Car round win, which ties her with her older sister, Ashley Force Hood. Force Hood also won the SpringNationals in 2009. Force is only the fourth women to win the SpringNationals in Houston.
"It's pretty amazing for the females in our sport to be able to continue the win streak. Nothing like a little bit of pressure. I was nervous going in thinking about that. Every weekend everyone's like, 'oh you gotta win. You gotta keep that streak alive for the females out here' and that was in the back of my mind the entire time. I just prayed we had the car and the driver to do it.
With this win, Force locked her team into the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, her sponsor's specialty $100,000 to win "race within a race" that takes place during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indy.
"Every time we go out there 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. It's amazing for the fans and for the drivers. I think we need it and everyone loves it. It definitely feels good, especially driving for Traxxas to be locked in and not have to worry about it anymore.
For the fans out here, being able to get a win here in Texas, in the home state of Traxxas, is pretty amazing," said Force.
When Force was asked about competing against Wilkerson, she said compared to him right now she feels a bit like the underdog.
"We had a couple fires down at the top end and that made it a little bit exciting. My guys were thrashing to get the car together and get it back and ready through second round and through qualifying. To be able to still run numbers like that and in the heat out here in Houston. The conditions changed a little bit when we got some cloud cover, but to be able to outrun Wilkerson is pretty amazing. I'm glad it was a great side-by-side race for the fans."
"I've had a couple fans say, 'Your sister is showing you up!' And I'm glad that she is, you know? I'm so proud of what she has been able to accomplish. It's been a long time coming. The fact that her team had been to so many final rounds in the past and she's been fighting hard, she practices on the tree, and she tries to improve and be better just like every driver out here. They made a lot of changes this year and it seems to be working for her. She finally took home a win and came right back out and took home another, so I'm really proud of her and what her Monster Energy team has been able to do this year. It's exciting to see her in the points lead right now and I'm excited to see what she's going to be able to do the rest of the year as well.
The 27-year-old Traxxas pilot discussed some incidents on the race track this weekend which ended on her car catching on fire after the run.
"I don't think I did a very good job [helping life the Funny Car body after the fire] I was trying to tell the guy that was trying to help me, 'You gotta twist the handle and pull it!' So he's trying to pull it up and I'm trying to pull it out. I don't do a lot of lifting on my Funny Car body because I'm usually in the cockpit of my car. I definitely got a workout in this weekend trying to get the body off. There was a fire and I just wanted to get the body up so the Safety Safari guys could put it out. And thank God for them. Every weekend we're counting on them. I was out of my car waving them and they were on it. They were there in just a matter of seconds. Thanks to them my car didn't burn to the ground. I had by fire bottles going, but it still wasn't putting out some of the fire so they were right there to solve the problem.
"I told her [Ashley Force Hood], 'You gotta tell your husband to quit lighting my buns on fire! I'm enjoying the win lights, but this car keeps catching fire at the top end.' I pick on Danny (Hood) a lot, but it's such a great team. All of those guys work so hard and I'm just luck to be a part of it. It's amazing to get this win. It felt like it was a lot harder than the first one. It took a lot longer, but definitely well worth it. I feel like we fought hard," said Force.
For just the 26th time in his illustrious career of 1,768 rounds of racing John Force jumped the gun red-lighting by .005 of a second in the first round against Tommy Johnson Jr. Even more surprising is the fact that the last time the 143-time winner was disqualified for this foul was the 2016 Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. Force has won this race six times but will have to wait for the 30th annual SpringNationals to pick up his seventh in the PEAK/Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car.
“I am struggling in the seat of the car but I am working on that with my team. We are in the fight and I feel good about getting to Atlanta and the races after that. We had PEAK and Advance Auto Parts on this Chevy this weekend,” said Force from outside his pit area.
Force powered into race day as the No. 10 qualifier and had a tough draw with Johnson Jr. whom he had a career 30-8 record going into today’s first round. At the end of the day the winningest driver in NHRA history and JFR team owner was proud of how well his youngest daughter and driver had battled through some tough times.
“I made a statement that it took Brittany a long time to get her first Top Fuel win. Courtney won right out of the box almost and so did Ashley in a couple different classes. The thing that impressed me about Courtney was she didn’t win last year and she really struggled but she kept fighting. We are rebuilding with Daniel Hood, my son in law, and Ronnie Thompson running that Traxxas Funny Car,” said Force. “
“We have a real strong team over here and they work together really well. I felt a win was coming pretty soon. It is like starting all over when you don’t win for so long, over a year. I am really proud of her,” added the six-time SpringNationals winner. “(Tim) Wilkerson had the best car to beat but to see how he cares about this sport congratulating Courtney on the win. He told her good job when he just lost to her. A lot of drivers don’t like to do that and I am one of them. He cares and that is what makes this sport great.”
The AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car and Robert Hight were upset in the first round by Jack Beckman. Hight launched with Beckman and at about 300 feet he lost traction and had to pedal his Funny Car as his opponent drove away with a 3.958 second pass. In three of the past four seasons Hight has raced to at least the semi-final round at the SpringNationals. The 2009 Funny Car champion has already shifted his focus to the next race on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
“We have had a lot of success at Atlanta and I have won there a number of times and been to a lot of finals. We have had good luck there. All I can say is I really wish it was next weekend after a loss like this where we lose the points lead. Luckily one of our teammates won and kept a JFR Chevy at the top,” said Hight who moved to No. 4 in the point standings. “I want to get right back at it and get that points lead back for this Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro. We are a better team than the last two races have shown.”
With a win at the Gatornationals and two semi-final finishes this is just the second time Hight has not advanced beyond the first round this season.
For just the second time in 2016 the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster did not advance to the second round. Brittany Force entered race day as the points leader and with the No. 7 qualified race car and against Texan Kebin Kinsley the two-time winner came up short. Force lost traction at about 300 feet in the left lane and Kinsley cruised past her with a pedestrian 4.002 second run. Force’s elapsed time of 4.861 seconds was well off her qualifying time of 3.761 seconds.
“Houston was tough for us this week. We struggled a little bit in qualifying battling this weather that has been back and forth. We need to get out of the first round, but we leave with the points lead and that’s probably the most important. We’ll try to keep that momentum (at Atlanta) and stay up there and hopefully improve,” said Brittany Force.
Force is still off to the best start of her young career with two wins and a runner-up finish in six races driving the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster. She will head to the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals as the Top Fuel points leader.
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MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1T. Tim Wilkerson, 439; 1T. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 439; 3. Ron Capps, 417; 4. Robert Hight, AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 404; 5. John Force, PEAK/Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, 384; 6. Jack Beckman, 379; 7. Del Worsham, 376; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 339; 9. Chad Head, 303; 10. Matt Hagan, 280
TOP FUEL – 1. Brittany Force, Monster Energy, 464; 2. Doug Kalitta, 463; 3. Antron Brown, 445; 4. Steve Torrence, 417; 5. Clay Millican, 355; 6. JR Todd, 316; 7. Tony Schumacher, 295; 8. Leah Pritchett, 291; 9. Richie Crampton, 275; 10. Terry McMillen, 274
PRO STOCK – 11. Jason Line, 689; 2. Greg Anderson, 610; 3. Bo Butner, 508; 4. Drew Skillman, 399; 5. Chris McGaha, 339; 6. Allen Johnson, 318; 7. Vincent Nobile, 262; 8. Erica Enders Stevens, 257; 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr, 255; 10. Alex Laughlin, 220
JOHN FORCE, 66, PEAK/Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 10th at 4.005 seconds, 322.11 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race results: Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
ROBERT HIGHT, 46, AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 5th at 3.953 seconds, 324.98 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q4)
Race results: Lost to Jack Beckman.
COURTNEY FORCE, 27, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 3.915 seconds, 320.66 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
Race results: Beat Bob Bode, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr, Tim Wilkerson
BRITTANY FORCE, 29, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 7th at 3.771 seconds, 319.90 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q1)
Race results: Lost to Kebin Kinsley.