Courtney Force raced to her second consecutive Funny Car victory in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs Sunday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis in the third of six playoff races.
Courtney Force raced past her father, 16-time world champ John Force, in the semifinals and then used a performance of 4.094 seconds at 313.44 mph in her Traxxas Ford Mustang to hold off 2011 world champ Hagan’s Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, which trailed with a 4.121 at 309.77. The win in the final round also lifted her to within 30 points of her dad, the series leader.
“It’s pretty awesome, for sure,” said Force who became the first woman in NHRA history to win back-to-back races in Funny Car. “To have back-to-back wins and make a move in the Countdown is just huge for us. We need to create a gap between us and everyone behind us and climb our way up to catch dad if we want to win this championship. That’s what we have our eyes set on right now.
“I’m proud of my guys for giving me a great race car,” she continued. “We got things turned around at the right time. Right here at the start of the Countdown to the Championship is when we need to have a consistent race car, and I think that’s what we’ve got so far.”
Courtney Force also defeated Bob Tasca and Del Worsham in earlier rounds. It was her fourth victory of the season and seventh of her career. It is the first time that a father and daughter have held the top two spots in the points standings. “Everyone is so tough in this class that I’m definitely going to savor this moment with dad and I at numbers one and two,” she said.
Hagan moved to third in the points order with his second Countdown final-round appearance. He sits 42 points back of the leader.
In Top Fuel, Brown put his team back in the championship conversation by racing past defending world champ Shawn Langdon in the final round. Brown pulled away in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.844 at 315.42, while Langdon’s Al-Anabi Racing dragster slowed near mid-track and finished in 4.035 at 279.38.
“This was a big day for us,” said Brown, who defeated Brittany Force, Terry McMillen and Steve Torrence to advance to the final. “We came into this race knowing our backs are against the wall. We’ve just been struggling at the last four races. We’ve been working hard, but no matter what we do, our car wasn’t cooperating with us. We got it back. It didn’t do exactly what we wanted it to do in the last two rounds, but it was close, and we were competitive to actually pull off this win today.”
It was the third straight and fourth overall win at this event for Brown, who moved to fourth in the standings, 80 points back of his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and series leader Tony Schumacher, who was upset by McMillen in the first round.
“St. Louis has always been a good turning point for us,” Brown said. “The more pressure that’s on us and the more our backs are against the wall, the more focused our team gets to do what we need to get the job done. It shows you how brutal this class is. All these Countdown boys are playing hard. We’re back in that fighting mode. With three races left, we have to keep pushing to do what we need to do.”
Langdon moved to second in the standings with the runner-up finish and now trails Schumacher by 57. Semifinalist Torrence is third in the standings 71 back of Schumacher.
Connolly took his second consecutive Pro Stock win in a photo finish over series points leader Jason Line. Connolly’s Charter Communications Chevy Camaro clocked a 6.562 at 211.53 to edge Line’s Summit Racing Equipment Camaro at the finish line, which posted a 6.565 at 211.66.
Connolly defeated Chris McGaha, V. Gaines and top qualifier Erica Enders-Stevens en route to the fourth win in a row for the Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team, which includes victories by his teammates Shane Gray and Jonathan Gray.
“The four wins in a row; that’s what’s most impressive to me,” Connolly said. “That tells you the depth of Gray Motorsports. I’m having a blast racing with them this year. We’re getting breaks and everything is going our way. This is a humbling sport; it can turn on you any time. We’re going to enjoy the wins as they come.”
With the win, Connolly cut Line’s points lead to 26. He says that final round meeting was a huge one to win.
“It’s a two-for-one,” Connolly said. “If Jason would have won he’d be up by three rounds. Instead we cut it back to one. We’ve got to stop him from going rounds.”
Louisiana alligator farmer Savoie earned his first career Pro Stock Motorcycle victory by outrunning series points leader Andrew Hines in the final round. Savoie rode his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki to a winning performance of 6.871 at 196.53 while Hines’ Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson trailed with a 6.881 at 193.57.
It was the third final round appearance of the season for Savoie, who is not eligible for the Countdown. He defeated Craig Treble, John Hall and Hector Arana Jr. to advance to his fifth career final.
“We had a good bike all weekend,” Savoie said. “It’s all good. Drag racing is a family thing. It’s amazing that the whole Pro Stock Motorcycle pit was so happy for me. I always said if I ever won one of these I would retire. Well, I lied.”
With the runner-up finish Hines increased his series lead to 57 over second place Eddie Krawiec.
The NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship continues Oct. 2-5, with the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
(Photos courtesy NHRA/National Dragster; JFR)
MADISON, Ill. — Final round-by-round results from the third annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park, the 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the third of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship:
ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.799, 319.22 def. Brittany Force, 3.837, 319.52; Shawn Langdon, 3.785, 318.02 def. Pat Dakin, 3.951, 300.00; Kyle Wurtzel, 3.911, 310.84 def. Richie Crampton, 3.950, 263.82; Doug Kalitta, 3.796, 323.35 def. Chris Karamesines, 3.954, 287.47; Terry McMillen, 3.878, 316.90 def. Tony Schumacher, 5.283, 137.54; J.R. Todd, 4.380, 233.40 def. Troy Buff, broke; Steve Torrence, 3.781, 325.61 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 11.568, 43.79; Bob Vandergriff, 3.841, 319.37 def. Spencer Massey, 5.241, 133.68; QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 3.814, 316.45 def. McMillen, 4.661, 165.74; Vandergriff, 4.736, 281.25 def. Kalitta, 6.436, 145.19; Langdon, 3.827, 316.90 def. Todd, 3.952, 305.15; Torrence, 3.865, 321.35 def. Wurtzel, 4.005, 245.54; SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 3.810, 316.15 def. Vandergriff, 9.901, 85.99; Brown, 3.846, 317.87 def. Torrence, 3.817, 324.36; FINAL — Brown, 3.844, 315.42 def. Langdon, 4.035, 279.38.
ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.158, 299.06 def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.170, 285.65; Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.101, 314.31 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 8.380, 85.49; John Force, Mustang, 4.103, 312.35 def. Brian Stewart, Mustang, 4.193, 303.98; Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.500, 231.79 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.562, 187.31; Chad Head, Camry, 4.121, 305.98 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.097, 311.49; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.123, 305.29 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, broke; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.128, 307.51 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.146, 310.27; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.122, 308.50 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.153, 306.19; QUARTERFINALS — Hagan, 4.139, 307.44 def. Arend, 11.966, 63.61; Head, 4.155, 308.21 def. Johnson Jr., broke; C. Force, 4.154, 311.13 def. Worsham, 10.873, 70.40; J. Force, 4.111, 312.50 def. Capps, 4.166, 308.92; SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.158, 302.96 def. Head, 4.903, 211.03; C. Force, 4.143, 311.56 def. J. Force, 4.119, 311.27; FINAL — C. Force, 4.094, 313.44 def. Hagan, 4.121, 309.77.
ROUND ONE — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.540, 211.49 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 25.156, 38.24; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.532, 212.43 def. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.553, 211.26; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.544, 212.43 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, foul; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.538, 211.59 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.614, 209.56; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.556, 211.76 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, foul; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.537, 211.99 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.603, 208.62; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.514, 212.66 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.651, 208.78; V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.562, 211.16 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.546, 211.30; QUARTERFINALS — Line, 6.567, 211.86 def. Nobile, 19.541, 38.66; Connolly, 6.551, 211.53 def. Gaines, 6.572, 210.97; Coughlin, 6.567, 211.20 def. Johnson, 11.865, 73.96; Enders-Stevens, 6.538, 212.39 def. J. Gray, 6.590, 206.48; SEMIFINALS — Line, 6.595, 211.53 def. Coughlin, 6.573, 212.13; Connolly, 6.576, 211.46 def. Enders-Stevens, 15.947, 52.67; FINAL — Connolly, 6.562, 211.53 def. Line, 6.565, 211.66.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
ROUND ONE — John Hall, Buell, 6.972, 178.59 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.035, 188.94; Adam Arana, Buell, 6.898, 194.35 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.893, 192.77; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.923, 195.62 def. Angelle Sampey, Buell, foul; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.895, 194.69 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.900, 191.54; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.837, 195.25 def. Angie Smith, Buell, foul; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.823, 196.56 def. Craig Treble, Buell, broke; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.803, 197.39 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.016, 191.81; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 8.885, 99.35 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, foul; QUARTERFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.909, 192.71 def. H. Arana, 7.033, 194.27; Hines, 6.856, 193.24 def. Johnson, foul; Savoie, 6.865, 196.19 def. Hall, foul; Krawiec, 6.856, 194.66 def. A. Arana, 6.943, 193.10; SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.824, 197.54 def. Arana Jr, 6.927, 192.63; Hines, 6.874, 193.77 def. Krawiec, 6.863, 194.88; FINAL — Savoie, 6.871, 196.53 def. Hines, 6.881, 193.57.
MADISON, Ill. — Sunday’s final results from the third annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park. The race is the 21st of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the third of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship:
Competition Eliminator — Greg Kamplain, Dragster, 6.874, 193.74 def. Jim Greenheck, Chevy Camaro, 7.289, 185.66.
Super Stock — Joe Santangelo, Chevy Camaro, 9.199, 116.74 def. Brett Speer, Camaro, foul.
Stock Eliminator — Tyler Wudarczyk, Chevy Nova, 11.307, 103.62 def. Ryan Montford, Chevy Camaro, foul.
Super Comp — Rustin Mayse, Dragster, 8.905, 175.71 def. Jeff Lopez, Dragster, foul.
Super Gas — Jason Kenny, Chevy Corvette, 9.868, 161.77 def. Nick Folk, Camaro, foul.
Top Dragster — JB Strassweg, Dragster, 6.607, 189.42 def. Phillip Oakley, Dragster, 6.885, 204.79.
Top Sportsman — Bob Mandell Jr., Chevy Bel Air, 6.710, 197.59 def. Ryan Kuykendall, Dodge Stratus, 9.081, 102.04.