A trio of multi-time world championship winners, John Force, Jeg Coughlin Jr. (above), and Matt Smith, were joined by first-time winner Shawn Langdon as the headliners who were crowned Monday evening during the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in West Los Angeles.
The four drivers were honored for their season-long achievements and presented with checks and trophies for winning 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship titles during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.
Southern California native Langdon achieved a lifelong dream by winning his first Top Fuel championship. The 31-year-old racer, who has now won championships at every level of racing in NHRA, captured the title at the end of qualifying during the season-ending race in Pomona. The driver of the Al-Anabi Racing dragster raced to a category-best seven victories, including at Sunday’s Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, to score the $500,000 top prize from NHRA and Mello Yello.
NHRA icon Force celebrated his record 16th world championship title when he clinched it at the season’s penultimate event in Las Vegas at the controls of his 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Force got hot in the Countdown, winning three consecutive races in five straight final-round appearances in the six-race postseason. At 64, Force continues to be the oldest world champion in NHRA history. The Yorba Linda, Calif., driver earned $500,000 from NHRA and Mello Yello for the championship.
Coughlin, 43, earned his fifth Pro Stock world championship and gave Dodge its second consecutive series title and sixth overall. He drove the JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger to four victories in eight final rounds and held off a tough group of challengers down the stretch, including Jason Line, Mike Edwards, and defending champ Allen Johnson. Two of Coughlin’s victories came during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. The Columbus driver, who becomes only the eighth NHRA driver to win five titles, was awarded $250,000 for the series title from NHRA and Mello Yello.
Smith, 41, earned his second world championship title in Pro Stock Motorcycle by racing to four victories in eight final rounds on his Viper Motorcycle Co. Buell, including three victories in four consecutive finals during the Countdown. Smith joined his father, Rickie, who won the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series title, as an NHRA champion this season. It is the first time a father and son have won NHRA championships in the same season. The King, N.C., rider was awarded $75,000 from NHRA and Mello Yello for the championship.
Top Fuel driver Brittany Force was named the winner of the $20,000 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which recognizes the top NHRA rookie of the year. Force won 10 rounds of competition, including a season-best semifinal performance at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona. She also led qualifying Friday and Saturday at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
The driver of the Castrol Edge dragster received the award following voting from a panel of the nation’s top motorsports journalists. She becomes the fifth driver from the John Force Racing stable to win the coveted award, joining teammates Robert Hight and Courtney Force and former team drivers Mike Neff and Ashley Force Hood. The other candidates in the very strong rookie class were Adam Arana, Chad Head, Leah Pritchett, Sidnei Frigo, and Billy Torrence.
For the sixth time overall and third year in a row, Ford was named the NHRA Manufacturers Cup winner. In addition to the last three seasons, Ford won NHRA Manufacturers Cup titles in 1964, 1965, and 1982. Funny Car racers John and Courtney Force, Hight, Bob Tasca III, and Tim Wilkerson and Pro Stock racer Larry Morgan, along with NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series drivers Bo Butner, Drew Skillman, and Sal Biondo, among others, led the winning effort for Ford.
Drivers in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also were recognized as 2013 world champions: Jim Whiteley (Top Alcohol Dragster), Frank Manzo (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Alan Ellis (Comp), Byron Worner (Super Stock), Justin Lamb (Stock), Luke Bogacki (Super Comp), and Rick Beckstrom (Super Gas).
The 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony will be available in its entirety to fans worldwide on the Internet Wednesday, Nov. 13, at NHRA.com and the NHRA channel on YouTube.