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Courtney Force Finishes Off Big Day For Women

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 18 2013

Courtney Force is congratulated by her team owner/father, John Force, after winning the Funny Car portion of the Winternationals. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

NASCAR’s Danica Patrick wasn’t the only woman creating motorsports headlines Sunday.

Drag racer Courtney Force began her second season in the NHRA’s Funny Car ranks with a victory in the 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

After posting the third No. 1 qualifier of her career on Saturday, Force powered her Traxxas Ford Mustang past the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger driven by Ron Capps with a 1,000-foot pass of 4.025-seconds – quickest of the weekend – at 317.12 mph.

“It was definitely pretty unbelievable,” said Force, 24, who scored her second career victory. “My team, (crew chiefs) Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, thanks to them, they had given me a great race car all weekend long. I just try to keep it straight down the center and they really made my job easy. I really owe it to those guys. It was kind of bittersweet finishing here (at the NHRA Finals in November) and not getting that win, then coming back and picking up where we left off and finishing our job. We got the win and I’m just proud of my team.”

In Florida, Patrick became the first woman to earn a Sprint Cup Series pole during qualifications for the Daytona 500 Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. Patrick, a Cup rookie, will share the two-car front row next Sunday with four-time series champion Jeff Gordon.

Back in Southern California, Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) also were winners at the first of 24 events in the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Additionally, reigning Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown escaped serious injury in a fiery, rollover crash during his second-round race against David Grubnic.

Force, a daughter of 15-time Funny Car world champion and team-owner John Force, is the fourth person to qualify No. 1 and win the Winternationals during the last 25 years. She defeated No. 16 qualifier Phil Burkart Jr. to start her day and never looked back, adding wins against 2011 world champion Matt Hagan and fellow-Ford racer Bob Tasca III in the semifinals. Tasca handed the win to Force when he fouled at the Christmas Tree, setting up the final against Capps.

“Going against Capps I was honestly terrified,” said Force, who saw Capps eliminate her father in the opening round. “I knew the last time I ran him it was out here in the finals and I knew he wanted revenge. He got lane-choice over me and it definitely made me nervous. Going down there my car was flying. It got over to the centerline and I just held onto it because I didn’t know, I thought maybe he was right out my window. I wasn’t looking over in his lane, I was just paying attention to my own, trying to keep it straight and get past the finish line to get that win and was able to get the job done.”

A resident of Yorba, Linda, Calif., Force is leading the points for the first time in her brief career. “It’s pretty surreal and crazy that we went to the top spot and I’m leaving here in the points lead,” said Force, NHRA’s 2012 Rookie of the Year. “That’s just crazy to me and it’s exciting to be out here at my home track. We had a good hot rod and we had a good day.”

In Top Fuel, Langdon drove his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to the win with a 1,000-foot pass of 3.721-seconds at 322.27 mph against seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team.

“Couldn’t have scripted it any better really,” said Langdon, who also scored his second career victory. “We struggled a little in qualifying. We didn’t really have the car that we thought we should have had, but we qualified seventh. We knew the things we learned in testing that we had a car capable of winning. It showed today.”

Earlier, Brown emerged from the wreckage of his Matco Tools dragster under his own power following a horrific crash. Brown, who clinched his first world title at Pomona in November, suffered only minor injuries in the incident.

DSR reported that an apparent engine malfunction launched debris at nearly 300 mph, destroying the car’s rear wing. The resulting loss of downforce sent Brown’s dragster sliding on its side from the right lane into the left lane after it crossed the finish line. Brown was travelling at 308.64 mph when he crossed the finish line, moments before the engine exploded.

Brown backed into the concrete wall on the left side of the track with enough impact to do significant damage to the structure, delaying racing for 1 hour, 28 minutes while it was being repaired.

“I’m good,” Brown said after being checked out by medical staff. “I remember going to (the finish line). Everything was going fine. I didn’t hear anybody around me so I was, like, ‘We’re doing good.’ All of a sudden I just remember the car just snapping. Basically, when (the engine) blew up, I felt the back end come up and all I remember was going over on my side. And then I remember pulling the brakes and everything else and I couldn’t do anything else.”

Brown was thankful to be competing for the first time with a DSR-designed cockpit canopy manufactured by Aerodine Composites. “The windshield is five-eighths-of-an-inch thick. Nothing got to me,” Brown said. “When I hit the sand trap (at the end of the pavement), I saw stones flying all over the place but I didn’t get dusty, nothing got into me. It really, really did its job. I remember turning the fresh air on because the (nitro) fumes were getting to me. Thank God that canopy is on our car because when we hit that sand trap it really kept everything away from me and the fire away from me.

“I can’t thank the NHRA Safety Safari enough because when I was upside-down, I already saw their truck pulled up by the sand pit. I saw the guys running out. They were able to lift my car up on its side a little bit. I was able to get my canopy open, and I undid my seatbelts myself and I got out. I’m just grateful we had that thing on our car because I don’t know what would’ve happened if we would’ve had (the old-style, open cockpit) setup on the front of the car.”

In Pro Stock, Nobile claimed his sixth career victory with a quarter-mile performance of 6.584-seconds at 210.05 mph in his Hemi-powered Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger, taking the automatic victory when teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. red-lighted at the starting line in his JEGS.com/Mopar Avenger.

That run featured considerable drama as Nobile stalled his car after the burnout and struggled to get it re-fired. But Coughlin also had his share of problems as his car stalled on the line. “We messed with the carburetors before the final in order to fix a problem and we ended up hurting something else,” said Nobile, 21. “After the burnout the car actually stalled on me. Then Jeg’s car stalled. I didn’t know what was going on. At one point they told me that he was broken and that I was getting a single run and then his car started again. It was crazy but thankfully, we got the win.”

The tour will roll into Chandler, Ariz., beginning Friday for the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.

Final finish order (1-16) at the 53rd annual O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona:

TOP FUEL _1. Shawn Langdon; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Khalid alBalooshi; 4. Antron Brown; 5. Brandon Bernstein; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. David Grubnic; 9. Spencer Massey; 10. Morgan Lucas; 11. Bob Vandergriff Jr.; 12. Clay Millican; 13. Brittany Force; 14. Sidnei Frigo; 15. Leah Pruett; 16. Larry Dixon.

FUNNY CAR _1. Courtney Force; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Johnny Gray; 4. Bob Tasca III; 5. Todd Lesenko; 6. Cruz Pedregon; 7. Matt Hagan; 8. Gary Densham; 9. John Force; 10. Del Worsham; 11. Tony Pedregon; 12. Robert Hight; 13. Jack Beckman; 14. Alexis DeJoria; 15. Phil Burkart Jr.; 16. Tim Wilkerson.

PRO STOCK _ 1. Vincent Nobile; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 3. V. Gaines; 4. Greg Stanfield; 5. Allen Johnson; 6. Shane Gray; 7. Kurt Johnson; 8. Chris McGaha; 9. Jason Line; 10. Steve Kent; 11. Deric Kramer; 12. Greg Anderson; 13. Erica Enders-Stevens; 14. Matt Hartford; 15. Mike Edwards; 16. Rodger Brogdon.

Final results from the 53rd annual O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona:

Top Fuel _ Shawn Langdon, 3.721-seconds, 322.27 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 3.747-seconds, 324.12 mph.

Funny Car _ Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.025, 317.12 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T, 6.090, 116.32.

Pro Stock _ Vincent Nobile, Dodge Avenger, 6.584, 210.05 def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, foul.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Jim Whiteley, 5.245, 273.39 def. Chris Demke, 5.271, 270.86.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ John Lombardo Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.555, 261.17 def. Jason Rupert, Monte Carlo, 5.653, 255.63.

Competition Eliminator_ Ross Wilson, Pontiac Sunfire, 8.167, 165.50 def. Alan Ellis, ’23-T Ford, 6.604, 204.54.

Super Stock_ Jimmy DeFrank, Chevy Cobalt, 9.316, 113.03 def. Mike Cotten, Plymouth Barracuda, foul.

Stock Eliminator _ Jimmy DeFrank, Chevy Camaro, 10.372, 126.42 def. Michael Iacono, Camaro, 11.069, 115.53.

Super Comp _ Phil Dion, Dragster, 8.934, 168.14 def. Scott Taylor, Dragster, 9.123, 165.33.

Super Gas _ Rick Beckstrom, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.904, 160.71 def. Peter Bothe, Porsche, 9.927, 148.09.

Final round-by-round results from the 53rd annual O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona:


ROUND ONE _ Shawn Langdon, 3.803, 294.37 def. Clay Millican, 3.811, 321.42; Antron Brown, 3.855, 293.60 def. Larry Dixon, 3.881, 310.34; Brandon Bernstein, 3.785, 324.44 def. Brittany Force, 3.822, 323.43; Tony Schumacher, 3.756, 326.40 def. Sidnei Frigo, 3.849, 317.57; Doug Kalitta, 3.799, 326.71 def. Leah Pruett, 3.850, 309.56; David Grubnic, 3.741, 325.69 def. Morgan Lucas, 3.764, 328.14; Khalid alBalooshi, 3.769, 326.40 def. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.810, 324.36; Steve Torrence, 3.787, 322.81 def. Spencer Massey, 3.763, 326.63;

QUARTERFINALS _ Langdon, 3.738, 327.43 def. Bernstein, 3.775, 323.89; alBalooshi, 3.782, 320.66 def. Kalitta, 3.800, 325.22; Brown, 3.848, 308.64 def. Grubnic, 4.976, 139.07; Schumacher, 3.756, 322.19 def. Torrence, 3.782, 324.28;

SEMIFINALS _ Schumacher, 6.465, 96.17 def. Brown, broke; Langdon, 3.749, 324.67 def. alBalooshi, 4.326, 195.25;

FINAL _ Langdon, 3.721, 322.27 def. Schumacher, 3.747, 324.12.


ROUND ONE _ Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 5.165, 247.75 def. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 5.416, 201.04; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.137, 311.56 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.615, 234.21; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.066, 316.97 def. Phil Burkart Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 7.183, 88.37; Todd Lesenko, Dodge Charger, 5.013, 176.33 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 5.457, 149.45; Gary Densham, Charger, 5.023, 173.21 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 5.071, 151.58; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.108, 313.58 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.119, 313.07; Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.056, 314.31 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 6.255, 107.43; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.346, 227.84 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, foul;

QUARTERFINALS _ Capps, 4.251, 241.84 def. Densham, 5.808, 105.41; Gray, 4.038, 307.72 def. Lesenko, 4.202, 307.30; C. Force, 4.070, 312.64 def. Hagan, 5.668, 140.31; Tasca III, 4.154, 311.20 def. C. Pedregon, 4.523, 189.15;

SEMIFINALS _ Capps, 4.036, 316.23 def. Gray, 4.056, 301.07; C. Force, 10.422, 49.91 def. Tasca III, foul;

FINAL _ C. Force, 4.025, 317.12 def. Capps, 6.090, 116.32.


ROUND ONE _ Greg Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 6.599, 209.56 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.686, 208.88; Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.602, 211.10 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 13.918, 62.30; Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.572, 211.10 def. Steve Kent, Pontiac GXP, 6.600, 209.33; Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.596, 210.14 def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Cobalt, 8.682, 92.42; Chris McGaha, Avenger, 6.599, 210.31 def. Mike Edwards, Camaro, 12.362, 61.44; V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.557, 211.93 def. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.614, 209.04; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.604, 209.88 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.570, 212.19; Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.580, 210.60 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 10.367, 88.35;

QUARTERFINALS _ Stanfield, 6.616, 208.68 def. McGaha, DQ; Nobile, 6.592, 210.01 def. Gray, 6.644, 209.33; Gaines, 6.566, 211.06 def. A. Johnson, 6.575, 210.77; Coughlin, 6.569, 210.47 def. K. Johnson, 6.672, 207.75;

SEMIFINALS _ Nobile, 6.575, 210.34 def. Stanfield, 6.588, 209.75; Coughlin, 6.574, 208.42 def. Gaines, 6.538, 212.23;

FINAL _ Nobile, 6.584, 210.05 def. Coughlin, foul.

Point standings (top 10) following the 53rd annual O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals:

Top Fuel _1. Shawn Langdon, 116; 2. Tony Schumacher, 106; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, 74; 4. Antron Brown, 67; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 60; 6. Doug Kalitta, 59; 7. David Grubnic, 55; 8. Steve Torrence, 53; 9. Spencer Massey, 34; 10. Clay Millican, 33.

Funny Car _1. Courtney Force, 124; 2. Ron Capps, 94; 3. Johnny Gray, 76; 4. Bob Tasca III, 71; 5. Gary Densham, 60; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 56; 7. Matt Hagan, 52; 8. Todd Lesenko, 51; 9. Jack Beckman, 43; 10. Del Worsham, 38.

Pro Stock _1. Vincent Nobile, 118; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 95; 3. V. Gaines, 81; 4. Greg Stanfield, 72; 5. Allen Johnson, 52; 6. (tie) Shane Gray, 51; Kurt Johnson, 51; Chris McGaha, 51; 9. Mike Edwards, 45; 10. Erica Enders-Stevens, 42.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 18 2013
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