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Female Drag Racers Close In On Milestone At ZMAX

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 11 2014

Courtney Force is one of a group of top female drag racers who have shot at wins this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – On any given race weekend, a track record is always a possibility, but this Sunday in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway a milestone could be reached in the victory department.

Women competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series have totaled 98 victories since Shirley Muldowney broke the gender barrier on June 13, 1976 in Columbus, Ohio, with her first Top Fuel win in a NHRA national event. Since that historic day 14 women have won a NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series event. The most recent were Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock). Both won in their respective classes two weeks ago at Las Vegas with Enders-Stevens being credited with the 98th victory.

“I was actually unaware that we were that close (to 100) until our win in Vegas,” Enders-Stevens said. “As a racer, you don’t want to be viewed any differently, but the female thing is a really cool aspect, especially since there are so many talented and successful female drivers in professional racing right now and in the sportsman ranks as well.

“I started racing when I was 8 years old and worked my way through the sportsman ranks. I’ve been trying to make this Pro Stock deal work for 10 years now. I’ve dedicated 22 years of my life to it and absolutely love it. I eat, sleep and breathe it, but to be able to get that 100th win for a female would be huge.”

This weekend at zMAX Dragway eight women are competing across the four pro series: Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett in Top Fuel; Courtney Force and DeJoria in Funny Car; Enders-Stevens in Pro Stock; and Angie Smith, Katie Sullivan and Elvira Karlsson in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Entering zMAX Enders-Stevens leads the Pro Stock standings, a class where the New Orleans resident is the sole woman competing. In fact, only six women have ever competed in Pro Stock. Eighteen women have competed in Top Fuel, 14 in Funny Car and 16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Angelle Sampey, a former motorcycle competitor, leads the women in victories with 41. Next it’s Muldowney with 18 in Top Fuel.

Erica Enders-Stevens is a proven winner. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

They are the only women in double digits in the victory department. They also are the only women to claim championships in the NHRA’s professional series. Muldowney won the Top Fuel title in 1977, ’80 and ’82. Sampey took the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship 2000-02.

So why are women more successful in drag racing than any other form of motorsports? Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Steve Johnson, who pocketed a Gatornationals victory earlier this year, said it’s because women listen to the experts on how to drive.

“I relate this back to Angelle. She listened to everything (owner) George Bryce said and she’s a three-time champion,” Johnson said. “I hated her, but she kicked ass and she won. I asked and George said, ‘They listen.’”

Enders-Stevens believes women have been successful in drag racing because of the platform provided by the NHRA.

“You don’t go to a NASCAR race and get to see the different sportsman ranks working their way up, all the way down to kids racing,” she said. “Here, at a national event, you get to see the Junior Dragster guys and gals go out and make exhibition runs. Then Super Street all the way up to Comp Eliminator, Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Alcohol Funny Car, all the Sportsman ranks get to compete at the same facility at the same time as the pro drivers. I think the opportunity is more prevalent here than in any other sport.”

In qualifying Friday at zMAX, DeJoria led the first Funny Car session with an ET of 4.113 seconds. She was ninth, however, after the second session. Courtney Force briefly set atop the chart in the second session with an ET of 4.086. However, she had dropped to sixth by the time the session had ended. Still, she had top speed for the day – 314.75 mph.

After the second session in Top Fuel, Brittany Force was fourth with an ET of 3.800 and Pritchett’s 3.856 ET left her 11th. However, Force had the top speed of the day – 325.61 mph.

Enders-Stevens was second with an ET of 6.524, just a tick behind leader Chris McGaha’s 6.523. However, she, too, had the day’s top speed with 213.13 mph. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith was the only woman in the top 16. She was ninth with an ET of 6.875. Karlsson was 18th and Sullivan 22nd with ETs of 7.060 and 7.765, respectively.

Langdon, Capps, McGaha, Ray Lead

After Friday’s two qualifying sessions in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, Shawn Langdon led in Top Fuel and Ron Capps in Funny Car, while Chris McGaha was No. 1 in Pro Stock and Michael Ray set atop the field in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Matt Smith set a track record in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a speed of 198.32 mph, but was fifth in ET, 6.871. Ray had a 6.816 ET. The old track record was 196.79 mph set in September 2011 by Eddie Krawiec.

Langdon, who was second after the first session, displaced J.R. Todd from the top spot in the day’s second session with an ET of 3.753. Todd was second at 3.781. However, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence showed just how close everyone was with ETs of 3.815, 3.816 and 3.818, respectively, in the second session for fifth, sixth and seventh.

In Funny Car, Capps turned in an ET of 4.059 to walk away with the No. 1 position in that class. McGaha led Pro Stock with low ET, 6.523.

Qualifying resumes Saturday afternoon with eliminations set for Sunday.

Results Friday after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the Fifth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday forSunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Shawn Langdon, 3.753 seconds, 323.35 mph; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.781, 325.06; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.793, 324.98; 4. Brittany Force, 3.800, 325.61; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.815, 321.73; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.816, 322.42; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.818, 322.81; 8. Antron Brown, 3.823, 319.45; 9. Spencer Massey, 3.827, 321.42; 10. Pat Dakin, 3.841, 313.15; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.856, 318.77; 12. Clay Millican, 3.904, 270.54; 13. Richie Crampton, 4.941, 97.52; 14. Bob Vandergriff, 4.949, 145.08; 15. Terry McMillen, 6.484, 106.58; 16. Sidnei Frigo, 6.543, 104.17.

Funny Car — 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.059, 314.24; 2. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 311.99; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.079, 308.57; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.080, 311.70; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.084, 312.06; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.086, 314.75; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.088, 310.91; 8. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.097, 284.56; 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 308.43; 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.119, 303.84; 11. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.145, 306.05; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.167, 261.42; 13. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.206, 286.80; 14. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.317, 220.80; 15. John Force, Mustang, 4.441, 204.08; 16. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.690, 195.28.

Not Qualified: 17. Chad Head, 4.968, 157.95.

Pro Stock — 1. Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 213.10; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.524, 213.13; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.531, 212.59; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.534, 212.79; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.538, 212.69; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.542, 212.73; 7. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.546, 212.49; 8. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.550, 212.39; 9. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.560, 212.63; 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.564, 211.93; 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.577, 211.46; 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.577, 210.80; 13. Robert Patrick, Ford Mustang, 6.616, 209.43; 14. Justin Humphreys, Pontiac GXP, 6.690, 208.36; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, GXP, 7.327, 145.45; 16. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 15.375, 66.92.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.816, 197.02; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.825, 196.24; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.843, 197.91; 4. John Hall, Buell, 6.846, 196.07; 5. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.871, 198.32; 6. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.873, 195.19; 7. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.873, 193.29; 8. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.874, 195.31; 9. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.875, 194.02; 10. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.892, 195.59; 11. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.900, 194.10; 12. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.926, 192.69; 13. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.933, 197.48; 14. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.954, 193.99; 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.956, 194.46; 16. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.998, 191.08.

Not Qualified: 17. Freddie Camarena, 7.030, 193.88; 18. Elvira Karlsson, 7.060, 188.33; 19. Joe DeSantis, 7.164, 186.54; 20. Justin Finley, 7.273, 186.69; 21. Junior Pippin, 7.331, 164.03; 22. Katie Sullivan, 7.765, 125.29.

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 11 2014
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