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Force Sisters On Top Of Nitro World

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 2 2016
Scott Kalitta, Courtney Force and Gary Anderson raise their Wallys after winning at the Sprint Nationals near Houston.

Scott Kalitta, Courtney Force and Greg Anderson raise their Wallys after winning at the SpringNationals near Houston.

For the first time in the diverse history of the National Hot Rod Association two women are leading the Top Fuel and Funny Car point standings – and they happen to be siblings.

Courtney Force, 27, scored her first Funny Car victory of the season Sunday, and jumped from sixth into a first-place tie in points with Tim Wilkerson, at the 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals. Meanwhile, 29-year-old Brittany Force retained the point-lead in Top Fuel by the narrowest of margins at the conclusion of the event at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas, near Houston.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also were winners at the season’s sixth event on the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Courtney Force trailered Bob Bode, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr. and No. 1 qualifier Wilkerson en route to her eighth career Funny Car victory.

“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,” said Courtney Force, driver of the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS tuned by crew chiefs Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson. “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. 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; we know we have a better race car than what we showed this weekend and we were able to take home the win.”

Force beat Wilkerson via a 1,000-foot pass in 3.913-seconds at 327.90 mph, while Wilkerson and his  Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang ran 3.943-seconds at 323.81 mph. Force earned her first victory since 2014 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., near St. Louis.

“He (Wilkerson) was the one to beat out here. I think everybody knew that,” said Force, a daughter of 16-time Funny Car world champion/team-owner John Force. “I mean, he (Wilkerson) was running good in the worst conditions. Half the field wasn’t getting down the racetrack 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.

“For our Traxxas team to be able to improve and come from behind and really be able to take him down 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. Alexis (DeJoria) gave me a pep talk before that final round and it’s just great to have all the female support.”

Courtney notched her 105th career Funny Car round-win Sunday, tying older sister Ashley Force Hood _ winner of the SpringNationals in 2009. Force is only the fourth woman to win the SpringNats at RPR. With Courtney’s victory, the series now has seen four different female winners in the Nitro categories in 2016 _ most during a single season in NHRA history.

“I’ve had a couple fans say, ‘Your sister (Brittany) is showing you up!’ And I’m glad that she is, you know?” Courtney said. “It’s been a long time coming. She finally took home a win (at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway) and came right back out and took home another (at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.), 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.” 

Sunday’s win also locked Courtney and 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 near Indianapolis over Labor Day Weekend.

John Force, who red-lighted in his first round match against Johnson of Don Schumacher Racing, spent the rest of the day in the role of proud father. “I made a statement that it took Brittany a long time to get her first Top Fuel win,” Brute Force said. “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.“

Wilkerson, a two-time 2016 event winner who previously drove for John Force Racing, battled past Jim Campbell and former world champions Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman to reach the final.

Top Fuel winner Kalitta powered to his first victory of 2016 and third at the SpringNationals with a 1,000-foot pass of 3.813-seconds at 280.60 mph in a holeshot pass over No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence. A Kilgore, Texas, native and driver of the Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition dragster, Torrence raced to a 3.810-second pass at 306.81 mph, but his slower reaction time proved to be the difference.

Kalitta, the defending and three-time event winner, earned his 39th career victory to tie Antron Brown and Kenny Bernstein for fourth on the Top Fuel all-time wins list.

“I actually didn’t realize I had won until I had gotten to the end and turned around and came back,” said Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools dragster fielded by uncle and drag racing legend Connie Kalitta. “I was real happy. It’s good to get a win and get the momentum going. It just charges everybody up. It was just a really good day for us.”

Kalitta defeated Terry Haddock, Kebin Kinsley and Phoenix-area winner Leah Pritchett in the earlier rounds. Torrence, meanwhile, had no easy route to the final. He sprinted past Rob Passey, eight-time world champion Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and two-time/reigning world champ Brown in the second and third rounds, respectively.

With the win, Kalitta moved into second in the standings behind Brittany Force by one point. Force was a first-round upset victim to native Texan Kinsley. Brown is third in points and Torrence is fourth.

In Pro Stock, Anderson won his third race of the season on a holeshot against Ken Black Racing teammate Jason Line. Anderson pushed his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a quarter-mile pass of 6.630-seconds at 209.43 mph to defeat the point-leader’s 6.597-second run at 209.95 mph in his Summit Racing Camaro. Anderson, who has three career wins at the SpringNationals, also was the No. 1 qualifier. Anderson and Line have combined to win the first six races of 2016; each has three wins.

“It was a tremendous day today,” Anderson said. “I was having a ball today. I just kept wondering, ‘When’s it going to rain? When’s it going to rain? Please don’t because I feel great today.’ My car is great. My car was just a dream to drive every run and I knew I had a great chance today to win.”

Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock world champion, opened eliminations with a bye before defeating Vincent Nobile and Allen Johnson in the second round and semifinals, respectively. Anderson now trails Line in the standings by 79 points.

Line, a two-time world champion, extended his final-round-appearance streak to six, as he has raced for a Wally in every national event this season. Line defeated veteran V. Gaines in the opening round before taking a bye in the second and outlasting teammate Bo Butner in the semifinals.

The series continues May 13-15 with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.

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Final finishing order (1-16) at the 29th annual SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas.  The race was the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel _ 1.  Doug Kalitta; 2.  Steve Torrence; 3.  Antron Brown; 4.  Leah Pritchett; 5.  Shawn Langdon; 6. Tony Schumacher; 7.  Kebin Kinsley; 8.  Scott Palmer; 9.  Troy Buff; 10.  Terry McMillen; 11. Brittany Force; 12.  J.R. Todd; 13.  Richie Crampton; 14.  Clay Millican; 15.  Terry Haddock; 16. Rob Passey.

Funny Car _ 1.  Courtney Force; 2.  Tim Wilkerson; 3.  Jack Beckman; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 5.  Del Worsham; 6. Matt Hagan; 7.  Alexis DeJoria; 8.  Ron Capps; 9.  Chad Head; 10.  Cruz Pedregon; 11.  Todd Simpson; 12.  Robert Hight; 13.  Bob Bode; 14.  John Force; 15.  Jim Campbell; 16.  John Hale.

Pro Stock _1.  Greg Anderson; 2.  Jason Line; 3.  Allen Johnson; 4.  Bo Butner; 5.  Vincent Nobile; 6.  Drew Skillman; 7.  Chris McGaha; 8.  Alex Laughlin; 9.  Erica Enders; 10.  Shane Gray; 11.  Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 12.  Aaron Strong; 13.  V. Gaines.

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Sunday’s final results from the 29th annual SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway.

Top Fuel _ Doug Kalitta, 3.813-seconds, 280.60 mph def. Steve Torrence, 3.810-seconds, 306.81 mph.

Funny Car _ Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.913, 327.90 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.943, 323.81.

Pro Stock _ Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.630, 209.43 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.597, 209.95.

Pro Modified _ Jim Whiteley, Chevy Chevelle, No Time Recorded def. Rickie Smith, Chevy Camaro, Foul – Centerline.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Lee Callaway, 5.285, 271.84 def. Joey Severance, 6.610, 141.46.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Steve Gasparrelli, Chevy Camaro, No Time Recorded was unopposed.

Competition Eliminator _ David Rampy, Bantam, 7.344, 164.69 def. Dick Maris, ProStart, 8.362, 110.26.

Super Stock _ Tommy Phillips, Chevy Cavalier, 9.549, 130.94 def. Jacob Pitt, Dodge Stratus, Foul – Red Light.

Stock Eliminator _ Kevin Helms, Dodge Challenger, 9.136, 137.33 def. Jerry Emmons, Chevy Camaro, 10.441, 115.04.

Super Comp _ Steve Collier, Dragster, 8.912, 175.91 def. Shannon Brinkley, Dragster, 8.897, 172.06.

Super Gas _ Rustin Mayse, Chevy Corvette, 9.900, 149.95 def. Bryan Sandlin, Chevy Camaro, 9.878, 150.40.

Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com _ J.R. Baxter, Dragster, 6.421, 211.96 def. Aaron Stanfield, Dragster, 6.420, 205.41.

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Final round-by-round results from the 29th annual SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway.

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Tony Schumacher, 3.768, 325.61 def. Terry McMillen, 3.889, 306.26; Leah Pritchett, 3.817, 325.37 def. Clay Millican, 6.021, 103.86; Scott Palmer, 3.922, 309.42 def. Richie Crampton, 5.540, 133.43; Doug Kalitta, 3.763, 325.69 def. Terry Haddock, 6.200, 115.25; Steve Torrence, 3.764, 327.27 def. Rob Passey, Broke; Antron Brown, 3.823, 313.66 def. J.R. Todd, 5.054, 142.26; Shawn Langdon, 3.772, 322.42 def. Troy Buff, 3.824, 316.67; Kebin Kinsley, 4.002, 239.10 def. Brittany Force, 4.861, 185.69;

QUARTERFINALS _ Brown, 3.780, 321.27 def. Palmer, 4.014, 266.69; Pritchett, 3.745, 329.18 def. Langdon, 3.762, 318.77; Torrence, 3.742, 328.30 def. Schumacher, 3.808, 318.77; Kalitta, 4.309, 200.80 def. Kinsley, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS _ Kalitta, 3.755, 322.11 def. Pritchett, 4.639, 187.08; Torrence, 3.730, 327.03 def. Brown, 3.769, 309.34;

FINAL _ Kalitta, 3.813, 280.60 def. Torrence, 3.810, 306.81.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE _ Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.037, 307.02 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 7.728, 80.43; Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.946, 324.83 def. Todd Simpson, Chevy Camaro, 4.244, 284.45; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.939, 321.73 def. John Hale, Charger, Broke; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.951, 321.04 def. Bob Bode, Toyota Solara, 5.847, 125.66; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.958, 319.67 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.562, 216.20; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.032, 315.93 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.037, 312.57; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.987, 316.97 def. John Force, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.998, 317.64 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.010, 315.56;

QUARTERFINALS _ C. Force, 3.962, 318.17 def. Capps, 4.674, 179.56; Johnson Jr., 3.985, 316.97 def. DeJoria, 3.971, 321.58; Beckman, 3.949, 325.22 def. Worsham, 3.944, 324.59; Wilkerson, 3.926, 323.50 def. Hagan, 3.954, 324.59;

SEMIFINALS _ C. Force, 3.932, 327.03 def. Johnson Jr., 3.964, 317.34; Wilkerson, 3.906, 325.14 def. Beckman, 3.941, 322.04;

FINAL _ C. Force, 3.913, 327.90 def. Wilkerson, 3.943, 323.81.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.655, 207.50 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.651, 208.10; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.668, 206.26 def. Erica Enders, Dodge Dart, 6.659, 207.18; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.635, 208.46 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.661, 208.30; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.973, 160.63 def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, Foul – Red Light; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.636, 208.65 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.708, 206.61; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.608, 209.43 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 13.741, 58.89; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.597, 209.92 was unopposed;

QUARTERFINALS _ Butner, 6.636, 208.84 def. McGaha, Foul – Red Light; Johnson, 6.655, 208.42 def. Skillman, 7.511, 139.57; Line, 6.602, 209.72 was unopposed; Anderson, 6.598, 210.08 def. Nobile, 6.659, 208.49;

SEMIFINALS _ Line, 6.605, 209.62 def. Butner, 6.649, 208.84; Anderson, 6.604, 209.85 def. Johnson, 6.644, 208.23;

FINAL _ Anderson, 6.630, 209.43 def. Line, 6.597, 209.95.

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Point standings (top-10) following the 29th annual SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway.

Top Fuel _ 1.  Brittany Force, 464; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 463; 3.  Antron Brown, 445; 4.  Steve Torrence, 417; 5. Clay Millican, 355; 6.  J.R. Todd, 316; 7.  Tony Schumacher, 295; 8.  Leah Pritchett, 291; 9. Richie Crampton, 275; 10.  Terry McMillen, 259.

Funny Car _ 1.  (tie) Courtney Force, 439; (tie) Tim Wilkerson, 439; 3.  Ron Capps, 417; 4.  Robert Hight, 404; 5. John Force, 384; 6.  Jack Beckman, 379; 7.  Del Worsham, 376; 8.  Alexis DeJoria, 339; 9.  Chad Head, 303; 10.  Matt Hagan, 280.

Pro Stock _ 1.  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, 257; 9.  Jeg Coughlin Jr., 255; 10.  Alex Laughlin, 220.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 2 2016
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