A female driver won an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event for the fifth-consecutive time Sunday when Courtney Force raced to her first Funny Car victory of the season at the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, TX, near Houston.
Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson made it six in a row for Team Summit with his third win of the season. Either Anderson or teammate Jason Line has won every event so far in NHRA’s new EFI Pro Stock era after the racing series mandated the switch to fuel injection over the off-season.
Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel was also a winner Sunday.
Force posted a 3.913-second pass at 327.90 miles per hour in her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS to defeat top qualifier Tim Wilkerson, who powered his Ford Shelby Mustang to a 3.943 at 323.81. This is Force’s eighth career win and first since 2014 in St. Louis, MO. She now shares the Funny Car points lead with Wilkerson.
“It was a pretty amazing weekend for our Traxxas Chevy Camaro team,” Force said. “I was nervous going into the final against Wilkerson. I knew what kind of numbers he could put on the board and I knew I just had to be right there with him. We’ve been working really hard and I feel like this one felt even better than my first ever career win. We wanted it more than anything.”
Force defeated Bob Bode, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. in the early rounds before facing Wilkerson in the final.
Wilkerson, a two-time 2016 event winner, battled past Jim Campbell and former world champions Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman to make it to the final round.
With Force’s victory, the NHRA Mello Yello Series has now seen four different female winners in Nitro so far this season — already the most in a single season in NHRA history.
Top Fuel winner Kalitta powered to his first victory of 2016 and third at the NHRA SpringNationals with a final round pass of 3.813 at 280.60 for a holeshot victory in his dragster over top qualifier Steve Torrence. Torrence, a Kilgore, TX native, raced to a 3.810 at 306.81 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,” Kalitta said. “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 outlasted Terry Haddock, Kebin Kinsley and Phoenix winner Leah Pritchett in the earlier rounds.
Torrence’s road to the final wasn’t easy. He sprinted past Rob Passey in the first, and then beat eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher and reigning world champ Brown in the second and third rounds, respectively.
With the win, Kalitta moved to second in points behind Brittany Force by just one point. Force, a two-time 2016 winner, made an early exit in the first round. Brown is third and Torrence is fourth.
This is the first time in NHRA history that sisters have led their respective Nitro category points standings.
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 6.630 at 209.43 to defeat the points-leader’s 6.597 at 209.95 in his Summit Racing Camaro. Anderson, who has three career wins at the SpringNationals, was also the #1 qualifier.
“It was a tremendous day today. I was having a ball out there. I kept wondering when it was going to rain, and then kept saying please don’t, because I felt great,” Anderson said. “The car was great. The car was just a dream to drive. Rob and the boys did a great job with the car and it was a blast to drive. When you can make it all the way to the finals with your teammate, then the gloves come off, you duke it out, you have fun and you have bragging rights for two weeks. I felt a little bit bad for Jason (Line) — just a little bit, though.”
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 trails Line in the points standings by 79.
Two-time world champion Line extended his final-round-appearance streak to six — racing for a Wally in every race this season. He defeated veteran V. Gaines in the opening round before he had a bye in the second and outlasting teammate Bo Butner in the semis.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues May 13-15 with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.
Sunday’s race was the sixth of 24 scheduled for the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
NHRA Pro Stock Point Standings
1. Jason Line 689 2. Greg Anderson 610 3. Bo Butner 508 4. Drew Skillman 399 5. Chris McGaha 339
NHRA Funny Car Point Standings
1. Courtney Force 439 Tim Wilkerson 439 3. Ron Capps 417 4. Robert Hight 404 5. John Force 384
NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings
1. Brittany Force 464 2. Doug Kalitta 463 3. Antron Brown 445 4. Steve Torrence 417 5. Clay Millican 355
NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Point Standings
1. Eddie Krawiec 232 2. Andrew Hines 197 3. Hector Arana 154 4. Chip Ellis 135 5. Jerry Savoie 108
The NHRA and Drag Race Central contributed to this report.