Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – BAYTOWN, TX – A strong start, including her first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series win since 2016, has Courtney Force excited about the upcoming three-race stretch that starts at this weekend’s NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
Add in the fact that her 2016 victory took place at the Houston-area track, the Funny Car standout is eager to build on a 2018 season that already includes a win at Phoenix, two No. 1 qualifiers, and second-place spot in points in her 10,000-horsepower Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS. The NHRA SpringNationals starts the first of many busy stretches in 2018, but Force views this weekend as the next opportunity to further her early-season momentum.
“I love going into a three-race stretch being that you can usually keep your momentum going,” Force said. “However it all starts with the first race, Houston. We are looking for success there so we can have that confidence for the next two races. These three races will fly by so it’s important to maintain your focus and confidence because points can change drastically. Our entire Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro team is extremely encouraged by how we have performed.”
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 22. It marks the fifth of 24 races in a 2018 season that started with changes for Force, but has followed with a run of consistent performances.
Brian Corradi was added to the team, joining Danny Hood as crew chief on Force’s Camaro and the results have been impressive, as the nine-time Funny Car winner hasn’t qualified lower than fourth in 2018. She advanced to the final foursome at the most recent event in Las Vegas, giving her added confidence and putting the team in a strong position heading into Houston.
“It’s important to have this confidence for our team so early on in the season and that’s because of the performance from my crew chiefs Corradi and Hood,” Force said. “To be able to build momentum before going into the summer is huge. Our team has had a lot of success in Texas and we hope to get another win at this track and work to take over that top spot.”
That will certainly be a challenge in a loaded Funny Car field led by points leader Jack Beckman, who won in Gainesville. He’s far from the only star in the class, as Force will also have to deal with the likes of Pomona winner Matt Hagan, and Vegas winner J.R. Todd, as well as her John Force Racing teammates Robert Hight, the defending world champion, and John Force, who has seven Houston wins. It has caused Courtney Force to continue to push forward this year, as she hopes to build on the early success and turn that into more race wins throughout 2018.
“We are in a category that is insanely competitive,” said Force, the winnginest female in Funny Car history. “These teams are running their race cars so close and right on the edge. It’s important to have our focus now and get ourselves in a good spot during the summer. Having one win under our belt this early on is great, but it’s time to continue to push forward and get another win soon. Having a consistent racecar going rounds each race will be huge. This is a team effort and I feel so fortunate to have such a positive and motivating team behind me. We all continue to push each other so we can hopefully reach our ultimate goal at the end of the season.”
Pritchett is after her first win of 2018 in Top Fuel following her hot start a year ago. She’ll have to do it against the likes of points leader and Texas native Steve Torrence, defending world champion Brittany Force, Gainesville winner Richie Crampton, and Pomona winner Doug Kalitta.
Defending Pro Stock world champ Butner is the current points leader and won in Pomona. He will look to fend off the likes of Vegas winner Vincent Nobile and Phoenix winner Chris McGaha.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes its second of 12 stops in 2018 at Royal Purple Raceway. Rickie Smith won the season-opener at Gainesville. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can also watch the spectacular “Lonestar Lightning,” El Arabe Racing “Majestic,” and “GameXChange” jet cars. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will contain meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend during the weekend of the NHRA SpringNationals include Tom “Mongoose” McEwen, Richard Tharpe, and “Waterbed” Fred Miller.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers with an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique chance in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 20 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 21, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 22.