Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – ENNIS, TX – Feeling rejuvenated after a strong test session, Funny Car star Courtney Force is ready to get back on track after a frustrating start to the NHRA Mello Countdown to the Championship. The regular-season NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series points leader is now third after two playoff races and that’s something she is determined to change.
Force’s next opportunity comes at this weekend’s 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, a race she won in 2014. With four wins in 2018 in her 10,000-horsepower Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, Force knows she has a car capable of winning a championship and she hopes the test session is the first glimpse of a strong finish to her season.
“We’re feeling good about Dallas and I feel like we’ve got a good race car,” Force said. “We’re all still really motivated and we’ve got a shot at this championship. We’re going to fight hard to get back in it. There’s a lot of points to be gathered and we’re just coming to the halfway point. But you don’t want to fall too far behind and get left in the dust. But anything can happen. You’ve just got to keep pushing and focus on your own car. Otherwise, it can all make your head spin.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and FOX Sports 2 (FS2), including live final eliminations coverage on FS2 starting at 12:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 7. It is the third of six races in the Countdown to the Championship and the 21st of 24th in a 2018 NHRA season that had been incredible for Force until the playoffs.
Force, the winningest female in Funny Car history with 12 victories, qualified No. 1 in Reading, but was upset in the first round and then lost in the second round at the most recent race in St. Louis. It puts her 70 points behind John Force Racing teammate and defending world champion Hight, with J.R. Todd sandwiched in second, 30 points behind Hight. It will make for an exciting finish as Force chases her first world championship, but she has the utmost confidence in her team.
“(Crew chiefs) Brian (Corradi) and Dan (Hood) have done a phenomenal job,” said Force, who has 11 No. 1 qualifiers in 2018. “We’ve struggled for a few races, but to think about how far we’ve come this year I feel confident we’ll get it turned around. I think we all felt rejuvenated after testing. But the support of this team, we all keep each other motivated and stay positive. We still have a huge shot to win this championship. It’s a team effort and we’re all in this together.”
Force believes she has the quick, consistent car back that led to a dominating stretch earlier this season where she won three of four races. She’ll also have to contend with the likes of Tim Wilkerson, who sits four points behind Force, 2016 world champ Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr., but Force has confidence racing at Texas Motorplex. The previous victory helps there and Force will go in with the same approach that has led to her best Funny Car season yet.
“Whether we’re ahead or behind, we go in with the same mindset and that’s get as many bonus points as we can and put ourselves in a good position for raceday,” Force said. “You feel confident going to a track knowing you’ve won there before. We’re going to do the best job we can and see where the pieces fall, but it’s going to be a great, fast weekend and we’re looking forward to it.”
Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence will look for his third straight win to start the Countdown to the Championship against the likes of Brittany Force, Clay Millican and Tony Schumacher.
Defending Pro Stock winner Jason Line is still after his first win of 2018, something he’ll go for against points leader Tanner Gray, playoff opener winner Vincent Nobile and Greg Anderson.
Eddie Krawiec has two straight wins at Texas Motorplex in Pro Stock Motorcycle, and will look to track down points leader Matt Smith, as well as LE Tonglet, who sits second in points.
The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals will also feature thrilling competition in E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which makes its 10th of 12 stops in 2018, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which showcases the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying, fans can also watch the spectacular Lone Star Lightning Jet Dragster & the El Arabe Jet Car. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals include Shirley Muldowney, Richard Tharp and Billy Meyer.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity 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 2:15 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 1:15 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7.