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Updated: Courtney Force earns 100th NHRA win by a female driver in Topeka

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While boyfriend Graham Rahal finished last in the Indianapolis 500, Courtney Force made history Sunday, earning the 100th win by a female in NHRA drag racing history.

Force rolled to the win in the Funny Car class in Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas.

“This is for all the girls out there in any type of sport, any motorsport,” said Force, who was presented a special trophy  with a commemorative pink 100th female win faceplate and design on the trophy’s bottom. “It’s an exciting day for us. It’s an honor to be number 100 on a list of the legends like Shirley Muldowney, Angelle Sampey, Melanie Troxel, Erica Enders-Stevens, Shelly Payne, Ashley (Force Hood, sister), Alexis DeJoria, there are so many great names. … It’s an honor to be a part of it. We’ve hit 100, but there’s 100 more to go.”

The youngest daughter of 16-time Funny Car champ John Force and sister of Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, the 25-year-old Courtney and her Ford Mustang Funny Car defeated Cruz Pedregon in the final round, covering the 1,000-foot dragstrip at 4.148 seconds at 306.46 mph to Pedregon’s 4.225 seconds at 250.60 mph in his Toyota Camry.

Force started as the event’s No. 1 qualifier and carried that advantage all the way to victory lane.

“There’s just a lot of emotion right now,” Force said. “I am happy to win this for all of the girls who have won races in NHRA over the years. They know how to win, and this win is for them.”

It was Force’s fourth career Funny Car win and her first of the 2014 season. She is one of just 14 females who have won races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

The first female driver to win a national event was legendary Top Fuel driver Shirley Muldowney, back in 1976.

In a sense, Force took care of unfinished business, having just missed winning the 100th race by a female last week in the Spring Nationals in Commerce, Ga., losing in the final round to John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight.

“All day I was just trying not to think about it,” Courtney Force said of the milestone. “It’s a big deal. It’s a milestone for women, and every girl out here wanted to get it. Every girl put their heart out into it. I was crushed last weekend, because I thought that opportunity would never come around again. I’m still trying to soak it all in right now.”

Force managed to do what several other female drivers also aspired to, including sister Brittany, fellow Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria and Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, the latter two having also won races this season.

In other pro classes:

* Spencer Massey earned his second win in a row in Top Fuel, defeating Shawn Langdon with a run of 3.871 seconds at 314.02 mph to Langdon’s run of 4.278 seconds at 233.68 mph.

“We didn’t want to beat ourselves,” Massey said. “We wanted to go down the track and make them beat us. When you can beat Alan Johnson’s race car, especially with a good leaver like Shawn Langdon in the seat, that’s saying something. You’re racing a championship-caliber team every time you race an Al-Anabi car.”

* Allen Johnson earned his third win of the season in Pro Stock. Johnson and his Dodge Dart covered the track at 6.663 seconds at 207.81 mph to teammate Jeg Coughlin’s run of 6.664 seconds at 207.05 mph. It was Johnson’s 23rd career victory.

“This team just keeps battling,” Johnson said. “Every single run, we’re just attacking the car. To have half the wins (from the class) in our camp this year is a pretty good feeling.”

The next race is this coming weekend (May 29-June 1), the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

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Here’s the final finishing order (1-16) at the 26th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.  The race is the eighth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

TOP FUEL: 1.  Spencer Massey; 2.  Shawn Langdon; 3.  J.R. Todd; 4.  Brittany Force; 5.  Richie Crampton; 6. Terry McMillen; 7.  Doug Kalitta; 8.  Khalid alBalooshi; 9.  Antron Brown; 10.  Leah Pritchett; 11. Pat Dakin; 12.  Clay Millican; 13.  Bob Vandergriff; 14.  Tony Schumacher; 15.  Luigi Novelli; 16. Steve Torrence.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Courtney Force; 2.  Cruz Pedregon; 3.  Ron Capps; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 5.  Bob Tasca III; 6. Jeff Arend; 7.  Chad Head; 8.  Tim Wilkerson; 9.  Robert Hight; 10.  Alexis DeJoria; 11.  Matt Hagan; 12.  Tony Pedregon; 13.  Del Worsham; 14.  John Force; 15.  Dale Creasy Jr.; 16.  Jack Beckman.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Allen Johnson; 2.  Jeg Coughlin; 3.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 4.  Vincent Nobile; 5.  Shane Gray; 6.  Dave Connolly; 7.  Jason Line; 8.  V. Gaines; 9.  Chris McGaha; 10.  Larry Morgan; 11.  Deric Kramer; 12.  Greg Anderson; 13.  Jonathan Gray; 14.  Rodger Brogdon; 15.  Mark Hogan; 16.  Steve Kent.

 

FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Spencer Massey, 3.871 seconds, 314.02 mph  def. Shawn Langdon, 4.278 seconds, 233.68 mph.

Funny Car — Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.148, 306.46  def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.225, 250.60.

Pro Stock — Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.663, 207.18  def. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.664, 207.05.

Top Alcohol Dragster — Shayne Lawson, 5.329, 269.19  def. Monroe Guest, 5.548, 250.04.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — Dale Brand, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.639, 255.58  def. Brian Hough, Ford Mustang, 5.689, 251.39.

 

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Khalid alBalooshi, 3.806, 292.71 def. Antron Brown, 3.844, 317.34; Doug Kalitta, 3.815, 321.35 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.859, 318.24; Spencer Massey, 3.862, 319.82 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.826, 151.10; Brittany Force, 3.872, 311.41 def. Luigi Novelli, 6.249, 85.64; J.R. Todd, 3.812, 320.74 def. Clay Millican, 4.041, 250.37; Shawn Langdon, 3.792, 321.96 def. Pat Dakin, 3.870, 312.86; Terry McMillen, 4.758, 247.47 def. Steve Torrence, broke; Richie Crampton, 3.832, 318.24 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.368, 210.60.

QUARTERFINALS — Massey, 3.865, 317.94 def. McMillen, 3.881, 315.05; Todd, 3.808, 316.30 def. Crampton, 3.828, 317.64; Force, 3.828, 322.88 def. alBalooshi, 4.940, 147.10; Langdon, 3.777, 318.17 def. Kalitta, 3.886, 308.14.

SEMIFINALS — Massey, 3.874, 319.29 def. Force, 3.908, 279.38; Langdon, 3.820, 315.05 def. Todd, 3.862, 292.08.

FINAL — Massey, 3.871, 314.02 def. Langdon, 4.278, 233.68.

 

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.099, 309.34 def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.098, 308.57; Chad Head, Camry, 4.093, 311.70 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.157, 301.27; Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.108, 301.74 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 7.070, 106.21; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.147, 307.23 def. John Force, Mustang, 5.526, 135.32; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.090, 308.35 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.073, 313.44; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.170, 307.02 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.186, 301.47; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.128, 307.79 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.601, 195.73; Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.504, 278.52 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 11.276, 70.57.

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 4.141, 310.05 def. Tasca III, 4.172, 303.91; C. Pedregon, 4.090, 308.21 def. Wilkerson, DQ; Johnson Jr., 4.673, 198.35 def. Head, 5.203, 202.48; C. Force, 4.114, 311.49 def. Arend, 4.406, 221.89.

SEMIFINALS — C. Force, 4.154, 294.11 def. Johnson Jr., DQ; C. Pedregon, 4.094, 302.35 def. Capps, 4.147, 302.55.

FINAL — C. Force, 4.148, 306.46 def. C. Pedregon, 4.225, 250.60.

 

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.691, 206.13 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.736, 206.80; V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.681, 207.34 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.727, 204.88; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.676, 206.95 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.690, 206.61; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.650, 207.56 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.656, 206.64; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.653, 206.54 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.753, 195.08; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.651, 207.98 def. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.788, 182.03; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.664, 206.95 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GTO, 6.781, 202.67; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.664, 206.16 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, foul.

QUARTERFINALS — Enders-Stevens, 6.653, 206.92 def. Gaines, 15.614, 53.74; Nobile, 6.660, 207.27 def. Line, 6.674, 207.56; Johnson, 6.637, 207.21 def. S. Gray, 6.655, 207.62; Coughlin, 6.645, 206.23 def. Connolly, 6.665, 207.78.

SEMIFINALS — Coughlin, 6.677, 206.54 def. Nobile, foul; Johnson, 6.657, 206.32 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.657, 206.51.

FINAL — Johnson, 6.663, 207.18 def. Coughlin, 6.664, 207.05.

 

POINTS STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 704; 2.  Antron Brown, 674; 3.  Spencer Massey, 566; 4.  Shawn Langdon, 559; 5. Steve Torrence, 543; 6.  Khalid alBalooshi, 466; 7.  Tony Schumacher, 442; 8.  Brittany Force, 407; 9.  J.R. Todd, 340; 10.  Richie Crampton, 309.

Funny Car: 1. Robert Hight, 770; 2.  John Force, 566; 3.  Alexis DeJoria, 509; 4.  Ron Capps, 502; 5. Courtney Force, 492; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 452; 7.  Del Worsham, 433; 8.  Matt Hagan, 403; 9. Jack Beckman, 401; 10.  Tim Wilkerson, 384.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 709; 2.  Allen Johnson, 624; 3.  Jason Line, 567; 4.  Jeg Coughlin, 553; 5.  Vincent Nobile, 531; 6.  Shane Gray, 525; 7.  Dave Connolly, 462; 8.  V. Gaines, 425; 9.  Chris McGaha, 376; 10.  Jimmy Alund, 282.

Two memories recalled today: Schumacher Spa debut, Tyrrell’s passing

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Schumacher in 2012, Tyrrell in 1989. Photos: Getty Images
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Today, August 25, marks two anniversaries of note in the F1 world – the beginning of one legendary on-track career, and the end of another F1 legend’s life.

A then unheralded 22-year-old German named Michael Schumacher made his race debut with Jordan Grand Prix, in the Jordan 191, taking over the seat after Bertrand Gachot was jailed following an altercation with a London taxi drivers. August 25 marks 25 years to the day that Schumacher made his race debut.

Schumacher qualified in seventh place and looked set to score points on debut – the top six paid points at that time – but the debut didn’t really get to happen owing to a clutch failure on the opening lap. A further reflection can be offered by Mark Gallagher, who’d worked with Team 7Up Jordan at the time, via his blog. Gallagher recently authored the well-received “The Business of Winning,” a deeper look into the business world of F1.

Of course, the rest was history from there. Schumacher went to Benetton from the next race in Monza, then went on to his run of a record 91 career Grand Prix wins and seven World Championships.

Official news has been limited on Schumacher’s condition since his December 2013 skiing accident and all we can continue to do is resume with the message of #KeepFightingMichael.

That 1991 Belgian Grand Prix day also dovetails slightly into the next anniversary, albeit a sadder one.

Another team on the grid was fielded by Ken Tyrrell; the legend was a World Championship-winning team owner in the 1970s with Sir Jackie Stewart and saw his drivers win 33 races from 1968 (Stewart won at Zandvoort for the team’s first win) to 1983 (Michele Alboreto the last win at Detroit).

Tyrrell’s last runner-up finish as a constructor came in 1991 when Stefano Modena came second in the Canadian Grand Prix; the team’s final podium occurred in 1994 at the Spanish Grand Prix when Mark Blundell finished third.

Tyrrell’s team ran through 1998 before it was bought out by British American Tobacco for 1999, and BAR was launched. The team eventually became Honda’s factory team, then Brawn GP, and now Mercedes AMG Petronas – the erstwhile dominant team on the grid – and the team Schumacher returned to drive for from 2010 to 2012.

Tyrrell died this day 15 years ago, on August 25, 2001, from cancer at the age of 77. But his impact on the sport cannot be forgotten.

Watkins Glen extends with IndyCar for two more years

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This year’s announcement of Watkins Glen International rejoining the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule was a bit of a shotgun marriage – the track and the sanctioning body got a deal done in a couple weeks, in what was akin to a minor miracle pulled off by both parties.

The next two years for IndyCar at Watkins Glen will come with quite a bit more time to prepare. The two parties have announced a two-year extension at the track through 2018, which syncs up nicely with the remainder of most IndyCar races currently under contract.

Here’s what Jay Frye, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations, had to say about Watkins Glen joining this year, when it was announced back in May:

“Well, the process was pretty quick. We can’t thank Michael (Printup, track president) and his whole staff at Watkins Glen for their yeoman-like effort the last couple weeks. We got the news a couple weeks ago that something was going on, and that might have been around 5:00, and by 5:01 I was talking to this gentleman on the phone, and from that it kind of led a life of its own.

“It certainly was great interest on his behalf, great interest on our behalf. We were thinking more about 2017, but obviously we’re a year ahead. All the rumors, all the enthusiasm that we saw from the rumors was going on was very, very high, so we couldn’t be more pleased to go back to Watkins Glen. It’s a great facility, great history, and again, we can’t thank Michael and his staff enough for being willing to do this on such short notice. So far, so good.”

Printup added, “Friday night at 5:01, it was an awesome moment. I can tell you that. I was really excited to hear from Jay, and like he said, we had met earlier in Phoenix. I was out there on business, and Jay and I and Stephen (Starks, from INDYCAR) sat down, and I have to say the same thing about his team. Jay and I took one or two phone calls over the weekend, we had a follow-up even Friday night at like 9:00 that night, we exchanged a couple emails Saturday and Sunday, and we didn’t talk again for like another week because we handed it off, or week and a half. We handed it off to our teams, and the teams really put the deal together. Jay and I obviously were the cheerleaders and champions on both sides. I know that. But both our teams really are responsible for putting this together, so we couldn’t be more proud.

“This belongs at Watkins Glen International. Scott and I had a moment just prior to walking in here, it’s so nice to see. It’s so great to walk around here and feel the electricity here. Can’t wait to do it again up in Watkins Glen, and like he said, it was just an awesome time working with Jay and the team, and we couldn’t be happier. In less than two weeks putting together a major motorsports deal? I’d like anybody to beat that. I wouldn’t want anybody to beat it, because Jay and I own it.”

More to follow… 

Da Costa excited by opportunities with Andretti, ‘jealous’ of Frijns’ IndyCar test

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CASTLE DONINGTON, UK – Antonio Felix da Costa is excited by the opportunities available with Andretti Autosport after joining its Formula E team for the third season of the all-electric series.

Red Bull-affiliated driver da Costa raced for Team Aguri in season one and two, scoring a victory in Buenos Aires in 2015 and putting forward a good case for being the best pound-for-pound driver on the grid given the team’s tight budget.

Andretti confirmed earlier this month that da Costa would be joining its Formula E operation for season three, replacing Simona de Silvestro in a move that is also understood to incorporate a partnership with BMW – da Costa’s team in DTM.

“It was probably one of the worst-kept secrets in Formula E,” da Costa told NBC Sports.

“But we really had to do it this way because there were a few other things in play and we could not jeopardise or compromise other things. Shortly after London, we were able to agree on everything and went straight to work.

“Very happy to be joining a racing family like the Andrettis. They need no introduction to the motorsport world. To be joining this team is a very good thing for me.

“I love America. I’d love to race there. I love the way Americans do sports in general, so it’s all very good.”

Da Costa will partner Robin Frijns, whose efforts in Formula E led to an IndyCar test with Andretti last month at Mid-Ohio where he put in an impressive display.

“Yeah I’m a little bit jealous of him, I have to say!” da Costa joked, before saying his focus remains on Formula E for the time being.

“One thing at a time. We’re here now, just got started with the team so first of all we need to do a good job here and then we’ll see what the future brings.

“If I have a winning car, we need to win races. If not, then just bring home maximum points possible. I think me and Robin together, we can do a good job.

“We’re both very competitive and I know him well, I know what he’s like, I’ve raced against him. To have him on my side now and push the team in the same direction is very, very good.”

Lewis Hamilton to take F1 power unit penalty in Belgium

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 25: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks in the Paddock during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 25, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton has confirmed that he will take a sixth power unit component ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, resulting in a grid penalty.

Hamilton arrived in Belgium leading Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the drivers’ championship by 19 points after winning the last four races.

Power unit issues at the start of the season forced Hamilton to use more of his allocated components early, making a penalty in the second half of the season inevitable.

Drivers are permitted to use five of each power unit component across the course of the season, with penalties being handed out for exceeding this limit.

Hamilton confirmed in Thursday’s FIA press conference at Spa that he would be taking new components in Belgium, meaning he will take start towards the back of the grid.

“As far as I’m aware, we will take the penalty this weekend,” Hamilton said, before Mercedes gave official confirmation.

“As Lewis just confirmed in the press conference, we will take an engine penalty this weekend,” a team spokesperson said.

“It is safe to assume he will start from the back of the field or very close but we cannot be more precise at this stage.”

Hamilton has previously charged from the back of the grid to finish on the podium in Germany and Hungary two years ago, with both drives being decisive in winning him the title.

However, the Briton is skeptical that he can challenge for victory, given the reduction in Mercedes’ advantage over the field compared to two years ago.

“In terms of winning, that is going to be very, very hard. Obviously the gap has closed between other cars,” Hamilton said.

“We’re in the third year of the evolution of these cars, Red Bull have been very quick in some of the races and the same with Ferrari and down the whole grid, so it’s going to be harder than it was last year and the year before to climb through the field.

“But I’ll do everything I can and it’s just about minimizing the damage of taking the penalty.”