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

1 Comment

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.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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.

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

Leave a comment

Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”