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.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”