Courtney Force wins 2nd straight, 4th of season to lead winners in NHRA Midwest Nationals

Leave a comment

Are we beginning to see the passing of the Force torch, so to speak?

Courtney Force, daughter of legendary 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, is proving to be quite the chip off the old block.

In Sunday’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis, the younger Force earned her second straight Funny Car victory in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

She becomes the first woman in Funny Car history to win back-to-back races.

Force (4.094 seconds at 313.44 mph) outlasted 2011 Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan (4.121/309.77) in the final round of eliminations.

While father John still holds the lead in the Funny Car points standings, Courtney, who defeated John in Sunday’s semifinals, is now just 30 points behind him in second place.

“It’s pretty awesome, for sure,” Courtney Force said. “To have back-to-back wins and make a move in the Countdown is just huge for us. We need to create a gap between us and everyone behind us and climb our way up to catch dad if we want to win this championship. That’s what we have our eyes set on right now.”

It was Courtney Force’s fourth win of the season and seventh of her career. It also marks the first time in NHRA history that a father and daughter have held the top two positions in the standings.

“Everyone is so tough in this class that I’m definitely going to savor this moment with dad and I at Nos. 1 and 2,” Courtney Force said.

Winners in other classes were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in the third of six playoff races.

In the final round of Top Fuel, Brown (3.844 seconds/315.42 mph) defeated Shawn Langdon (4.035/279.38).

“This was a big day for us,” Brown said. “We came into this race knowing our backs are against the wall. We’ve just been struggling at the last four races. We’ve been working hard, but no matter what we do, our car wasn’t cooperating with us. We got it back.”

It was the third straight time that Brown has won at Gateway and fourth overall in the same event.

“St. Louis has always been a good turning point for us,” Brown said. “The more pressure that’s on us and the more our backs are against the wall, the more focused our team gets to do what we need to get the job done.

“It shows you how brutal this class is. All these Countdown boys are playing hard. We’re back in that fighting mode. With three races left, we have to keep pushing to do what we need to do.”

In Pro Stock, Connolly (6.562 seconds/211.53 mph) won his second straight race and the fourth straight for Gray Motorsports, defeating Jason Line (6.565/211.66) in a photo finish.

“The four wins in a row; that’s what’s most impressive to me,” Connolly said. “That tells you the depth of Gray Motorsports. I’m having a blast racing with them this year. We’re getting breaks and everything is going our way. This is a humbling sport; it can turn on you any time. We’re going to enjoy the wins as they come.”

Even in defeat, Line remains atop the Pro Stock points, leading Connolly by just 26 points.

Lastly in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Savoie (6.871 seconds at 196.53 mph), a Louisiana alligator farmer during the week, earned his first career PSM victory, defeating veteran and former champ Andrew Hines (6.881/193.57).

“We had a good bike all weekend,” Savoie said. “It’s all good. Drag racing is a family thing. It’s amazing that the whole Pro Stock Motorcycle pit was so happy for me. I always said if I ever won one of these I would retire. Well, I lied.”

Even with the defeat, Hines remains atop the PSM points, holding a 57-point edge over Eddie Krawiec.

The next race is this coming weekend, Oct. 2-5, with the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.

 

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

 

Final round results:

Top Fuel — Antron Brown, 3.844 seconds, 315.42 mph def. Shawn Langdon, 4.035 seconds, 279.38 mph.

Funny Car — Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.094, 313.44 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.121, 309.77.

Pro Stock — Dave Connolly, Chevy Camaro, 6.562, 211.53 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.565, 211.66.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.871, 196.53 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.881, 193.57.

Pro Modified — Mike Knowles, Chevy Camaro, 5.934, 244.65 def. Von Smith, Camaro, 5.929, 241.80.

 

Final finishing order:

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

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

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

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Eddie Krawiec; 4. Hector Arana Jr; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. John Hall; 7. Adam Arana; 8. Hector Arana; 9. Matt Smith; 10. Scotty Pollacheck; 11. Jim Underdahl; 12. Angelle Sampey; 13. Angie Smith; 14. Shawn Gann; 15. Chaz Kennedy; 16. Craig Treble.

 

Final round-by-round results:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.799, 319.22 def. Brittany Force, 3.837, 319.52; Shawn Langdon, 3.785, 318.02 def. Pat Dakin, 3.951, 300.00; Kyle Wurtzel, 3.911, 310.84 def. Richie Crampton, 3.950, 263.82; Doug Kalitta, 3.796, 323.35 def. Chris Karamesines, 3.954, 287.47; Terry McMillen, 3.878, 316.90 def. Tony Schumacher, 5.283, 137.54; J.R. Todd, 4.380, 233.40 def. Troy Buff, broke; Steve Torrence, 3.781, 325.61 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 11.568, 43.79; Bob Vandergriff, 3.841, 319.37 def. Spencer Massey, 5.241, 133.68.

QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 3.814, 316.45 def. McMillen, 4.661, 165.74; Vandergriff, 4.736, 281.25 def. Kalitta, 6.436, 145.19; Langdon, 3.827, 316.90 def. Todd, 3.952, 305.15; Torrence, 3.865, 321.35 def. Wurtzel, 4.005, 245.54.

SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 3.810, 316.15 def. Vandergriff, 9.901, 85.99; Brown, 3.846, 317.87 def. Torrence, 3.817, 324.36.

FINAL — Brown, 3.844, 315.42 def. Langdon, 4.035, 279.38.

 

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.158, 299.06 def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.170, 285.65; Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.101, 314.31 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 8.380, 85.49; John Force, Mustang, 4.103, 312.35 def. Brian Stewart, Mustang, 4.193, 303.98; Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.500, 231.79 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.562, 187.31; Chad Head, Camry, 4.121, 305.98 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.097, 311.49; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.123, 305.29 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, broke; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.128, 307.51 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.146, 310.27; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.122, 308.50 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.153, 306.19.

QUARTERFINALS — Hagan, 4.139, 307.44 def. Arend, 11.966, 63.61; Head, 4.155, 308.21 def. Johnson Jr., broke; C. Force, 4.154, 311.13 def. Worsham, 10.873, 70.40; J. Force, 4.111, 312.50 def. Capps, 4.166, 308.92.

SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.158, 302.96 def. Head, 4.903, 211.03; C. Force, 4.143, 311.56 def. J. Force, 4.119, 311.27.

FINAL — C. Force, 4.094, 313.44 def. Hagan, 4.121, 309.77.

 

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.540, 211.49 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 25.156, 38.24; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.532, 212.43 def. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.553, 211.26; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.544, 212.43 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, foul; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.538, 211.59 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.614, 209.56; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.556, 211.76 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, foul; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.537, 211.99 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.603, 208.62; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.514, 212.66 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.651, 208.78; V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.562, 211.16 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.546, 211.30.

QUARTERFINALS — Line, 6.567, 211.86 def. Nobile, 19.541, 38.66; Connolly, 6.551, 211.53 def. Gaines, 6.572, 210.97; Coughlin, 6.567, 211.20 def. Johnson, 11.865, 73.96; Enders-Stevens, 6.538, 212.39 def. J. Gray, 6.590, 206.48.

SEMIFINALS — Line, 6.595, 211.53 def. Coughlin, 6.573, 212.13; Connolly, 6.576, 211.46 def. Enders-Stevens, 15.947, 52.67.

FINAL — Connolly, 6.562, 211.53 def. Line, 6.565, 211.66.

 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — John Hall, Buell, 6.972, 178.59 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.035, 188.94; Adam Arana, Buell, 6.898, 194.35 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.893, 192.77; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.923, 195.62 def. Angelle Sampey, Buell, foul; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.895, 194.69 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.900, 191.54; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.837, 195.25 def. Angie Smith, Buell, foul; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.823, 196.56 def. Craig Treble, Buell, broke; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.803, 197.39 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.016, 191.81; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 8.885, 99.35 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, foul.

QUARTERFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.909, 192.71 def. H. Arana, 7.033, 194.27; Hines, 6.856, 193.24 def. Johnson, foul; Savoie, 6.865, 196.19 def. Hall, foul; Krawiec, 6.856, 194.66 def. A. Arana, 6.943, 193.10.

SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.824, 197.54 def. Arana Jr, 6.927, 192.63; Hines, 6.874, 193.77 def. Krawiec, 6.863, 194.88.

FINAL — Savoie, 6.871, 196.53 def. Hines, 6.881, 193.57.

 

Uupdated points standings:

Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 2,337; 2. Shawn Langdon, 2,280; 3. Steve Torrence, 2,266; 4. Antron Brown, 2,257; 5. Doug Kalitta, 2,250; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,228; 7. Spencer Massey, 2,199; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,188; 9. Richie Crampton, 2,125; 10. Brittany Force, 2,085.

Funny Car: 1. John Force, 2,344; 2. Courtney Force, 2,314; 3. Matt Hagan, 2,302; 4. Robert Hight, 2,253; 5. Ron Capps, 2,218; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,216; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 2,196; 8. Del Worsham, 2,193; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,155; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,135.

Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 2,364; 2. Dave Connolly, 2,338; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,297; 4. Shane Gray, 2,256; 5. Jonathan Gray, 2,245; 6. Vincent Nobile, 2,241; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 2,231; 8. Allen Johnson, 2,220; 9. V. Gaines, 2,155; 10. Chris McGaha, 2,104.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,400; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2,343; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 2,256; 4. Steve Johnson, 2,253; 5. Matt Smith, 2,202; 6. John Hall, 2,191; 7. (tie) Hector Arana, 2,176; Scotty Pollacheck, 2,176; 9. Angie Smith, 2,125; 10. Michael Ray, 2,071.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

Leave a comment

Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.