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


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:


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.



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.



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.



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

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

GARAGE 56 SPECS: Full comparison of NASCAR Cup car to Le Mans car

BUTTON’S BIG MOVE: Hendrick drone tour was NASCAR entryway for F1 champion

France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”