NHRA: Courtney Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) join Langdon as Winternationals No. 1 qualifiers

Courtney Force is the No. 1 qualifier for Sunday’s final eliminations of the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.(Photo courtesy NHRA)

While Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon qualified No. 1 and recorded the quickest run ever in NHRA history during Saturday’s qualifying in the season-opening Circle K Winternationals, there were other significant achievements during the day by other drivers, as well.

MORE: Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon makes quickest run in NHRA history: 3.700 seconds

The two scheduled rounds of qualifying were pared to just one due to persistent rain showers.

Final eliminations for all classes begin Sunday morning at 11 a.m. PST.

In Funny Car, Courtney Force – daughter of 16-time NHRA champion John Force – set a personal best en route to becoming No. 1 qualifier with a run of 3.995 seconds at 322.65 mph.

The effort marks Courtney Force’s first official run under four seconds and is the eighth time she’s qualified No. 1 for a national event in her career.

Force, who also qualified No. 1 for the 2013 Winternationals, will face former John Force Racing driver Gary Densham in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations.

“It was awesome flying down there,” Force said of her Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. “I knew it was a fast run.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how fast. I could only tell by the expression on my team’s face and that’s how I knew it was a good one.”

Friday’s No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr., dropped to No. 2 qualifier with a run of 4.018 seconds at 314.36 mph.

John Force qualified No. 3 (4.021 seconds, 320.28 mph).

One other significant note: 2012 Funny Car champ Jack Beckman, who started the new season with new co-crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen (who previously worked for John Force), suffered a significant setback when he failed to qualify for Sunday’s eliminations.

In Pro Stock, 2014 season champ Erica Enders-Stevens bounced back after failing to qualify Friday, taking the No. 1 spot into Sunday’s eliminations.

Enders-Stevens earned the top position with a run of 6.516 seconds at 213.10 mph.

Erica Enders-Stevens is the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock for Sunday’s final eliminations of the season-opening Winternationals. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

“This hasn’t been the best start for us, even though we [finished as the low qualifier],” said Enders-Stevens, who will face Matt Hartford in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations. “Going into Sunday with only one [full] run under your belt, it’s a little nerve-wracking, but I know if anybody can do it, we can do it.

“I have the best guys in the world and I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.”

Jason Line, who finished runner-up to Enders-Stevens in last year’s championship battled, qualified No. 2 (6.523 seconds, 212.93 mph). Rodger Brogdon qualified No. 3 (6.524 seconds, 212.33 mph).

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Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 3.700 seconds, 328.30 mph  vs. 16. Steven Chrisman, 4.136, 273.16; 2.Richie Crampton, 3.730, 328.46  vs. 15. J.R. Todd, 3.914, 258.02; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.733, 327.59 vs. 14. Terry McMillen, 3.897, 297.02; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.745, 332.18  vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.833, 270.16; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.751, 327.27  vs. 12. Troy Buff, 3.815, 310.77; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.757, 323.35  vs. 11. Antron Brown, 3.803, 313.73; 7. Larry Dixon, 3.776, 321.35  vs. 10. Dave Connolly, 3.803, 323.81; 8. Brittany Force, 3.779, 323.97  vs. 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.789, 323.04. Did Not Qualify: 17. Steve Faria, 4.191, 218.65.

Funny Car: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.995, 322.65  vs. 16. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 6.957, 306.12; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.018, 314.46  vs. 15. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.372, 263.56; 3. John Force, Camaro, 4.021, 320.28  vs. 14. Bob Bode, Toyota Camry, 4.300, 239.87; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.027, 308.00  vs. 13. John Hale, Charger, 4.193, 295.34; 5. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.030, 304.39  vs. 12. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.090, 310.70; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.037, 317.94  vs. 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.085, 305.84; 7. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.045, 319.60  vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.066, 311.77; 8. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.045, 314.09  vs. 9. Chad Head, Camry, 4.060, 312.50. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 12.025, 293.03; 18. Jack Beckman, broke.

Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.516, 213.10  vs. 16. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.611, 208.59; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.523, 212.93  vs. 15. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.603, 209.20; 3. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.524, 212.33  vs. 14. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.595, 210.37; 4. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.09  vs. 13. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.571, 211.03; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.531, 212.23  vs. 12. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.545, 211.89; 6. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.535, 212.90  vs. 11. Jimmy Alund, GXP, 6.543, 211.56; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.535, 212.19  vs. 10. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.543, 211.93; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.538, 212.03  vs. 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.540, 212.43. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Isbell, broke.

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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”