Decade In Review: What were the 10 best NHRA stories of the 2010s?


As the decade comes to a close, it’s time to look back on everything that has happened in the last 10 years in NHRA drag racing.

In particular, we reflect on what we’ve chosen as the top 10 storylines of that decade, ranked in order of what we feel were the most significant stories, as well as several honorable mention entries.

Do you agree with our picks, or do you have other storylines in mind? If so, please leave us a comment.

Let’s get started:

1) Gimme a T for Texas, gimme a T for Tremendous: They like to do things bigger and better in Texas, and that’s what Lone Star State native Steve Torrence did in the 2018 season. Torrence dominated the Top Fuel ranks with a tremendous run from start to finish. Not only did he win nearly half (11) of the races in the 24-race season, the driver known for wearing a 10-gallon cowboy hat when he doesn’t have a race helmet on his head, became the first driver in NHRA history to win all six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. And for an encore, he came back to win the championship again in 2019.

Brittany Force. (Photo: John Force Racing)

2) Girl power, personified: In 2017, a driver named Force won the championship. Only this time, it wasn’t John Force, it was daughter Brittany, who became only the second female driver in history to win an NHRA Top Fuel championship. Shirley Muldowney was the first to achieve that feat, winning three titles in her NHRA career (1977, 1980 and 1982). In addition to her Top Fuel crown in 2017, Brittany Force holds the current NHRA Top Fuel speed record for a 1,000-foot dragstrip (338.17 mph), set in Las Vegas early last month, as well as the elapsed time record (3.623 seconds), set in mid-September in Reading, Pennsylvania.

3) If the “Schu” fits, wear it … and then put the pedal to the metal: Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher won his eighth and most recent Top Fuel championship in 2014. Schumacher, who turns 50 on Christmas Day, also is the winningest driver in Top Fuel history with 84 career national event wins. But he was conspicuously absent from the NHRA national event tour in 2019 when he was unable to find sponsorship for the entire season after the U.S. Army ended its two-decade support of Schumacher’s dragster after the 2018 season. Unfortunately, unless things change sponsorship-wise in the next two months of the offseason, Schumacher may face a second season on the sidelines in 2020.

4) A Force-able win, followed by a divorce after 25 years: John Force extended his own record of Funny Car championships to 15 on Nov. 14, 2010 (he’d go on to win a 16th and his most recent title in 2013). What made Force’s No. 15 unique is he became the oldest NHRA champion in history (61 years old). And then, two days after winning that championship, crew chief Austin Coil resigned after being with Force for 25 years (since 1986).

John Force celebrates after winning a milestone 150th win of his career in Seattle on August 4, 2019. Photo: NHRA.

5) John Force avoids near-economic disaster: John Force had been synonymous with Castrol Oil for nearly three decades, and with Ford for over a decade. But those sponsorships both came to a crashing halt for Force and parent company John Force Racing at the end of the 2014 season, when both Castrol and Ford decided to take their sponsorship dollars in different directions. The move was near-disastrous to JFR, prompting Force to wonder if his organization would survive. He even considered retiring if it meant the rest of the organization – including daughters Brittany and Courtney and son-in-law Robert Hight – could keep racing. But after selling himself and his organization like he never has, Force was able to gain two new sponsors late to the game, Peak Antifreeze and Lubricants and Chevrolet, and was able to continue on when the 2015 season dawned. Fast-forward to today and Force enjoyed his best season in the last four in 2019, capturing two wins, including a milestone 150th victory.

Bill Simpson

6) Safety pioneer Bill Simpson played major role in keeping drag racing safe: Earlier this week on December 16, a dark pall came over the motorsports world when one of the most innovative safety equipment developers, Bill Simpson, passed away from a stroke at the age of 79. Among products Simpson was best known for was flame-retardant clothing that reached across all forms of international motorsports and ultimately saved countless lives. In drag racing in particular, Simpson developed one of the most significant safety systems ever devised for any form of racing: the parachute system to slow down Top Fuel and Funny Cars. Simpson started by using surplus military parachutes and adapting them to dragsters and floppers until he came up with his own version of stronger and more reliable parachutes built specifically for drag racing purposes.

7) Didn’t you used to be Courtney Force? Just two weeks before the 2019 NHRA season was slated to begin, Funny Car driver Courtney Force stunned her loyal fan base by announcing she was walking away from the sport. Force was careful not to say she was permanently retiring, preferring to say she was “stepping away” and “going on hiatus.” Force missed the entire 2019 season and it appears she will be missing 2020 and potentially even further beyond that, close friend Alexis DeJoria exclusively told NBC Sports last week. Ironically, DeJoria, who also went “on hiatus” after the 2017 season, will be returning in 2020 and both driving for and owning/operating her own Funny Car t

8) Three changes to NHRA presidency in 3 ½ seasons: After several months of an absence that was due to “personal and family reasons,” Tom Compton abruptly retired as just the third president in NHRA history on July 1, 2015. Compton’s tenure lasted 15 ½ years, having ascended to the NHRA’s presidency on Jan. 1, 2000. He shepherded the sport to new heights before the economic downturn hit the sport hard in 2007 and 2008. Compton’s successor, Peter Clifford, would only stay in his position for 2 ½ years before Glen Cromwell took over on Jan. 1, 2018.

Ron Capps (Photo: NHRA)

9) A tip of the Capps to his first Funny Car crown: After nearly two decades of trying, Ron Capps finally won his first Funny Car championship in 2016. In his nearly quarter-century NHRA career, Capps has earned 63 Funny Car wins, second only to John Force’s 151, and one Top Fuel win. Ironically, even though Top Fuel is supposed to be the NHRA’s fastest and quickest class, Capps holds the all-time overall speed record for all nitro classes of 339.28 mph, set this past October at Reading, Pennsylvania.

10. From Disney stardom to drag racing stardom: Just over a decade after her and younger sister Courtney had their racing lives turned into a Disney Original Movie – “Right On Track” – Erica Enders became the first female driver to win a NHRA Pro Stock championship in 2014. But she didn’t stop there: she also won the Pro Stock title in 2015 and again in 2019, giving her three championships in the last six seasons. Enders also became the first female to ever win a Pro Stock race in 2012.


* So long ESPN, hello FS1: In 2016, FoxSports 1 took over for ESPN in televising NHRA races. The contract enters the fifth and final year of the current deal in 2020.

* Nice guys do finish first – and more than once: In 2012, one of the nicest drivers in the sport, Antron Brown, became the first African-American driver to win a NHRA Top Fuel championship. He would go on to win the Top Fuel crown three times in five years: 2012, 2015 and 2016.

* And then there were three: In 2015, Del Worsham became only the third driver in NHRA history to win both Top Fuel and Funny Car championships in their career. The other two drivers were Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi.

* Patience and Persistence should be his middle names: After struggling for a decade to find or keep full-time rides, JR Todd finally reached the pinnacle of the sport and his own career, capturing the 2018 NHRA Funny Car championship for both himself and Kalitta Motorsports. Todd dominated much of the season, with six wins, two runner-up finishes and six semifinal showings. Even though he fell backward to finish seventh in 2019 (earning just one win, plus three runner-up and two other semifinal finishes), the suburban Indianapolis native is ready for a big rebound in 2020.

Bernstein on his record-setting 300-plus mph run in 1992 in Gainesville, Fla. Photo: NHRA/National Dragster

* The King calls it quits for the fourth and final time: Kenny Bernstein, the first Funny Car driver to break the 300-mph barrier, announced he was retiring from the sport on Nov. 15, 2011. In most instances, that wouldn’t be a major deal. But for Bernstein, nicknamed “The Bud King” for his more than 30-year sponsorship by Budweiser, “The King of Beers,” retirement really was a big deal because it was the FOURTH time he had retired from the sport. He initially retired as a driver after the 2002 season, only to come back midway through the 2003 campaign when son Brandon, who had succeeded his father behind the wheel of their Top Fuel dragster, broke his back. Kenny retired as a driver for the second time after his son returned for the 2004 season, but then the elder Bernstein once again returned behind the wheel of a Funny Car in 2007. He retired as a driver for the third time after the 2007 season, but would continue owning the team through 2011, when he totally liquidated everything and retired completely from the sport that he had loved and took part in for more than 40 years. These days, the 75-year-old Bernstein and wife Sheryl Johnson-Bernstein spend six months each year in Colorado and the other six months in Southern California. Bernstein won six championships in his driving career, including being the first of only three drivers to win championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. He ended his career with 69 national event wins: 39 in Top Fuel and 30 in Funny Car. He earned four straight Funny Car championships from 1985-88 and two Top Fuel titles (1996 and 2001).

UPDATE: Since this story was first published, we received several emails from readers and felt compelled to add one more item that we didn’t include originally:

* Can’t you speak English(town) anymore? One of the greatest tracks on the NHRA national event circuit abruptly closed up shop on January 17, 2018, just three weeks before the NHRA season was about to begin, leaving the sanctioning body to scramble to fill E-town’s slot on the schedule. While wildly popular with drag racing fans, Englishtown had become a thorn in the sides of residents who lived nearby due to the loud noise and heavy traffic it generated. Because the track was landlocked and couldn’t expand its facility footprint, there was little it could do to appease residents — even though the track was in existence far longer than those who had moved in the area in recent years. The landlocked element also contributed to several driver deaths, the most noteworthy being Scott Kalitta, who died in a June 21, 2008 crash there when his car sailed through the sand pit and almost left the facility border. Also sadly, just two years away from celebrating its 50th anniversary of hosting the NHRA, the track shut down for good. It’s a track that will long be remembered by diehard drag racing fans and drivers alike.

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IndyCar results, points after 107th Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS — With his first victory in the Indy 500, Josef Newgarden became the first repeat winner through six race results of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season and made a move in the points.

Newgarden, who celebrated with fans in the grandstands, moved from sixth to fourth in the championship standings with his 27th career victory and second this season (he also won at Texas Motor Speedway).

The Team Penske star won his 12th attempt at the Brickyard oval, tying the record for most starts before an Indy 500 victory with Tony Kanaan (2013) and Sam Hanks (1957). Newgarden, whose previous best Indy 500 finish was third with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2016, became the first Tennessee native to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the first American since Alexander Rossi in 2016.

He also delivered the record 19th Indy 500 triumph to Roger Penske, whose team ended a four-year drought on the 2.5-mile oval and won for the first time since he became the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar in 2020.

Newgarden, 32, led five laps, the third-lowest total for an Indy 500 winner behind Joe Dawson (two in 1912) and Dan Wheldon (one in 2011).

The race featured 52 lead changes, the third most behind 68 in 2013 and 54 in ’16, among 14 drivers (tied with ’13 for the second highest behind 15 leaders in ’17 and ’18). Newgarden’s 0.0974-second victory over Marcus Ericsson was the fourth-closest in Indy 500 history behind 1992 (0.043 of a second for Al Unser Jr. over Scott Goodyear), 2014 (0.0600 of a second for Ryan Hunter-Reay over Helio Castroneves) and 2006 (0.0635 of a second Sam Hornish Jr. over Marco Andretti.).

It also marked only the third last-lap pass in Indy 500 history — all within the past 17 years (Hornish over Andretti in 2006; Wheldon over J.R. Hildebrand in 2011).

Ericsson’s runner-up finish was the ninth time the defending Indy 500 finished second the next year (most recently four-time winner Helio Castroneves in 2003).

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the 107th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:


Click here for the official box score from the 200-lap race on a 2.5-mile oval in Indianapolis.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Indy 500 with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (17) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (10) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 200, Running
3. (4) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 200, Running
6. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
7. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
8. (16) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (21) Colton Herta, Honda, 200, Running
10. (2) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (18) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (27) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (25) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 200, Running
14. (14) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (20) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 200, Running
16. (9) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (24) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
18. (32) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running
19. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 198, Running
20. (13) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 197, Contact
21. (11) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 196, Contact
22. (33) Graham Rahal, Chevrolet, 195, Running
23. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 195, Running
24. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
25. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 192, Contact
26. (26) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
27. (3) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
28. (15) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 183, Contact
29. (23) David Malukas, Honda, 160, Contact
30. (19) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 149, Contact
31. (31) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 90, Contact
32. (28) RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 75, Mechanical
33. (29) Katherine Legge, Honda, 41, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 168.193 mph; Time of Race: 2:58:21.9611; Margin of victory: 0.0974 of a second; Cautions: 5 for 27 laps; Lead changes: 52 among 14 drivers. Lap leaders: Palou 1-2; VeeKay 3; Palou 4-9; VeeKay 10-14; Palou 15-22; VeeKay 23-27; Palou 28-29; VeeKay 30-31; Rosenqvist 32; Rossi 33-34; Palou 35-39; VeeKay 40-47; Palou 48-60; VeeKay 61-63; Rosenqvist 64-65; O’Ward 66; Power 67; Herta 68; Rosenqvist 69; O’Ward 70-78; Rosenqvist 79-81; O’Ward 82-89; Rosenqvist 90-94; Ilott 95-99; Rosenqvist 100-101; O’Ward 102; Rosenqvist 103-107; O’Ward 108-109; Rosenqvist 110-113; O’Ward 114-115; Rosenqvist 116-119; O’Ward 120-122; Rosenqvist 123-124; O’Ward 125-128; Rosenqvist 129-131; Ferrucci 132; Ericsson 133-134; Castroneves 135; Rosenqvist 136; Ericsson 137-156; Newgarden 157; Ericsson 158; Ferrucci 159-168; Ericsson 169-170; Rossi 171-172; Sato 173-174; O’Ward 175-179; Hunter-Reay 180-187;
O’Ward 188-191; Ericsson 192; Newgarden 193-195; Ericsson 196-199; Newgarden 200.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the GMR Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 219, Ericsson 199, O’Ward 185, Newgarden 182, Dixon 162, McLaughlin 149, Rossi 145, Grosjean 139, Power 131, Herta 130.

Rest of the standings: Lundgaard 122, Kirkwood 113, Rosenqvist 113, Ilott 111, Ferrucci 96, VeeKay 96, Rahal 94, Malukas 84, Armstrong 77, Daly 73, Castroneves 69, Harvey 65, DeFrancesco 63, Canapino 61, Pagenaud 55, Pedersen 51, Robb 47, Sato 37, Carpenter 27, Hunter-Reay 20, Kanaan 18, Andretti 13, Enerson 5, Legge 5.

Next race: The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which has moved from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown, will take place June 4 with coverage starting on Peacock at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.