Sisters Courtney, left, and Brittany Force are both competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series this season.
In the world of motorsports, 2013 has been the year of the ladies, some of whom will look to make even more history at the upcoming Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals fueled by Full Throttle at zMAX Dragway, April 19-21.
In the same month that NASCAR’s Danica Patrick was making headlines for winning the pole at the Daytona 500, NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force took home a Funny Car Wally at the NHRA season opener in Pomona. Erica Enders-Stevens followed Force’s win with a trip to the winner's circle in Pro Stock the following week in Phoenix, marking the first time in NHRA history that two women have opened the season with back-to-back victories.
Women finding success in the NHRA isn’t new. Shirley Shahan was the first woman to win an NHRA national event in 1966. Shirley Muldowney enjoyed success throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and some of today’s biggest rising stars are women, including Force and Enders-Stevens, as well as Force’s sister Brittany and Leah Pruett, both of whom are making their debuts in Top Fuel this season. Courtney races Funny Cars in a class that includes fellow female racer Alexis DeJoria as well as Courtney and Brittany’s dad, 15-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car world champion John Force.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that the women will tackle this year is the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. No woman has won at zMAX Dragway in the top four NHRA categories, but Courtney and Brittany are hungry to pick up that victory.
“[zMAX Dragway] was probably the most nerve-racking track I’ve ever competed at,” said Courtney, who was runner-up last weekend in Las Vegas. “This obviously is 'the Bellagio of dragstrips.' There’s no other racetrack on the planet that’s four-wide.
“That’s the great thing about this track. It’s rare, and it’s not like you can go practice it at all the other racetracks. This is the only track that is this way, and it definitely makes it exciting for the fans and for the drivers.”
Erica Enders-Stevens, the first woman to win an NHRA Pro Stock title, already has another win this season.
Enders-Stevens is also hoping to add a Four-Wide Wally to her collection in the Pro Stock category.
"Winning at Charlotte – and any Bruton Smith track – is a big deal," Enders-Stevens said. "Bruton Smith has done a lot for our sport, and his tracks are the nicest facilities on the circuit. It would definitely be neat to get it done there. It's our backyard, and Charlotte is the only racetrack that Cagnazzi Racing has not conquered. It's definitely on our to-do list."
For the first time since 2010, the Pro Stock Motorcycles will compete at the event. King, N.C.’s Angie Smith, who competes against husband Matt Smith in the category, feels that the women of the NHRA are not at any disadvantage.
“We are on a level playing field,” said Smith. “We’re out here to race to win. We don’t want to be treated any differently. We stepped into a male-dominated sport because we love it, and that’s what we do. At the end of the day, we don’t want to be portrayed any different. We just want to go out there and race and turn on the win light.”
Fans who want to see the Forces, Enders-Stevens, Pruett, Smith, and all of the other stars of the NHRA going for the Wally at the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals can purchase three tickets and get one free in select sections. Children 13 and younger will be admitted free every day of the event, and every ticket is a pit pass.
For tickets and camping information, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office, 800-455-FANS (3267), or log on to www.4widedrags.com.