Brittany Force raced to victory in Top Fuel Sunday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd Int’l Raceway.
Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious in their respective categories at the 17th event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. This is the penultimate event of the regular season.
Force powered her Monster Energy dragster to a 4.169-second pass at 180.21 mph to outrun reigning world champion Antron Brown’s 6.566 at 103.47 in his Matco Tools dragster. Brown rattled and lost traction early while Force’s dragster backfired and released the parachutes just a little farther downtrack than Brown, and she coasted to the finish line in front.
Force claimed the third win of her career and her third in four final rounds in the 2016 season. She raced to her first career victory earlier this year in Gainesville, then became the first female driver to win in nitro at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. Force outlasted Terry Haddock, three-time 2016 winner Doug Kalitta, and two-time 2016 winner Shawn Langdon in the earlier rounds before defeating Brown in the final.
“It’s awesome to be able to win here,” said Force, who is fourth in the Top Fuel points standings. “I felt good coming in this weekend because we had some success last year, and I’m pretty sure we did well the year before. We are exactly where we want to be as we go into the Countdown [to the Championship] and our biggest race of the season in Indy. It feels so good to bring home another win.”
Brown, the 2011 Brainerd winner, sprinted past Chris Karamesines, Clay Millican, and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher en route to his eighth final round of the season. The points leader has four wins so far this year and has clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
2014 top rookie Richie Crampton, from Adelaide, South Australia, secured his spot in the Countdown with a second-round appearance.
In Funny Car, reigning world champ Worsham pushed his DHL Toyota Camry to a 3.908 at 327.27 to outrun Matt Hagan’s 8.095 at 71.33 after Hagan smoked the tires in his Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T.
“I’m very excited,” said Worsham, who moved to third in the points standings with the win. “I came in here with a lot of confidence, thinking we were going to do well, and Friday came around and we couldn’t have made any better runs. Along came Saturday and we smoked the tires. We had to take a little step back today, but they put it together. Brainerd has always been a special place to me. Going back to 1991, my first No. 1 qualifier came here 25 years ago. I’m excited to be here. It’s a great place, great facility, and the team did a great job. I’m happy to get the win, go to Indy, and start the NHRA Mello Yello Series Countdown.”
Worsham, who won the world championship last season without a regular-season win, tallied his first victory of 2016, 39th of his career, and 31st of his Funny Car career. This was his first final-round appearance in Brainerd. He outlasted Bob Bode, Tim Wilkerson, who clinched a spot in the playoff, and Courtney Force before beating Hagan in the final round.
Hagan, who has two wins in four final rounds this year, qualified No. 1 with a world record elapsed time pass of 3.822. The two-time Funny Car world champion sprinted past John Bojec, Robert Hight, and five-time 2016 winner Ron Capps before falling to Worsham.
Capps, pilot of the NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, secured his spot as the No. 1 seed in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs after his semifinal-round appearance.
Skillman earned his first Pro Stock victory of the year and second of his career by posting a 6.648 at 208.97 in his Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevy Camaro to better seven-time 2016 event winner Jason Line’s 6.681 at 206.64 in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro. Skillman, the 2015 rookie of the year, won his first race since last year in St. Louis and clinched a spot in the Countdown after beating Dave River in the first round. Skillman also outran Bo Butner and No. 1 qualifier Vincent Nobile before racing Line in the final.
“When I heard the rule changes, I thought we were going to be on top or on the bottom,” said Skillman, who is sixth in points. “We were on the latter of that situation. My guys have been working very hard, and this is for their hard work today. [The class] is getting much, much closer. I think by the end of the season we’ll be very tight, and next year I think you will see a very competitive class across the board.”
Line, a two-time Pro Stock world champion, raced past Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha, and two-time and reigning world champ Erica Enders in the earlier rounds. With the runner-up finish, Line maintained control of the points lead.
Hines posted a perfect .000 reaction time in the final round to defeat alligator farmer Jerry Savoie in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round. Hines’ 6.866 at 194.94, along with the perfect reaction time, on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson was enough for a holeshot victory against Savoie’s 6.863 at 194.88 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. This is Hines’ fourth win of the season, 46th of his career, and third at Brainerd Int’l Raceway. He rode past veteran Steve Johnson, Cory Reed, and Hector Arana Jr. in the earlier rounds.
“I was definitely a little nervous because we came here with the intentions of preparing for the Countdown,” said Hines, the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in NHRA history. “We put brand-new tires on the bike, which turned out, in hindsight, to be a very bad decision because the track is so good here. We were battling with the tune-up on Friday. We just pecked away at it all weekend. We took our chance at it in the final round, put an old tire back on it, and it went nice and straight. I was pressing it because I knew I needed an advantage over Jerry.”
Savoie, who has three runner-up finishes this season, rode past Scotty Pollacheck, No. 1 qualifier and Englishtown winner Angelle Sampey, and Eddie Krawiec in the first three rounds.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will continue in Indianapolis, Aug. 31-Sept. 5, with the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for the final race of the regular season.