TOPEKA, Kan. – Courtney Force raced to the landmark 100th victory by a female in NHRA history Sunday at the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also were winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
In her second attempt to earn the much sought after milestone victory in as many weeks, Force outran veteran Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon in the final round to take the historic win, her first of the season and fourth of her career.
Force, the event’s No. 1 qualifier, finished in 4.148 seconds at 306.46 mph in her Traxxas Ford Mustang, while Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry slowed near the finish with a 4.225 at 250.60.
“There’s just a lot of emotion right now,” said Force, 25, the youngest daughter of 16-time world champ John Force. “It’s been a long weekend. I’m so proud of my Traxxas Ford Mustang team and I am happy to win it for all of the girls who have won races in NHRA over the years. They all know how to win.”
Force is one of 14 women who have earned victories in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, starting with the legendary Shirley Muldowney in Top Fuel in 1976. Force nearly accomplished the feat last weekend in Atlanta, but she lost a close final round race to her teammate Robert Hight.
“It’s huge,” said Force, who outran Dale Creasy Jr., Jeff Arend and Tommy Johnson Jr. in earlier rounds. “You can see the emotions on my face after the loss in the final round last weekend. It’s a big deal. It’s a milestone for women, and every girl out here wanted to get it. Every girl put their heart out into it. I was crushed last weekend, because I thought that opportunity would never come around again. I’m still trying to soak it all in right now.”
She is one of three women who have won races in the series this season, joining fellow Funny Car racer Alexis DeJoria and Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, both two-time season winners. Yesterday, she and her sister Brittany, a Top Fuel driver, were both No. 1 qualifiers of the event. Eight female racers representing each of the four Mello Yello Series classes have competed this season.
“This is for all the girls out there in any type of sport, any motorsport,” said Force, who was presented a special Wally with a commemorative pink 100th female win faceplate and design on the trophy’s bottom. “It’s an exciting day for us. It’s an honor to be number 100 on a list of the legends like Shirley Muldowney, Angelle Sampey, Melanie Troxel, Erica Enders-Stevens, Shelly Payne, Ashley (Force Hood, sister), Alexis DeJoria, there are so many great names. My sister Brittany is so close. It’s an honor to be a part of it. We’ve hit 100, but there’s 100 more to go.”
Funny Car points leader Hight was upset in the opening round, ending streaks of six consecutive final rounds and three straight victories for the driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang. Hight leads John Force by 204 and Courtney moves up to fifth in points with the victory.