GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While much hype has been given to a certain female stock car racer for posting a top 10 finish at the Daytona 500, it has been business as usual in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Two female racers – Courtney Force and Erica Enders-Stevens – have posted back-to-back victories to open the 2013 season in the world’s fastest motorsport.
It is the first time in NHRA history that two women have opened a season with consecutive victories.
Force, 24, powered her 8,000-horsepower Funny Car to break all of her male competitor’s hearts – including Matt Hagan, Bob Tasca and Ron Capps – and win at the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., on Valentine’s Day weekend.
Last weekend in Phoenix, Enders-Stevens, 29, rallied to take the Pro Stock victory over tough as nails veteran driver Mike Edwards in the final round. Enders-Stevens used a reaction time advantage to beat event top qualifier Edwards in the 200 mph factory hot rod category.
“We’re not out here just to race against the boys,” Force has said. “We’re here to beat the boys.”
Now that’s girl power.
But that’s nothing new for NHRA fans. They’ve enjoyed watching women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and many international drivers earn victories and world championship titles in the sport during its 60-plus year history. Last season Force and Enders-Stevens won races and earned No. 1 qualifying awards, fan-favorite Hispanic champion Cruz Pedregon won Funny Car races and top qualifying positions and NHRA crowned its first African-American world champion in Top Fuel, Antron Brown.
Perhaps it will be Leah Pruett, Alexis DeJoria, Brittany Force, or Katie Sullivan who will win the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals and continue the early season girl power theme, March 14-17 at historic Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Edwards (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending event winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Since Shirley Muldowney broke down the gender barriers in the sport in 1976 with her landmark Top Fuel victory, NHRA has become by far the most diverse motorsports series in the United States. There have been 12 different female winners in the NHRA Mello Yello Series since Muldowney’s initial victory. Muldowney won three world championship titles and 18 career victories in Top Fuel and Angelle Sampey, who won 41 events in Pro Stock Motorcycle, also claimed three series crowns during her highly-decorated career.
Courtney Force and Enders-Stevens, who finished in the top five in their highly-competitive categories last season and are among the pre-race favorites to win at the tradition-rich East Coast opener in Florida, are certainly championship contenders this year and proudly carry on the legacy that Muldowney started decades ago.
In addition to the exciting racing action in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories, the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals also will feature the season-debut of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. Riders will be looking to knock defending series champion Krawiec off his title perch. Last year, Krawiec and his Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle teammate, Andrew Hines, dominated the two-wheel category by winning 15 of the 16 events contested during the season.
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which will compete in 10 events during 2013, also will take to the track for the first time this year as Troy Coughlin looks to defend his world championship title.