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.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway, fans will also want to check out NHRA’s popular Hot Rod Junction presented by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum that offers a spectacular display of many nostalgic dragsters, race cars and hot rods, including vintage machines that were driven by ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, Don Carlton, K.S. Pittman, Big John Mazmanian, Bruce Larson and Jerry Baltes, among others. There will also be several NHRA Legends of Drag Racing autograph sessions scheduled throughout the weekend, allowing fans the rare opportunity to meet many of NHRA Drag Racing's biggest stars from the past.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk with Top Fuel legend and Florida resident Darrell Gwynn, which is free to all Sunday ticket holders. This popular event gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary drag strip alongside some of the NHRA’s biggest stars.
Also, on Friday at the track, fans will have the rare opportunity to attend a special Nitro Pit Party and Press Conference in the pro pits prior to the first qualifying session. Many of the top stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be featured during the Press Conference, which starts at 10:45 a.m.
As NHRA continues its Nitro Generation celebration, NHRA is offering free general admission for children 12 and under with a paying adult. Tickets are available online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472).
Pro qualifying begins on Friday, March 15, with sessions at noon and 2:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, March 16, also at noon and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 17.
AMALIE OIL NHRA GATORNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 44th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Gainesville, Fla. The track is located on 11211 North County Road 225 in Gainesville.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, March 14-17
THURSDAY, March 14 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, March 15 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 1:45 and 4 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, March 16 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and eliminations at 1:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, March 17 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, March 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 1:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, March 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, March 15, 5-5:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 18C
Saturday, March 16, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 18C
Sunday, March 17, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), AMC 6 / Transponder 18C
(4060 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.461470554 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Morgan Lucas, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock, Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Warren Johnson, 9, PS; John Force, 7, FC; Don Prudhomme, 5, FC; Joe Amato, 4, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 4, FC/TF; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Don Garlits, 4, TF; Jason Line, 4, PS; Ed McCulloch, 4, FC; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Dave Schultz, 4, PSM; Terry Vance, 4, PSM.
Top Fuel - 3.749 seconds by Morgan Lucas, March ’12; 326.87 mph by Lucas, March ’12.
Funny Car - 4.026 seconds by Robert Hight, March ’12; 317.12 mph by Hight, March ’12.
Pro Stock - 6.486 seconds by Allen Johnson, March ’12; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11.
PS Motorcycle - 6.750 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12; 199.26 mph by Krawiec, March ’11.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRATIX.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 228; 2. Shawn Langdon, 149; 3. Antron Brown, 148; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, 131; 5. Morgan Lucas, 124; 6. David Grubnic, 112; 7. Doug Kalitta, 103; 8. Spencer Massey, 100; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 93; 10. Larry Dixon, 86.
Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 210; 2. Courtney Force, 165; 3. Matt Hagan, 151; 4. Bob Tasca III, 124; 5. Johnny Gray, 122; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 117; 7. (tie) John Force, 106; Tim Wilkerson, 106; 9. Todd Lesenko, 102; 10. Robert Hight, 83.
Pro Stock: 1. Vincent Nobile, 171; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, 155; 3. Mike Edwards, 153; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 149; 5. V. Gaines, 142; 6. Jason Line, 119; 7. (tie) Greg Anderson, 109; Allen Johnson, 109; 9. Greg Stanfield, 104; 10. (tie) Shane Gray, 83. Chris McGaha, 83.