POMONA, Calif. – Sensational sophomore Funny Car racer Courtney Force enters the Auto Club NHRA Finals attempting to end the season in the same way as it began, with a win at the historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The tradition rich season-ending event, Nov. 7-10, is the second of two NHRA races held annually at the famed Pomona dragstrip, and the final race of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Force, who resides in Yorba Linda, Calif., has raced to the finals at Pomona during the last two events in her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car. At the end of the 2012 season, she raced to a runner-up finish against Cruz Pedregon, which helped propel her to the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, presented to the top rookie of the year. Her 2013 season got off to a smashing start as she raced to an early season win when she defeated Ron Capps in the final round. Force is once again looking for Pomona magic at the track that sits just east of downtown Los Angeles.
“It would be huge for our Traxxas Ford Mustang team to pick up a win at Pomona again,” Force said. “We are really focused on getting as many points as possible with just this one race left so we can move up in the points and have a strong finish.”
Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel), Pedregon (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are defending event winners of the final Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoff event of the season that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.
In her second season, Force has proven to be one of the toughest competitors on the track. She has two wins, two runner-up finishes, four semifinal appearances and was the No. 1 qualifier once during the season. She is still learning the subtle nuances of these 8,000-horsepower machines with each pass down the track, but she is pleased with her maturation as a driver.
“As a driver, of course you make mistakes but the most important thing is that you learn from them so you can improve the next time and become a better driver,” she continued. “The field is tough and there was a lot of pressure I put on myself as a driver to not make mistakes. We've definitely put it all on the table and as a driver you learn your lesson throughout the season at different tracks so the best thing we can do is use it to our advantage when we return there next year. However, I think our Traxxas team has had an amazing season.”
Courtney races for her legendary father John Force, who secured his NHRA-record 16th Funny Car world championship at the penultimate race of the season in Las Vegas on Oct. 27. To clinch the championship, he had to face and defeat Courtney in the final round. Courtney was proud of her father’s accomplishment, but the loss also stung the fierce competitor.
“The hardest part for me was getting out at the other end and not being able to immediately get over the fact that we didn’t win it, while watching my dad celebrate both the win and the championship a few feet away,” she said. “It was a bittersweet feeling because I was proud of him, but really wanted that trophy in my own hands. I think that's just my competitive and passionate side for winning that I’ve learned from my dad.”
Force is currently fifth in points behind her teammate Robert Hight in fourth. Both drivers will attempt to move up in the points. The possibility of a John Force Racing sweep of the top three points positions is an attainable goal and a target they are aiming for.
“It would be a huge accomplishment for our JFR teams to finish 1-2-3 in the Funny Car points,” she concluded. “We've got some great race cars so that's obviously our primary focus going into Pomona. We've got to lay it all out on the table and give it everything we've got because anything is possible.”
There are several challengers aiming to defeat Courtney and her teammates and end the season on a strong note. Defending Funny Car world champion Jack Beckman has yet to win a race this season and will look to keep his eight-season streak of winning at least one win per year alive. His Don Schumacher Racing teammates Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, along with defending event winner Pedregon and Del Worsham are also among the favorites to win the season-finale.
In Top Fuel, Southern California native Shawn Langdon is the current leader and is followed by defending world champ Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta, Spencer Massey and Morgan Lucas. Langdon holds a 102 point lead over Brown, who won the most recent race in Las Vegas.
In Pro Stock, a group of talented drivers will decide the season’s top honor, including series points leader Jeg Coughlin, Jason Line,'09 champ Mike Edwards, Shane Gray and defending world champ Allen Johnson. Coughlin holds a 71-point lead over Line heading into the season-finale.
Matt Smith, who secured the Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship with his fourth win of the season in Las Vegas, will try to add another victory before the close of the year. Michael Ray is currently second in points and if he can finish the season in that position will be a career high for the Texas rider. Hector Arana, Hector Arana Sr. and Eddie Krawiec will also be among the top contenders at the season-ending event.
Fans can catch the first glimpse of the 2013 Mello Yello championship title chasers at the official event press conference on Thursday Nov. 7, which is free for all Thursday ticket holders and will be held in the nitro pits starting at 11 a.m.
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. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
While strolling through the pits, fans will want to check out the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum’s “Hot Rod Junction” car corral featuring dozens of nostalgic dragsters, race cars and hot rods on display. The Hot Rod Junction also will showcase several NHRA-exclusive Cacklefests throughout the weekend, where vintage front-engine dragsters will be fired up simultaneously.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk, 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. Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car driver Robert Hight will lead the track walk at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
The NHRA Motorsports Museum, which is located on the Auto Club Raceway of Pomona grounds, is also offering fans the opportunity to visit the museum for free and learn about the history of the sport. The fan-favorite Night of Champions with NHRA Mello Yello drivers will be held on Friday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Admission is free during the Auto Club NHRA Finals weekend.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
The NHRA Finals qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7 and Friday, Nov. 8. Qualifying continues at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10.
Tickets for the Auto Club NHRA Finals are available online at www.NHRATIX.com or by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472). Families can take part in a special ticket offer for children 12 and under, who will be admitted free in general admission areas with a paid adult.
For complete event coverage of the 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, please visit www.nhra.com.
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AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, the final of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the final of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. 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 Club Raceway at Pomona, Pomona, Calif. Track is located off I-10 at Fairplex Drive. From I-10, go north on Fairplex drive and follow the signs to Auto Club Raceway at the Fairplex.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 7-10
THURSDAY, Nov. 7 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m.
FRIDAY, Nov. 8 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, Nov. 9 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, Nov. 10 - Pre-race ceremonies, 9:45 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Nov. 10, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 2:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Nov. 10, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage starting at 2 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Nov. 10, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Nov. 8, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 22C
Saturday, Nov. 9, 8:30 - 9 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 22C
Sunday, Nov. 10, 9:30 - 10 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 22C
(4140 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.46147055 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: Brandon Bernstein, Top Fuel; Cruz Pedregon, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC, 8; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC, 6; Bob Glidden, PS, 5; Greg Anderson, PS, 5; John Myers, PSM, 5; Tony Schumacher, TF, 4; Warren Johnson, PS, 4; Dave Schultz, PSM, 4.
Top Fuel - 3.721 seconds by Shawn Langdon, Feb. ’13; 328.62 mph by Spencer Massey, Feb., ’12
Funny Car - 4.007 seconds by Ron Capps, Nov. ’12; 319.75 mph by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’12
Pro Stock - 6.495 seconds by Jason Line, Nov. ’12; 213.13 mph by Line, Nov. ’12
PS Motorcycle - 6.811 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, Nov. ’10; 198.12 mph by Krawiec, Nov. ’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 - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason 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.
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2013 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 2,530; 2. Antron Brown, 2,428; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2,392; 4. Spencer Massey, 2,388; 5. Morgan Lucas, 2,367; 6. Tony Schumacher, 2,363; 7. Clay Millican, 2,326; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,254; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 2,219; 10. Steve Torrence, 2,186.
Funny Car: 1. John Force, 2,581*; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,429; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,410; 4. Robert Hight, 2,375; 5. Courtney Force, 2,366; 6. Ron Capps, 2,354; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 2,341; 8. Del Worsham, 2,269; 9. Johnny Gray, 2,257; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,206.
Pro Stock: 1. Jeg Coughlin, 2,512; 2. Jason Line, 2,441; 3. Mike Edwards, 2,432; 4. Shane Gray, 2,428; 5. Allen Johnson, 2,419; 6. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,373; 7. V. Gaines, 2,321; 8. Greg Anderson, 2,293; 9. Vincent Nobile, 2,267; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,115.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Matt Smith, 2,602*; 2. Michael Ray, 2,437; 3. Hector Arana, 2,400; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2,397; 5. Eddie Krawiec, 2,377; 6. LE Tonglet, 2,351; 7. John Hall, 2,294; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,288; 9. Adam Arana, 2,198; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,196.
*Clinched NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship title