April 7, 2017
BAYTOWN, Texas – Last season’s performance at Royal Purple Raceway provided a massive boost to Funny Car standout Courtney Force, winning her first race in more than a year and grabbing a share of the points lead in the process.
After a frustrating stretch – at least when it comes to eliminations – during the past three races of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, Force is hopeful of again turning the corner at the facility, which plays host to the 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals, April 21-23. Force has been impressive at times in her 10,000-horsepower Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro, but has suffered three straight first-round losses, the most recent coming after qualifying No. 1.
“Obviously, we are at a point where we’re trying to turn things around,” said Force, currently fifth in points. “Knowing that we’ve done well at Houston makes us feel a little bit more comfortable going into a familiar place like that. And knowing that we can run numbers on that race track is comforting, too. Our main goal is looking for that consistency. Coming off of testing in Vegas, we’re starting to feel pretty good about it. We know our car can run some incredible numbers, but it’s trying to find that consistency on race day that we need.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Force (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 23. It is the fifth of 24 events during the 2017 season and Force is looking to get back on track after her recent slide.
Her season started well enough, qualifying third and advancing to the final round at the season-opener in Pomona. Qualifying has continued to go well, taking the second spot in Phoenix after a blistering career-best run of 3.838 at 332.67 mph and the top position in Vegas. But it hasn’t come together on race day as of late, an issue that has the full attention of Force and her team, led by crew chief Dan Hood and co-crew chief Ronnie Thompson. As for finding a solution, Force believes her team has found the answer after testing after the race in Las Vegas.
“Getting the tuneup right and figuring it out during your qualifying sessions – and then not changing your setup for race day,” Force said. “I think we may have tried to push our car a little too hard and expect more out of it. That has kind of messed us up a little bit. I think we just need to stick to what we know and stick to the setup we used throughout qualifying.”
Force, the winningest female in Funny Car history with eight victories, knocked off Tim Wilkerson in a thrilling final round last year and will have her work cut out to repeat. The star-studded Funny Car lineup includes points leader Matt Hagan and defending world champ Ron Capps, but Force has her own good vibes at Royal Purple Raceway.
“Houston was a good race for our team, for my crew chiefs Dan and Ronnie last year,” Force said. “It’s always a little bit more comforting going back to a track that we were able to win at in the previous season. I’m really excited to get back there. I know we can get this thing figured out. I’d rather get the bad luck out of the way now than when we’re in the Countdown.”
Kalitta has back-to-back SpringNationals wins in Top Fuel, but will have to top the likes of back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, points leader Tony Schumacher, two-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force and Texas native Steve Torrence.
Anderson won for the third time in Pro Stock at Royal Purple Raceway a year ago, and has a victory in 2017. He’ll face off against defending world champ and teammate Jason Line, along with 2017 winners Shane Gray and his son, rookie Tanner Gray.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes its second of 12 stops in 2017 at Royal Purple Raceway. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System as well. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from 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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 22, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 23.
To purchase event tickets, call (281)-383-7223 or visit www.RaceRPR.com. Kids 13 and under are free with a paid adult spectator side ticket. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on spectator side tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
WHAT: 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition also will be featured in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series.
WHERE: Royal Purple Raceway, Baytown, Texas. From Interstate 10 take the State Hwy. 99 (Grand Parkway) exit, which is exit 799. Take a right on State Hwy. 99 and go to the first exit (2 miles) which is FM 565. Take a right on FM 565 and Royal Purple Raceway will be on your right. For additional information about directions please visit www.racerpr.com.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 21-23
FRIDAY, April 21 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 22 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 5:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 23 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, April 23, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise three hours of finals coverage at 5:30 p.m. (ET).
2016 EVENT WINNERS:
Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Courtney Force, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock.
John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 6, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 3, TF; Ron Capps, 3, FC; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; Mike Edwards, 3, PS; Bob Glidden, 3, PS; Cruz Pedregon, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.724 seconds by Steve Torrence, April ‘16; 330.07 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’15.
Funny Car – 3.899 seconds by Tim Wilkerson, April ‘16; 328.06 mph by Del Worsham, April ’16.
Pro Stock – 6.519 seconds by Jason Line, April ’15; 212.66 mph by Mike Edwards, April ’13.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
For tickets call (281) 383-RACE (7223). Tickets also available online at www.racerpr.com