It was Brittany Force using her right foot on and off the throttle to win the Top Fuel division of the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway stopping the Antron Brown train of victories. Funny Car saw Del Worsham’s Kalitta Motorsports DHL Toyota deliver in his 500th NHRA start with their first win of the season just in nick of time for the arrival of the Funny Car Countdown.
Drew Skillman used a quicker time in a Pro Stock matchup of Chevrolet Camaros pitting Skillman against points leader, Jason Line to win and Andrew Hines used a hole shot from a perfect reaction time on Jerry Savoie to win again in Pro Stock Motorcycle class with only one race before the playoffs, the biggest – The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Ready for a reprisal with her runner-up finish last year in the Brainerd finals, Brittany Force roared back this time against two-time and reigning Top Fuel champion, Antron Brown in a pedaling contest giving her the third win for the John Force Racing Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster team in 2016.
Her final result against Brown was her slowest in eliminations recording a time 4.169 seconds, 180.21 mph to Brown’s vanquished time of 6.566 seconds.
“It’s just awesome to be able to win here,” said a smiling Force. “I felt good coming in here this weekend just because we had some success (runner-up finish) last year. We had been struggling a little bit and to come out here and get the win is exactly where we want to be going to the Countdown and the biggest race of our season in Indy, so we’re exactly where we want to be.
“Being able to come here last year and go to the finals and not quite get it, we just wanted to completely finish it this weekend. So it feels good to do that. Actually, this is kind of a new track for me. I’d been to just about every track on the circuit as a kid coming out and watching my dad, but this was actually a new one for me in 2013. So to be able to win here is pretty awesome.”
On the last run of the day, the motor on her dragster exploded just before the finish line. She defeated Terry Haddock, Doug Kalitta, and Shawn Langdon running a string of low 3.70s that no one could match to reach the finals.
“I definitely think it makes this one a very special one,” said Force from the Brainerd press room. “All those guys we took down to get to the winner’s circle, none of them were easy. They are some of the best drivers out here, so to be able to be lined up against them and turn to win light on; I think that makes the entire team proud.”
Antron Brown extended his points lead to 167 points over Doug Kalitta with Indy up next at points and a half for the mega-event. All eyes will be on the 10th and final position in the Countdown in the Top Fuel category now having Terry McMillen and Leah Pritchett tied with 637 points each with Indy deciding it all.
In the Seattle make up Top Fuel finals from two weeks ago, Antron Brown defeated Steve Torrence running a time of 3.747 seconds, 320.13 mph after Torrence lost traction on Saturday.
It was Del Worsham’s 500th start and he didn’t disappoint in his Kalitta Motorsports Toyota Funny Car team taking his first Wally of 2016.
“What an incredible day,” said a smiling Worsham, who won his very first round win of competition at Brainerd in 1991. “Being able to come back to win today is awesome. I am so proud of this DHL team. They worked incredibly hard this weekend. Brainerd is one of my favorite races, and to be able to finally win here is perfect. We’re getting a good handle on this Toyota Camry and I am really excited for the Countdown.”
The Chino Hills, Calif. resident marched through eliminations defeating Bob Bode, Tim Wilkerson, in a close race and Courtney Force before reaching the finals against the newest owner of the National ET record, Matt Hagan, who claimed the rights running a time of 3.822 seconds, 333.82 mph on Saturday.
He beat No.1 qualifier, Hagan in the finals running a time of 3.908 seconds, 327.27 mph to Hagan’s tire-smoking time of 8.098 seconds earning his 31st Funny Car win and 39th drag racing victory overall.
Ron Capps now leads Courtney Force by 215 points and has locked in the No. 1 starting position for the start of the Countdown, including the 30 bonus points as the leader. With the win, Worsham is now only six points out of second.
Worsham was hoping for a two-win, one race scenario, but smoked the tires against Ron Capps in the Seattle Funny Car remake of the Protect the Harvest Northwest Nationals that were rained out two weeks ago. Capps squeaked by with his time of 4.014 seconds, 322.42 mph after having trouble to Worsham’s 6.010 time.
Drew Skillman of Indianapolis earned his first Pro Stock victory of the year and second of his career by posting a time of 6.648 seconds at 208.97 mph in his Chevy Camaro to beat seven-time 2016 event winner, Jason Line’s elapsed time of 6.681seconds at 206.64 mph.
Skillman, the 2015 Rookie of the Year, won his first race since last year in St. Louis and clinched a spot in the Countdown after beating Dave River in the first round, Bo Butner on a hole shot in the quarterfinals and a red hot, Vincent Nobile in the semis.
“When I heard the rule changes, I thought we were going to be on top or on the bottom,” said Skillman, who is sixth in points. “We were on the latter of that situation. My guys have been working very hard and this is for their hard work today. (The class) is getting much, much closer. I think by the end of the season we’ll be very tight and next year I think you will see a very competitive class across the board.”
It’s still a three-man battle at the top of the Mello Yello Pro Stock points standings with Sunday’s runner up, Jason Line now 78 markers over KB Racing teammates, Greg Anderson and Bo Butner with Indy on the horizon.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Andrew Hines posted a perfect .000 reaction time in the final round to defeat alligator farmer Jerry Savoie in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round. Hines’ 6.866 at 194.94 with the perfect reaction time on his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson was enough for a holeshot victory against Savoie’s 6.863 at 194.88 on his Suzuki. This is Hines’ fourth win of the season, 46th of his career and third at Brainerd International Raceway. He rode past veteran Steve Johnson, Cory Reed and Hector Arana Jr. in the earlier rounds.
“I was definitely a little nervous because we came here with the intentions of preparing for the Countdown,” said Hines, the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in NHRA history. “We put brand new tires on the bike which turned out, in hindsight, to be a very bad decision because the track is so good here. We were battling with the tune up on Friday. We just pecked away at it all weekend. We took our chance at it in the final round; put an old tire back on it, and it went nice and straight. I was pressing it because I knew I needed an advantage over Jerry.”
Harley-Davidson teammate, Eddie Krawiec still leads the points standings by 42 points over Hines.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will continue in Indianapolis, Aug. 31-Sept.5, with the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway for the final race of the regular season on Labor Day Monday.