Chevy Racing–57th Circle K Winternationals


57th Circle K NHRA Winternationals
Friday, Feb. 10-Sunday, Feb. 12
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California
FS1: Qualifying – 1 p.m. ET Saturday (live)
FOX: Eliminations and finals – 4 p.m. ET Sunday (live)

Chevrolet Drivers Seek to Continue 2016 Momentum Into ’17 Season Opener
Optimism and expectations are high for title runs in three professional NHRA categories

DETROIT (Feb. 8, 2016) – Nearly three months since Chevrolet Racing teams and drivers capped a stellar 2016 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, they return to competition this weekend with optimism and high expectations.

Momentum for many Chevrolet drivers carries into the 57th Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, which kicks off the 24-race campaign, while others seek a fresh start. Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders and six-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. return in the Chevrolet Camaro SS after a year’s absence, while 17-year-old Tanner Gray makes his Pro Stock debut.

Chevrolet amassed 32 victories in the three professional eliminator categories it competes — Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock – along with Jason Line of KB Racing claiming the Pro Stock world championship in his Chevrolet Camaro SS for the third time. Additionally, in Sportsman racing, Jeff Strickland earned the Stock Eliminator national title in his Chevrolet COPO Camaro.

Line and teammate Greg Anderson, who finished a scant four points shy of securing his fourth Pro Stock crown, each had a category-high eight victories as Chevrolet drivers snagged 23 of the 24 event wins. Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force secured four Funny Car wins to push his record total to 147, while John Force Racing teammate and daughter Brittany Force posted a Top Fuel career-best three wins.

Following off-season work at their respective shops and recent on-track testing, everyone involved with the Chevrolet programs is anxious to see what performance gains will be attained out of the gate. In testing last weekend, Courtney Force posted an unofficial Funny Car national elapsed time record run of 3.804 seconds in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS.

“Last year John Force Racing had competitive cars. John (Force) won four races, while Robert Hight and Courtney Force also won in Funny Car. Now with a year of development and getting more consistent, I think those cars are going to be as good as anybody,” Chevrolet NHRA program manager Roger Allen said.

“Brittany had a career year, and I think she’s in a position where it wouldn’t surprise me if she won the Top Fuel championship. The John Force Racing organization is in a better position than they were last year, and last year they showed they had performance to win. I’m looking forward to really good things from them.”

The Bowtie Brand will again compete for the NHRA Manufacturers Cup, which is awarded to the automobile manufacturer whose current-year model earns the most points for qualifying and category wins at NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national and Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional and divisional events. Chevrolet last received the award in 2015 for a record 21st time.

This season, Pro Stock competitors will be driving the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS, which is based off the stylish sixth-generation road car. Line, Anderson, Coughlin, and 2016 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner Chris McGaha have taken delivery of the aerodynamic bodywork for the opening round.

“I can tell you it’s the nicest car I’ve ever driven,” said Coughlin, who has captured 76 national event victories. “Having a new car, being back in a Chevrolet, being a part of this Elite Motorsports team that won back-to-back titles with Erica (Enders, teammate) in 2014 and 2015, having two very talented teammates in Erica and Vincent (Nobile), all of these things really have us excited.”

Added Allen: “The fact that Erica and Jeg are coming back to Chevy makes us even stronger than we were last year.”

Gray, who has taken over the wheel of the Gray Motorsports entry from his father Shane, seeks to gain strength with each run in his rookie season. The teenager has competed in junior dragsters and in a variety of race cars the past seven years, and he’ll have an experienced team of mentors on and off the racetrack. Shane Gray will drive a second Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS in the first two events of the season and selected others.

“I’ve got grandpa (Johnny Gray), Dad and (crew chief) Dave (Connolly) right here and they’ve all been a huge help since we started this deal,” said Gray, who has tested extensively in the past two months. “There probably isn’t anything that could happen to me out there they haven’t experienced at one point or another. I know I can ask them anything and they’ll be there for me. Their support has made me very comfortable in this Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro, and that has to help me as I start my drag racing career.”

FOX Sports 1 will telecast one hour of live qualifications 1 p.m. ET Saturday. FOX will telecast eliminations and finals starting at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.

Dave Bridgewater of Devore, California, will do double duty this weekend by driving Chevrolet COPO Camaros in Super Stock and Stock Eliminator. Dan Fletcher, who will drive his Chevrolet COPO Camaro in Stock Eliminator, seeks to become the third driver in NHRA history with 100 victories. Fletcher, of Churchville, New York, has 99 Sportsman wins over his 20-year career.

“It’s kind of like a Christmas present. I’d like to think within the first, second, third event of the year, I will knock it off,” said Fletcher, who seeks to join John Force and Frank Marzo on the 100-win list.

Chevrolet will welcome fans to its Chevrolet Performance Display during the weekend. It will include numerous award-winning Chevrolet production vehicles, examples of Chevrolet engines, and a selection of performance parts and accessories that are available for fans to purchase from their local Chevrolet dealer.


BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET TOP FUEL DRAGSTER: “We had three wins last year and had our best season yet, but we’re going harder this year. We want more this year: We want more wins and ultimately that championship. I’m definitely pumped for the season. It’s been a long off-season. It felt good to go out at test on Phoenix. We definitely needed to be out there testing. I needed it just because I was out of the seat for so long. It felt good to get back in there, but now I’m ready for some competition. Everything is looking good, I’m feeling good in the car and anxious and excited to be headed to Pomona.”

JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT & MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “(The opener) sets the pace for the season, the mood of the season. We’ll get after it. We’ll take what we learned from the test, make some adjustments, and go to Pomona. (A title run) is the dream; that’s what you go to bed (thinking about) every night. But I know my daughter Courtney’s looking at that, as is Robert Hight, and so are 20 others out here. But if you didn’t have the dream to win, you wouldn’t chase it. Every kid out here believes they can just get on a roll and make it happen. I’m going after 17; I don’t want to stop on sweet 16.”

COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “Based on what we’ve seen at Phoenix during the test, and coming off last season, I think that we’ve definitely got into a pretty good rhythm, and now we’re looking to challenge in 2017. We’re obviously gunning for that championship, just like everybody else out here, and I think I’ve got a great team and a great race car that’s ready to go after it. We’ve won the Winternationals before (2013), so we’re hoping to go out and do it again. Obviously, we want to start the season off strong, and impress our new sponsor, Advance Auto Parts. I think we have a great race car, one that is capable of winning. We’ll see how we do at Pomona, but looking forward to the whole 2017 season.”

ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “Cannot wait to get going again. 2016 wasn’t my best year, and this Auto Club team needs to go out and redeem themselves. We’re a better team than No. 8, which is what’s on the side of our car. We have a lot to prove this year. We have a great team: Jon Schaffer and Jason McCullough over here helping Mike Neff, and we’ve got some new guys who are gung-ho. When we start running well and winning races, it’s only going to get better. We can go win Pomona. We’ve done it several times, and I believe we’ve got the car to do it.”

JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “We worked on a lot of things over the winter. This off-season was not as much about coming up with a recipe as it was about refining a recipe. There’s a big difference there, really. All in all, it was a great winter, but we have a much different mind-set than we did going into last season, that’s for sure. I think that everyone is going to be pretty even this year, more like it was in the fall of 2016. I think that’s what you’ll see. With the current rules package the way it is, you’ll see everybody get bunched together as time goes on.”

GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “We realized as the year went on the competition did close the gap on us. We kind of lost that edge we had at the start of the year, but still we closed in good style. We ended up being 1-2 in points and won the last race of the year, so it was a good way to send off the year and gave us a little extra oomph going into the off-season to work. But we realized that if we didn’t make gains in the off-season we would probably get passed by so we’ve been working hard. You just have to do better than the next guy is the bottom line.”

SHANE GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, GRAY MANUFACTURING TECH CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “I really enjoy driving these cars. They’re a lot of fun and the competition at this level is really tough so doing well is a great reward. The focus is on Tanner (Gray) and his rookie year, so my role is strictly as a support driver, coach and manager. I just get to have a little fun on the side.”

TANNER GRAY, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “We’ve all been working really hard to get me used to this car. I’ll have more than 50 passes under my belt (in testing). I feel really good, although I know I have plenty left to learn. I’m ready for the challenge.
I’m a really humble person by nature but at the same time I don’t know how we can go into any race not thinking we have a good chance to win. I’m thinking we will be able to run well in Pomona right out of the trailer.”

DREW SKILLMAN, RAY SKILLMAN RACING, RAY SKILLMAN AUTO CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “I’m looking forward to the start of the season, especially with the strong closing statement made by the Gray Motorsports team in the Chevy Camaro SS in 2016. I won and was runner-up to Shane Gray in two of the final three races of the season, which was a good way to finish after finding our way in the first half of the season. I expect more good things early this season.”

BO BUTNER, JIM BUTNER AUTO, BUTNER AUTO SALES CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “We had a very good year in 2016 with five second-place finishes and three No. 1 qualifier awards, but we just couldn’t close the deal and win. KB Racing gave me strong cars all season, and I expect to challenge Greg (Anderson) and Jason (Line) and others for the title.”

JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM ELITE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “I always say the Winternationals are extra special because you roll through those gates and everyone, at least for a moment, is tied for first. We all have big dreams right now, and that’s exciting. It’s a fresh start to another journey and we really like our chances to run for the championship with our Chevrolet Camaro.”

ERICA ENDERS, ELITE MOTORSPORTS, ELITE MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “We are so anxious to get back on track, to be at the races with a car and combination we know can put us in the winner’s circle. It’s really all you ever want as a driver and as a race team; the chance to win. We have that again and we’re super excited to get started. This year is going to be great because I already know what we’re capable of and so does everyone else. At the same time, I learned we don’t need win lights and trophies to be fulfilled. Being a family, having each other’s backs no matter what, being together through it all, that’s what matter.”