CHEVROLET AT HOUSTON
Friday, April 21-Sunday, April 23
Royal Purple Raceway, Baytown, Texas
FS1: Eliminations and finals – 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday
FS1: Qualifications – 8:30 p.m. ET Friday (live)
Chevrolet Drivers Aim to Round Up More Victories at Houston SpringNationals
Courtney Force in Funny Car and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock are defending winners
DETROIT (April 19, 2017) – With Courtney Force and the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS team seeking consistency on race day, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) SpringNationals arrive at an opportune time.
The John Force Racing driver won the Funny Car race at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston last year, and is exceptionally confident returning to the racetrack following recent on-track testing.
She is fifth in the Funny Car standings heading into the fifth event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, and has impressed by not qualifying lower than fourth and setting the Funny Car track elapsed time record in the last event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But it’s on race day that Force seeks to capitalize, too.
“Obviously, we are at a point where we’re trying to turn things around,” said Force, who will reach 250 career elimination rounds this weekend. “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 racetrack 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.”
Force started the 2017 season strong, advancing to the final of the season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California, after qualifying third. Though she’s qualified No. 2, 4 and 1 in the next three events, race day met with first-round exits.
“Getting the tune-up right and figuring it out during your qualifying sessions – and then not changing your set-up 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.”
Houstonian Erica Enders also is looking forward to returning to Royal Purple Raceway, where she won the Pro Stock races in 2014 and ’15 en route to the class championship.
“We’re looking for nothing less than another win,” said Enders, who drives the Chevrolet Camaro SS for Elite Motorsports. “I love this race above all the others. It’s home, not only for me but for my guys as well because we’re close enough to the shop (in Wynnewood, Oklahoma) that all of our family members and friends are able to come to the race.”
Another Texan, Alex Laughlin of Granbury, will make his season debut in the Gas Monkey Garage/360 Wraps Chevrolet Camaro SS for Elite Motorsports. Laughlin earned his first national victory at St. Louis in 2016.
Greg Anderson, the Pro Stock points leader, won the race at Royal Purple Raceway last year in the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS. Chevrolet drivers have won every elimination round this season, and four different drivers have visited the winner’s circle.
FOX Sports 1 will telecast eliminations and finals at 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
Representing their home state at Royal Purple Raceway in Stock Eliminator, driving their Chevrolet COPO Camaros:
Judson Massingill of Houston
David Janac of Caldwell, Texas
Arthur Krohn of Richmond, Texas
Phillip Giles of Flatonia, Texas
Also entered in the 60-car field in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros:
Stephen Bell of Shreveport, Louisiana
Brett Candies of Thibodaux, Louisiana
Sam Lusco of Houma, Louisiana
Krohn and Bell also will compete in Super Stock in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros. They’ll be joined by Jeff Lopez of Irving, Texas, and Brandon Bakies of Alexandria, Louisiana.
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.
CHEVROLET RACING ENGINEERING PREVIEW
ROGER ALLEN, CHEVROLET RACING NHRA PROGRAM MANAGER: “As we move into the fifth event of the season and the start of a busy stretch of racing, Chevrolet teams and drivers have used the past two weeks to continue to fine-tune their cars and set-ups for the changing racetrack conditions. I’m confident the stride they are making, in three exceptionally competitive professional classes, will lead to additional victories for the Bowtie Brand. It was an exciting weekend at Las Vegas, with Tanner Gray earning his maiden Pro Stock victory and Courtney Force claiming the No. 1 Funny Car qualifier honor and setting the track elapsed time record. Their efforts not only show their driving prowess, but shine the spotlight on the tireless work of their crews. Congratulations, again, to both drivers along with John Force Racing and Gray Motorsports.”
CHEVROLET FROM THE COCKPIT
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET TOP FUEL DRAGSTER (competing in her 101st career Top Fuel event; is fifth in Top Fuel standings; has been No. 4 qualifier in three of the four events): “I’m definitely excited to get to Houston. For me, I like races that are back-to-back, right in a row. It’s less time out of the seat, and you’re right back in it a few days later. I’m more comfortable that way. I’m excited that Houston kicks that off, and then we go three in a row. We’ll go to Charlotte Four-Wide, where we won last year, and Atlanta after that. We made some adjustments in the seat and we can leave it where it’s at and I know it’s going to make things better. Now, it’s just getting comfortable with the new set-up we have for me and moving forward with it so I can only get better from here.”
COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (2016 winner at Royal Purple Raceway; advanced to final in season opener; No. 1 qualifier and track elapsed time record-setter in last event at Las Vegas): “Houston (2016) was a good race for our team, for my crew chiefs Danny (Hood) and Ronnie (Thompson). 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.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT & MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (seven-time winner at the track; won at Gainesville last month; third in Funny Car standings): “We just keep chasing it. We’re trying to win races, trying to win championships. There’s a lot of work going down, a lot of work for our guys in Brownsburg (Indiana) who build the cars and the engines. We’re going to try to run for the NHRA Mello Yello championship. It’s tough. We haven’t won a championship in a few years, and we want to get back on track.”
ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (earned maiden Funny Car victory at track in 2005 – his rookie season – as No. 1 qualifier; also won in 2014): “I’ll never forget Houston. Once you’ve got your first win, then you know you can do it. There’s always an element of doubt until you actually get the first one. But once you’ve got that, I know I can. It was the greatest day ever for me, getting to be successful at what you’ve dreamed of doing. It’s one thing to get to do it, but to be successful at something you love, that’s pretty awesome. I’m very confident. The way we tested Monday in Vegas, we were quite a bit better than anybody was all weekend. That gave us some confidence. We made it down the track every run, with very, very good runs. We tried some things, learned some things.”
JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (reigning Pro Stock champion; holds track Pro Stock elapsed time record of 6.519 seconds, set in 2015; No. 1 qualifier in all four events): “This racetrack is definitely way different than where we were at the last race. Every place you go, it’s like a chess match with the racetrack. The air and engine tune-up may be somewhat more straightforward than Las Vegas, but the racetrack is certainly tricky. Rob (Downing, crew chief) has a tough job, and it’s hard to be perfect all the time, but he does a great job. Houston will bring a new set of challenges, but we’ve been there before and this isn’t new to us.”
GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (2016 winner at Royal Purple Raceway as No. 1 qualifier; has won three times at the track; Pro Stock points leader): “I enjoy racing there; it’s always what we call ‘good Pro Stock conditions.’ The cars run fast there, and the motors make a lot of power, so Houston is a racetrack we feel good going to. We love to go race where the conditions are good and the motors make a lot of power, and regardless of what the scoresheet looks like, we think those conditions play into our hands better than the rest of them.”
BO BUTNER, JIM BUTNER AUTO, BUTNER AUTO SALES CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (has qualified Nos. 2 and 3 in past two events; finalist at Las Vegas; third in standings): “I believe that we should have a top-five car wherever we go, and having a top-five car means that you’re capable of winning. I’d like to get back out there and redeem myself for my guys. It would be great to do that sooner rather than later.”
TANNER GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (earned first national victory in fourth career race at Las Vegas; turned 18 years old on April 15): “I’m still smiling ear to ear (since winning at Las Vegas). The goal is obviously to win another and another. We tested last week to work on different car set-ups, and we’re excited to get to Houston.”
JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM ELITE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (four-time Pro Stock winner at the racetrack; two-time semifinalists in first four races; competing in 386th race): “We’ve built a really solid foundation of data and performance with this new Rick Jones race car since the start of the year and we’re all very optimistic about this weekend. The work has been put in between events. We may have broken the record of early-season test passes because this crew is so focused on contending for every race win and the championship as well. This Elite Motorsports group isn’t far removed from winning back-to-back championships with my teammate Erica Enders (in 2014 and 2015), so the desire to get back to that level is very strong. I think we’re very close, not only with my car but with all the cars under the Elite umbrella. It’s exciting to be a part of it all.”
ERICA ENDERS, ELITE MOTORSPORTS, LUPE TORTILLA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (two-time Pro Stock champion; two-time winner at the track; season-high No. 3 qualifier at Gainesville): “We’re definitely getting better. I know none of us have been home very much because we’ve been constantly testing since even before the season started. We’re used to winning races and winning championships so anything less than that is not up to the standards we set for ourselves. We’ve got big horsepower. We keep working at matching that power to the car. All this time we’re investing will pay off very soon. I can feel it. We’re ready to light up the scoreboard in Houston.”
DREW SKILLMAN, RAY SKILLMAN MOTORSPORTS, RAY SKILLMAN AUTO CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (runner-up at Wild Horse Pass as No. 9 qualifier; competing in 51st career Pro Stock event): “After a couple of weekends where we didn’t get the results we wanted, I think we have a handle on this car and will be ready for Houston. (Teammates) Tanner (Gray) and Shane (Gray) both have won races this season, and now it’s our turn to get to the winner’s circle. I believe this is the weekend we can accomplish that goal.”
VINCENT NOBILE, MOUNTAIN VIEW RACING, MOUNTAIN VIEW TIRE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (Nos. 3 and 4 qualifier in first two events; Elite Motorsports teammate to Jeg Coughlin Jr., Erica Enders, and Alex Laughlin; competing in 150th Pro Stock event): “It’s obvious we are struggling, but my team has been working non-stop get this Chevrolet Camaro dialed in. Obviously, it’s not the way we wanted to start the season but I’m confident we will get it figured out. Going to Houston brings back a lot of special memories, I won my very first national event there. I must say, I wouldn’t mind scoring win No. 11 there this weekend.”
CHRIS MCGAHA, HARLOW SAMMONS RACING, HARLOW SAMMONS OF ODESSA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (semifinalist at Gainesville; No. 7 qualifier in past two races): “I really think we’re making some moves to where we want to be compared to the competition. Our Harlow Sammons Chevrolet Camaro was really on a terror in Las Vegas but the track was hard to adjust to on race day, and that’s something easy to fix for Houston. Houston is a second home track for us so we expect to perform well there this weekend.”
ALEX LAUGHLIN, GAS MONKEY RACING, GAS MONKEY GARAGE/360 WRAPS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (Competing in first Pro Stock event of the season; earned first national victory at St. Louis last year): “I went and tested with (Elite Motorsports) last week up in Oklahoma and things went so well that actually Houston wasn’t on our agenda, but things went so well that we couldn’t pass up racing here close to home. I am extremely confident heading into the weekend. I think we can go out and win our first event of the year. We would like to be able to run from here through the rest of the season. I am confident we can still make the Countdown.”