CHEVROLET RACING IN NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS
SUNDAY, FEB. 25, 2018
WILD HORSE PASS MOTORSPORTS PARK IN CHANDLER, ARIZONA
Chevrolet Secures 125th NHRA Funny Car Victory Since 1967
• Courtney Force drives to first Funny Car win since 2016 season
• Chris McGaha earns sixth career Pro Stock win as Chevy dominates
• John Force escapes serious injury in Funny Car in quarterfinals incident
• Al Corda reaches Stock Eliminator semifinals in Chevrolet COPO Camaro
CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 25, 2018) – There have been considerable career highlights since the last time Courtney Force grabbed the spotlight, but nothing outshines standing on the winner’s stage.
On an emotional and taxing day for the John Force Racing driver, Force recorded her ninth career Funny Car victory and first since Houston in the 2016 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season – 22 months ago – in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at sold-out Wild Horse Park Motorsports Park.
Force, driving the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, also delivered the 125th Funny Car victory for Chevrolet. Since the first in 1967, no other manufacturer has more Funny Car wins. Chevy Racing, aiming for its record-extending 23rd NHRA Manufacturers’ Cup, has 405 NHRA victories across Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock professional classes.
Chris McGaha extended Chevrolet’s dominance of Pro Stock competition with a victory over three-time class champion Jason Line, who defeated McGaha in the 2016 final round at Wild Horse Pass, in the finals.
After her second-round elimination win, Force advanced to the final round via a bye as her father, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, was being evaluated at a local hospital after being involved in a crash in his quarterfinal-round matchup with Jonnie Lindberg. As the car approached the finish line, a blower explosion took the body off the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS. It crossed the racetrack, made contact with his opponent’s race car and then made head-on contact with the retaining barrier. Lindberg was uninjured.
Force’s Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS entry set both ends of the track Funny Car record (3.826 seconds. 335.98 mph) in the final round of qualifying on the way to claiming her first No. 1 qualifier honor at Wild Horse Pass and the 18th of her Funny Car career. She reset the speed record with a pass of 337.16 mph in the final against Tommy Johnson Jr.
John Force watched streaming video of the final round from the hospital. He was released a short time later.
“He told me on the phone before that final round to go out there and get it,” said Force, who reached her 18th career final, including five in the 2017 season in which she finished a career-high third in the standings. “We had a great race car today, and I’m just happy to bring home the Wally for everyone at John Force Racing. I have to give a lot of props to all my guys. We didn’t even have time to warm the race car up before the final round and we still made it happen. We didn’t have lane choice. We had a 40-minute turnaround time in the semifinals and had a solid run. The guys working on my race car I have so much faith in them.”
John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight, the reigning Funny Car champion in the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, fell in the first round of eliminations. Hight, runner-up in the season opener, qualified for his 300th career Funny Car race.
Brittany Force, who qualified 14th in the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster, fell in the second round of Top Fuel eliminations. The defending class champion, who escaped serious injury in a crash during the first round of eliminations in the season opener, had reached the final round in three of the past four spring events at Wild Horse Pass.
McGaha has driven the Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevrolet Camaro SS to victory in each of the past three finals he’s competed in (2016 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, 2017 NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, 2018 NHRA Arizona Nationals). He registered a pass of 6.529 seconds at 211.59 mph – with a .007-of-a-second reaction time — to Line’s 6.538-second pass.
“You have to bring it for Jason (Line) with a great reaction time,” said McGaha, who had been 1-8 against Line in previous matchups.
Chevrolet drivers have won every Pro Stock elimination round this season and the past 26 races bridging the 2017 and ’18 seasons. Line advanced to the finals for the second consecutive race in the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS and the 97th of his Pro Stock career.
Line knocked out KB Racing teammate and No. 1 qualifier Deric Kramer (American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro SS) and McGaha defeated No. 3 qualifier and fellow Texan Alex Laughlin (Hot Wheels Car Care Chevrolet Camaro SS) in the semifinals.
Winning first-round eliminations were four-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS), the 2017 Phoenix winner who was competing in his 430th career Pro Stock race; No. 2 qualifier Erica Enders (Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro SS); Jeg Coughlin Jr. (JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro SS); and Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro SS).
In Sportsman classes, Justin Lamb of Hendersonville, Nevada, the 2017 Super Stock champion, earned his 19th national event win by driving his 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt to the victory.
“Between great equipment and us working really hard, we’re able to have a lot of success,” said Lamb, who picked up his third national victory in Arizona. “Pomona was not very good and this definitely makes up for it.”
Al Corda of Elk Mound, Wisconsin, advanced to the Stock Eliminator semifinals for the second consecutive event to start the season in his Chevrolet COPO Camaro. Lamb, the 2017 Stock Eliminator champion, was the No. 10 qualifier in his Chevrolet COPO Camaro and won his first-round matchup before departing.
Jeg Coughlin Jr. was the No. 3 qualifier in Top Sportsman, driving a 2018 twin-turbocharged Chevrolet Corvette.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues March 16-18 with the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida. FS1 will telecast qualifications at 8:30 p.m. ET March 16 and telecast eliminations and finals at 7 p.m. ET March 18.
ROGER ALLEN, CHEVY RACING NHRA PROGRAM MANAGER: “Chevrolet’s 125th Funny Car victory is a significant achievement for its National Hot Rod Association program and a testament to the teams, drivers, the NHRA, and all the Chevy Racing personnel who have contributed to the success over the years. Congratulations to Courtney Force and her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS team for earning the historic victory. Also congratulations to Chris McGaha for his Pro Stock victory in the Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevrolet Camaro SS.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT & MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 4 qualifier; advanced to semifinals, but unable to compete because of crash): “This was a great day for John Force Racing. Brittany came back from a crash at Pomona and won first round and Courtney won Funny Car for Advance Auto Parts. My struggles continue, but I’m a big boy, I’ll fix it.”
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET DRAGSTER (No. 14 qualifier; fell in quarterfinals): “Overall, looking at our weekend, I’m happy with it. I’m not disappointed in anything. Coming back from a wreck like we did in Pomona, that first run, climbing back in that car, it’s not easy. It’s definitely tough. And especially, also doing it again in that first round. It takes you back. I think it’s a work in progress. It’s going to take some time. Happy with our Monster Energy team. We pulled out our old car, didn’t have time to test it, just took it down there and made some pretty good passes. I pulled my foot out of it on that first run. It moved around a little bit and I clicked it a little bit early. But I’d rather play it safe than end up like we did last weekend.”
An interview with Funny Car winner COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 1 qualifier; claimed ninth career Funny Car win and first since Houston in 2016; reached 18th career final; set track Funny Car elapsed time record in qualifying and speed record in final round):
WHAT DOES (CO-CREW CHIEF) BRIAN CORRADI BRING TO YOUR CREW?
“It’s been huge. It’s been great having Corradi on our team, working with Dan Hood. They’re kind of like family; they’ve known each other for a long time. It’s been a really great connection with the entire team. Every single one of my guys on the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro has been working so hard. Today was actually a tough day. We had a 40-minute turnaround in the semis. They got it up there. We were able to get that win. Obviously, my dad wasn’t in the other lane for that run, but we still managed to have a solid pass down the racetrack. Didn’t have lane choice in the final and weren’t able to warm up the car but still got it up there. It was nice for TJ (Tommy Johnson Jr.) to wait for us. We were able to go up there and lay down a killer number. It’s thanks to my guys. They gave me the confidence to get in that car today. They make me feel safe in that car because of the amazing job they do on it. Corradi and Hood have been unbelievable getting the No. 1 qualifier we had this weekend and then to top it off. To take home the Wally at the end of the weekend is pretty incredible. It’s definitely a great start to our season. We’ve been looking for a win for a long time now. It feels like forever and this one definitely feels good, and I know it will help my dad feel a lot better.”
THE FINAL ROUND PASS WAS LIKE AN EXCLAMATION POINT
“We lost lane choice and we hadn’t gotten down (the track) in the left lane. It’s final round and I knew they were going to be gunning for it. They told me all day long – if anything doesn’t feel right in this car we aren’t going to be mad at you if you have to shut it off. My dad told me to go out there and kick their a—s, and I told him I was going to do it. I’m excited I’m able to bring him home the Wally and hope that he’s doing better.”
COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW
“It’s a little overwhelming. I cried at my top end interview because it’s been an extremely emotional day. Coming from Pomona, trying to get our heads on straight and putting that behind us and have a fresh start and Dad has a huge explosion. It’s out of your control and it’s unfortunate that it happened to his car and him. You have switch your focus and get back in the car. My dad and my crew chiefs were the ones who gave me the confidence to get back in my race car to battle it out all day long. These cars are unpredictable; we know that as drivers. You just have to go out there and fight hard. There’s a lot of tough competition out here. We’ve had a great race car all weekend and I’m glad we were able to prove to everyone we had the car to get it done.”
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR OWN MENTAL TOUGHNESS?
“I think I’m still trying to figure that out, but I push myself hard and I do it for my team, for the fans who came out here to watch a good race and do it for my sponsors. I don’t want to let anyone down. My team told me ‘you don’t have to get back in this race car if you don’t want to’ after witnessing what happened to my dad. You start questioning things a little bit, but I told them I’m good, let’s get down there and have a good run and just take it round by round. It’s the same race car we’ve been running. You just have to block out all the mental of that and know this is the race car you know how to drive. (Matt) Hagan came up to me and said ‘You’re a great driver and you know how to do this. Just clear your head.’ It was kind of nice to hear that.”
An interview with Pro Stock winner CHRIS MCGAHA, HARLOW SAMMONS RACING, HARLOW SAMMONS OF ODESSA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 7 qualifier; sixth career Pro Stock win; 19th different Pro Stock driver to win in 34 years of NHRA Arizona race; has won each of the past three times he’s reached finals):
AS AN ENGINE GUY, WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU – THE SPEED OR THE .007 REACTION TIME (IN FINAL)?
“The speed because it shows horsepower and the .007 reaction time because it means I didn’t screw it up. When the crew chiefs give you a good car, it’s kind of like a field goal kicker. He sits there on the bench the whole time and then he has to come out and win the game, so it’s kind of like what you feel like as a driver – don’t mess it up because you’re the last guy. Maybe it was adrenaline in the finals. Jason (Line) is over there and that’s one of the guys I come to race right there. You know you have to bring you’re a game because he’s good at what he does.”
WHAT IS ADAM HORNBERGER’S ROLE WITH THE TEAM THIS YEAR?
“He’s more of a shock specialist and I’ve kind of relieved myself of the crew chief duties and let him totally take it over. It’s working out good. I didn’t realize how overloaded I had made myself and maybe that’s helping me drive better. I always thought I needed something to do in the pits to help my driving, but obviously maybe I had overloaded myself and we can get something good going here and see what happens.”
ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE CAR IN THE DIFFERENT CONDITIONS WE SAW?
“Absolutely. We picked up some power this winter that we had been lacking and looking for. When we unloaded and it went No. 1 in the first session, then we said ‘OK, we have something that can compete.’ Then we lose a pushrod in Q4. I’ve done that so many times since we’ve gone to EFI and it was like déjà vu again. We overcame it.”
HOW SATISFYING IS IT TO BUILD YOU OWN ENGINE THAT WINS?
“It’s absolutely satisfying. We’re the one little car from Odessa, Texas, with not a lot of data. In respect to all the other teams, they’re trying to make Pro Stock have enough cars and provide for them. It’s good for them and bad for them. Our shop doesn’t have enough depth to do that, but we try to do what we can. We help some of the other guys like Steve Graham and I even help Joey Grose some.”
WE HAVEN’T SEEN YOU IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE SINCE THE (2017) FOUR-WIDE
“That seems like ages ago at this point.”
IT WAS AN IMPRESSIVE DAY IN WHAT SOME WERE FINDING PRETTY TRICKY CONDITIONS
“It was. We had some issues and we addressed them before the finals and I think that’s when we picked up. We can credit that to the crew chief. I just tried not to mess it up.”