CHEVROLET RACING IN NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION
VIRGINIA NHRA NATIONALS
VIRGINIA MOTORSPORTS PARK IN NORTH DINWIDDIE, VIRGINIA
SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2018
Chevrolet Doubles Up at Richmond with Funny Car, Pro Stock Wins
• Courtney Force claims fourth victory in 10 Funny Car races this season
• All the class points leader’s wins have come as the No. 1 qualifier
• John Force is runner-up in 250th Funny Car final of illustrious career
• Tanner Gray earns seventh Pro Stock victory in 34 career races
NORTH DINWIDDIE, Va. (June 10, 2018) – On June 4, 1995, Courtney Force – wearing a “Virginia is for Lovers” T-shirt joined her father in the winner’s circle at Virginia Motorsports Park to celebrate his Funny Car victory.
On Sunday, she visited the winner’s circle again – and displayed a T-shirt with the state’s tourism and travel slogan — as the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returned to the racetrack after an eight-year absence. Force collected her fourth Funny Car victory in 10 races this season by defeating John Force in the final of the Virginia NHRA Nationals with a pass of 4.039 seconds at 321.96 mph in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Chevrolet posted its 10th consecutive Pro Stock victory this season as Tanner Gray won for the second time by posting a 6.595-second run at 208.81 mph in the Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS to defeat two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders.
Competing against each other in the final round for the sixth time and first since Las Vegas in 2016, the Force family matchup also marked the 50th Funny Car final between John Force Racing teammates. John Force, a four-time winner at the racetrack, was competing in the 250th final of his illustrious career and ran his elimination round total to 1,296 wins.
Courtney Force has recorded all four wins as the No. 1 qualifier. Her father is the last Funny Car driver (2002) to win four times as the low qualifier.
“Every single crew guy on my Advance Auto Parts Chevy, Brian Corradi and Dan Hood who are turning this thing, they are the ones who gave me a fast hot rod all weekend long and I am just so proud to be in that driver’s seat,” said Force, who turns 30 on June 20. “It was a lot of fun to be able to race my dad in the final round.”
Robert Hight, who claimed his first victory of the season in the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS last week at Joliet, Illinois, was the No. 2 Funny Car qualifier. The defending class champion lost in the first round.
Reigning Top Fuel champion Brittany Force, who qualified second in her Advance Auto Parts Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster based on her 3.808-second pass at 324.75 mph, fell in the first round of eliminations. Force was matched with Bill Litton, who was Force’s 38th different opponent and the second consecutive race she raced a first-time opponent to begin eliminations.
Gray, the No. 5 qualifier, recorded his seventh win in 34 career races over two seasons. He defeated Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS), a technical partner of Gray Motorsports, and Enders beat Chris McGaha (Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevrolet Camaro SS) in the semifinals.
“(Crew chief) Dave (Connelly) and the guys saved me in two rounds today. I only did my job twice — in the first round and final,” said Gray, who is 4-4 in matchups with Enders. “They gave me a fast race car and I think that made the difference on the day.”
Greg Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) ran his career record to 92-7 in the first round of eliminations when he is the No. 1 Pro Stock qualifier. Other first-round winners included Chicago winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. (JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro SS), reigning class champion and No. 2 qualifier Bo Butner (Jim Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS), and Vincent Nobile (Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro SS).
Steve Szupka of Northampton, Pennsylvania, reached the semifinals of Super Stock in his 2018 Chevrolet COPO Camaro. He qualified 28th of the 52 entries.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues June 15-17 with the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in Tennessee. FS1 will telecast qualifications live at 6 p.m. ET June 15 and taped eliminations and finals at 7:30 p.m. June 17.
An interview with Funny Car winner COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 1 qualifier for sixth time this season and 23rd of career; fourth win of season – all as low qualifier – and 12th of career in 153 races; class points leader):
FOUR TIMES YOU’VE WON THIS YEAR, ALL FROM THE NO. 1 SPOT
“I just have to say thank you to all the fans that are out here this weekend. To pull up and see just a packed house is incredible. Just the support that you guys gave our team. Every single crew guy on my Advance Auto Parts Chevy, Brian Corradi and Dan Hood who are turning this thing, they are the ones who gave me a fast hot rod all weekend long and I am just so proud to be in that driver’s seat. It was a lot of fun to be able to race my dad in the final round.”
HOW MUCH EXCHANGE BETWEEN THE SEMFINALS AND FINAL DID YOU HAVE AND DID HE TRY TO GET INTO YOUR HEAD?
“He tried to get in my head a little bit at the top end. He’s telling old stories and the last time I was here in Virginia I was in the winner’s circle with my dad celebrating his win and I was wearing a (Virginia is for lovers) T-shirt. My goal was to be wearing it today. I’m so excited I was able to and take him out in the final round. I love my dad and the PEAK team but it was so awesome to get that win and celebrate here in Virginia in the winner’s circle. That team has done a phenomenal job. I’m proud of all those guys. They’ve made some moves in points and our team definitely stayed up there in points.”
THIS IS A HUGE WIN AND CONTINUES THE MOMENTUM YOU’VE HAD THIS SEASON
“This was a great job by my Advance Auto Parts team. It was exciting to be in an all-Force final and to see that PEAK team do so well. They have a good thing going over there. They had me nervous when I rolled up for the final round. We had a great side-by-side race. Brian Corradi and Danny Hood have done a great job with this team and race car. We have been so consistent. We stumbled a little in the first round but we got away with it.”
WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE FINAL ROUND WITH TAKING YOUR TIME STAGING?
“That amount of time for staging is pretty normal for us. My dad has his routine and I have grown up watching that routine. I prepared myself that it was going to be a long tree and I just tried to play his game and not let it screw with me. He still made me wait but that is OK because we had a car for him. It was a fun weekend and we are happy to be back here in Virginia. The stories that my dad was telling were maybe a little out of context. The last time I was here I was 7 years old. All I wanted for my birthday was to come to a race with just my dad and it was this racetrack. We got to celebrate in the winner’s circle and I was wearing a Virginia is for Lovers T-shirt. I am excited to wear that shirt in the winner’s circle today for my win. Dad was talking about dancing in a bar and that is because he took me to a bar to celebrate his win. I was playing Ace of Base on repeat on the juke box and I was dancing beside the juke box. That is the real story.”
HOW IS TO WIN WITH MOMENTUM?
“This is just the beginning of the season and we just have to maintain our focus. So much credit goes to my team and the job that they have done. I am trying to keep up with them and perform well as a driver. We are in the points lead right now and we stretched it a little more with the win today. Our focus is getting to Indy and having a cushion and locking into the countdown. Get back to me then about how we are doing. That is when we are really going to need this momentum. Right now it is great but we really have to keep it all season long if we want to end up on top at the end of the season.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN THE INAUGURAL EVENT HERE AFTER A RESET?
“It is huge. This is the first time I have ever driven on this racetrack. Our goal was to go out here and go after that win. You don’t really know what to expect on a new track. I was a little nervous but once we made a solid pass I knew that we were going to be OK.”
JOHN FORCE HAD NEVER LOST IN THE FINAL HERE UNTIL TODAY
“I didn’t know that. I think it is great for anyone on our team to get wins. To have it be an all-Force final was huge. I know that he was bummed that he didn’t get the win. His team made strides with the points and performance. I told me he was proud of me. It was a great weekend for all of us.”
HOW DOES THIS WIN COMPEARE TO THAT WIN WHEN YOU WERE 7 YEARS OLD?
“It is extremely surreal. Being here as a kid in the winner’s circle was great. I came out here to see the races because that is how obsessed I was with racing Funny Cars. I think it was surreal to come to this very track with him again and race him in the final round. That was pretty cool. I don’t think I could have written a better story. I was going to be excited whether he got the win or I did. There were so many fans here it was amazing. That says a lot about the Franklins who run this track. It was sold out yesterday and I bet it was sold out today.”
An interview with Pro Stock winner TANNER GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 5 qualifier; second win of season and seventh in 34 career races):
YOU HAD A HECK OF A DAY AT THE OFFICE
“I did. (Crew chief) Dave (Connelly) and the guys saved me in two rounds today. I only did my job twice — in the first round and final. They gave me a fast race car and I think that made the difference on the day.”
IS THE MISUNDERSTANDING BETWEEN YOU AND ERICA (ENDERS) BEHIND YOU GUYS?
“She is obviously a great racer and has done more than me and you have to respect what she’s done so far in the class. Going up there against her you definitely have to be good on the tree. I think it just makes for a good race no matter what the circumstances are because both of us can be struggling like we were today and go up there and be .007 and .013, so it makes for good racing. I’m looking forward to the next time we race against each other.”
HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO GET YOUR MIND RIGHT AFTER BEING DISAPPOINTED IN YOUR DRVING IN THE EARLY ROUNDS?
“I just went back, got out the practice tree and took a few hits at that. I had to get a little more confidence back, I guess you could say. I just had to prove to myself that I could go up there and do it. Once you have one bad light you start thinking about it too much. I guess you just have to learn to let it go and trust the process and trust what you’ve done when you’re not at the racetrack and you know you can be double zero when you need to.”
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT HAVING ONE MORE WIN THAN YOUR DAD?
“It’s cool but they’ve put me in a position to be here. I’m sure if he wanted to come back and race he could win more than I could. It’s all in good fun messing with them about it. He and my grandpa definitely have blessed me in ways that I can’t explain. To come out here and race and to be able to compete with these guys; in my opinion this is the toughest class and it’s not easy to come out here and win. I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to come out here and race.”
WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT (CREW CHIEF) DAVE CONNELLY, WHO HAS WON HERE, SAID TO YOU TO GET SET?
“Not before the final but before the weekend he said, ‘Don’t mess up my record, kid.’ Dave was supposed to race and I was looking forward to hopefully getting to race him today. Working with Dave is a blast. He helps me a lot mentally and to better understand the car. All in all, it was a great day and they gave me an awesome race car. It’s really cool to win here.”
ARE YOU USING THESE OPPORTUNITIES TO PREPARE FOR THE COUNTDOWN?
“At the beginning of the season you put yourself in high-pressure situations, you purposefully put pressure on yourself when you don’t need to, just to practice for the end of the year. I think that helps a ton. Obviously, it’s not the same but it definitely helps simulate it. It’s going to be tough this year. There are eight, nine different cars that can win at any minute. If you win the championship this year, you deserved it.”