Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals
by Candida Benson, NHRA.com
Ashley Force etched her name into the annals of drag racing history when she defeated her father, John, in the final round at the 28th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals to become the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car title. The final was somewhat anticlimactic when John, who was seeking his 1,000th round-win, struck the tires immediately; Ashley would have been tough to beat as she sailed to a 4.837, the second-quickest time of the day. Joining Force in the winner’s circle were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). Brown’s impressive first year in Top Fuel continued with his second win in his third straight final. Edwards picked up his first win since the 2006 Madison event, and Hines capped a dominant weekend with a 6.946 run that beat Chip Ellis.
Ashley Force etched her name into the annals of drag racing history when she defeated her father, John, in the final round at the 28th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals to become the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car title. The final was somewhat anticlimactic when John, who was seeking his 1,000th round-win, struck the tires immediately; Ashley would have been tough to beat as she sailed to a 4.837, the second-quickest time of the day.
Joining Force in the winner’s circle were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). Brown’s impressive first year in Top Fuel continued with his second win in his third straight final. Edwards picked up his first win since the 2006 Madison event, and Hines capped a dominant weekend with a 6.946 run that beat Chip Ellis.
“I’m just happy to win an event; that was the main thing,” said Ashley. “Being a female, that’s exciting as far as the records and everything, but my team, we just wanted to get our first win. We went a whole year last year and got close a few times. To finally get it done, we’re just so excited.
“At the top end, Dad just came over and congratulated me and told me and my team, ‘Good job.’ I think Dad’s done this enough years that he has the same routine and doesn’t care who’s next to him, whether you’re related to him or not. I’m the one who needs to practice and not be thinking about that. He wants his 1,000th [round-]win as well. Mom and I had it figured out, though: He can get it next week on his birthday — that will be special — and I can get my first win here.” [More Ashley Force quotes]
Ashley defeated Del Worsham, Jim Head, and Ron Capps en route to the final, which was the third straight and fourth overall money-round showing for her and solidified her hold on the top spot in the points standings; she leads Tim Wilkerson by 59 points.
Dad John had a much-needed get-well weekend, looking like the racer of old who intimidated and dominated the class. After defeating team driver Mike Neff and No. 1 qualifier Wilkerson in the opening rounds, Force ran low e.t. of eliminations, 4.822, to defeat rookie Bob Tasca III and advance to his first final since Reading last year, the 201st of his career, and his 14th at Atlanta Dragway, the most at a POWERade venue for him. The final-round showing lifted him three positions in the standings, from eighth to fifth.
“This weekend I had a little problem with my brakes, and my car kept rolling on me a little bit,” said Brown. “I kept pulling the lever back, and it kept rolling a little bit, but I didn’t let that disturb me. That made it pop some real good reaction times this weekend, so it made me look like I was doing good.
“In the final round, we were racing Alan Johnson, Tony Schumacher, and the whole Army team over there, and they’re five-time world champions, so you have to give it everything you’ve got. As soon as I saw that thing just flicker yellow, I hit the pedal as quick as I could, and that thing took off and was going down Broadway; I didn’t feel any hiccups on the racetrack, so I knew it was on a good pass. I didn’t see Tony, but I heard him, so I knew he was right there. I was like, ‘Man, come on, come on.’ I went through the traps, saw that win light on, and I just went ecstatic. I couldn’t get out of that car quick enough. It just felt fantastic.”
Brown’s 4.53 in the final was the last of four straight 4.5-second clockings in eliminations. He ran a 4.580 to defeat Dave Grubnic in round one and followed that with a 4.591 win over Cory McClenathan and a 4.555 victory over Bob Vandergriff Jr.
Points leader Schumacher continued his fast start to the season with his third final this year. Schumacher, who won in
“I just can’t describe the feeling of winning races in this class,” said Edwards. “It’s been since 2006 since I won, and I was wondering if I was ever going to do it again to be honest with you. I’ll tell you what, it’s just an unbelievable feeling to win one of these races because you have to race guys like the
“That car has just two races on it. So to come here and win and run the way we ran here today is unbelievable. This might be my best-feeling win I’ve ever had because the whole team, from the engine shop we put together this year to the guys at the track, work so hard and put in such a great effort; I’m just so proud of them. I’m just very fortunate to get the opportunity to drive this thing.”
Line is off to the best start of his career, making it to the final round for the fourth time in the first six races. Line, the
“[My .009] light in the final was a little bit of an accident — I wanted to go teen,” said Hines. “I figured we had to be teen to run with Chip. We kind of threw a tune-up at it we hadn’t put it in it all weekend long, and it definitely performed.
“Our motorcycle was flawless this weekend. We left the same engine in it all weekend long, and that was the same engine we had in testing on Monday. I can’t say enough about what the guys have done with the engines back at the shop. People were saying that we should have dialed it at a 6.95 on the windscreen with some shoe polish, and it would have run it. It was just going down the track so smooth and so great all weekend. I’ve never had a motorcycle make that many runs in a row that were almost identical.”
Ellis helped erase the memory of his disappointing loss in the
In Lucas Oil Sportsman competition, Frank Manzo continued his love affair with Atlanta Dragway, collecting his 13th Top Alcohol Funny Car win at the track. The victory, the 74th of his career, continues an impressive streak of winning rounds for Manzo, who has compiled 33 consecutive round-wins that date back to July last year. Other Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series winners were Spencer Massey (Top Alcohol Dragster), Rick Brown (Comp), Kevin Helms (Super Stock), Lee Zane (Stock), Bubba Watts (Super Comp), and Gary Federico (
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