EPPING, NH – June 1, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – The 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season has been a return to form for the John Force Racing team. Funny Car standout Courtney Force is the points leader and has a victory, Robert Hight has a win and is fifth in points, and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force won the first two races of her career this season and sits third.
The only driver without a win in the four-car stable is team owner and 16-time world champion John Force, something he hopes can change at this weekend’s fourth annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.
It would give Force two straight victories at a track celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016 and remove any sting of three straight first-round losses. The most recent of those came in Topeka, where Force introduced the new Chevrolet Camaro body for his 10,000-horsepower Peak Antifreeze Funny Car.
“I have been at the shop in Indy since after Topeka working with my team,” said Force, who is currently ninth in Funny Car points and has one final round appearance in 2016. “It had been great since I usually just come in for a day and try to get something done quickly. We have been able to go through the car and really get me fitted and comfortable.
“I have been able to spend some time with the Aerodine to work on the body I brushed the wall with and I think we made it a little better. So many people have worked on this new Camaro body we are excited to get it back at the track. My Camaro will be ready for Epping and so will I.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were also last year’s winners of the event. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live qualifying on Saturday and finals coverage on Sunday. The race is the ninth of 24 events during the 2016 season and kicks off a string of four straight race weekends.
Seeing the team’s success has been exciting and motivating for Force, but he is just as eager to taste some of it. Getting a victory in the new Camaro body is a huge motivator, as is ending a winless streak that dates back to last year’s race in Epping.
“I want to get into the winner’s circle more than anyone I think,” said Force, who has 143 career wins. “You want your team to have success but when you are trying to get one of the last spots in the Traxxas Shootout plus get that win for our sponsor PEAK Antifreeze you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I can handle the pressure and so can my team.
“I got my first win for PEAK last year in Epping and I think I have a great chance to get another win for them. We aren’t just racing for PEAK or Chevy but also for Auto Club, Traxxas, Monster Energy, Lucas Oil and Mac Tools. You never take winning for granted and I know I have won a lot but I want to keep winning and teaching my kids.”
They have clearly picked up on what their legendary father has been teaching over the years. Brittany has found a winning combination in a loaded Top Fuel class, as has Courtney, who is back to her winning ways after struggling in 2015 and failing to make the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. When asked what stood out to him about JFR’s strong start to 2016, John Force referenced a number of early-season highlights.
“I think seeing the Monster Energy dragster and Brittany win in Top Fuel on the same day as Robert won with the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro in Gainesville,” John Force said. “Then seeing Courtney win in Houston. We have put a lot of time in over the off-season and we are seeing a lot of that work come together plus the relationship with Alan Johnson has been big. I like that we have an alliance with Torrence Racing and we are both having success.”
But John Force remains as competitive as ever, which means the drive to win is just as strong. Epping has been the backdrop for great memories, including his win last year and Courtney’s victory at the inaugural race, and will again have an electric atmosphere in 2016.
But Force will also have to deal with a loaded Funny Car field, including two-time season winner Tim Wilkerson, Ron Capps, who opened the season with a win at the Winternationals, defending world champion Del Worsham, Las Vegas event winner Alexis DeJoria, Matt Hagan, who has posted back-to-back wins entering the weekend, and national record holder Jack Beckman. The race also starts a rigorous stretch, but it’s one that suits Force just fine.
“This is perfect for me,” Force said. “I haven’t been home in a month already. I don’t do vacations. I was at the Indy 500 for Chevy and we signed autographs with Linda Vaughn and Courtney on Saturday. I was all over the race track talking with fans and media people. I have been in Indy working on my race car and new sponsors. I can’t wait to get to the race track and get into my race car. We are going to test on Tuesday in Indy before Epping and then we’ll get on an airplane and head up to the track. I think the best way to get off to a good start is to just focus on each race. If you start thinking about trying to get on a win streak you won’t be thinking about what you need to do on that run.”
In Top Fuel, eight-time world champion Schumacher beat three-time world champ Larry Dixon in the finals a year ago. Schumacher, who is after his third consecutive win at New England Dragway, is seeking his first win of 2016. Others to watch include red-hot Doug Kalitta, the current points leader after three straight victories, two-time 2016 winner Brittany Force, two-time season finalist Steve Torrence who has claimed four No. 1 qualifiers this season, defending world champ Antron Brown, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon and Terry McMillen.
Four-time Pro Stock world champion Anderson raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to his third victory of season a year ago. Anderson has opened the 2016 season with three victories and only trails his teammate, two-time world champion and current points leader Jason Line, who has appeared in all eight final rounds and has five wins. Other pre-race favorites in the 200-mph factory hot rod category are two-time and defending world champion Erica Enders, Bo Butner, Chris McGaha, 2014 top rookie Drew Skillman, 2012 world champ and 2013 New England winner Allen Johnson, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray and Alex Laughlin.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 3 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 4 at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 5.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA NEW ENGLAND NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: Fourth annual NHRA New England Nationals, the ninth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: New England Dragway, Epping, N.H., the track is on Route 101 off Exit 8, an hour north of Boston and just 20 minutes from Manchester and the New Hampshire sea coast. From I-95, take Exit 2 in New Hampshire. Travel west on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn right. From I-93, take Exit 7 in New Hampshire. Travel east on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn left, and the track is straight ahead. From I-495, take Exit 51-B to Route 125 north. Travel east on Route 101 to Exit 8, then turn left, and the track is straight ahead.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 90 feet above sea level. Track direction is southwest to northeast.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 3-5
FRIDAY, June 3 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 4 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 5 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
FRIDAY, June 3, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at Midnight (ET)
SATURDAY, June 4, FS1 will televise one hour of live qualifying coverage at 2:30 p.m. (ET)
SATURDAY, June 4, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at Midnight (ET)
SUNDAY, June 5, FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET)
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; John Force, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock.
Top Fuel – 3.742 sec. by Tony Schumacher, June ’15; 327.66 mph by Spencer Massey, June ’15.
Funny Car – 3.988 sec. by Robert Hight, June ’14; 323.35 mph Courtney Force, June ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.485 sec. by Shane Gray, June ’14; 214.72 mph by Greg Anderson, June ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ‘16, Gainesville, Fla.; 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the eighth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Doug Kalitta, 710; 2. Antron Brown, 615; 3. Brittany Force, 580; 4. Steve Torrence, 557; 5. (tie) Clay Millican, 440; J.R. Todd, 440; 7. Richie Crampton, 418; 8. Tony Schumacher, 403; 9. Shawn Langdon, 346; 10. Terry McMillen, 310.
1. Courtney Force, 601; 2. Jack Beckman, 589; 3. Tim Wilkerson, 554; 4. Matt Hagan, 511; 5. Robert Hight, 510; 6. Ron Capps, 504; 7. Del Worsham, 485; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 451; 9. John Force, 448; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., 404.
1. Jason Line, 942; 2. Greg Anderson, 816; 3. Bo Butner, 614; 4. (tie) Allen Johnson, 465; Drew Skillman, 465; 6. Chris McGaha, 427; 7. Vincent Nobile, 346; 8. Erica Enders, 341; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 339; 10. Alex Laughlin, 327.