By Lee Elder
RICHMOND, Virg. (June 10, 2018) – Courtney Force won her fourth victory of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season, extended her lead in the Funny Car standings and made an emphatic statement as she did all that in the NHRA Virginia Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.
Steve Torrence (in Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and L.E. Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the other winners in the professional categories as the Series returned to Virginia.
“It was a lot of fun getting to race my Dad in that final round,” the winner said. “He tried to … get in my head a little bit down at the top end. He’s telling old stories because, really, the last time I was here in Virginia was in the Winners Circle with my dad, celebrating his win.”
Courtney Force was seven years old when all that happened. This time she was the winner.
“I love my dad and that Peak team but it was so awesome to be able to get that win and celebrate here in the Winners Circle in Virginia,” she said.
It was the sixth time Courtney Force has advanced to the Funny Car final in the ten races this season. Her wins have all come from the number one qualifier position and the last time that happened in the Funny Car category, it was 12 years ago and John Force was the driver who did it. Courtney Force said, “That’s insane.”
John Force left the starting line first in the final, but not by much (his .067-second reaction time bested her .068) and Courtney Force’s car clocked in at 4.039 seconds to his losing 4.076. It was the first time John Force has lost a final round in Virginia.
Torrence also left the starting line second in the final round, edging Doug Kalitta with better performance, 3.812 (322.96 mph) seconds to Kalitta’s 3.844 (309.65). Torrence’s win came on his 200th Top Fuel start. His first start was at Virginia Motorsports Park. His victory was his 20th.
“I haven’t got nervous driving one of these things in a long time but, heck, I got nervous,” Torrence said of his first qualifying pass Friday. “I flashed back to 2006, my first race ever in a Top Fuel car was at this race track.”
Gray’s Pro Stock win was the seventh of his career. He beat two-time champ Erica Enders with a quicker reaction time (his .009 of a second to her .013) and an elapsed time of 6.595 seconds (208.46 mph). Enders’ time was 6.628 seconds (208.46 mph). Gray qualified fifth.
“I only did my job twice, the first round and the final, there, but (his crew) gave me a fast race car and I think that kind of made the difference in the day,” Gray said.
Gray’s victory broke a tie with his father, Shane Gray, for career Pro Stock wins.
This was Tonglet’s first win of the season. His last victory came in 2017 against the same rider he beat Sunday, Andrew Hines.
“Last weekend I rode terribly in the final and I told the crew everything after the final (at Route 66 Raceway),” Tonglet said. “I said that one as on me and I would make it up to them in the next final.”
Courtney Force was the only driver in the top five in Funny Car points to survive the first round Sunday. Her already sizable lead jumped dramatically with the Virginia win. Unofficially, she leads second-place driver Jack Beckman 856-683,
Torrence extended his lead in the Top Fuel standings. Clay Millican, who remains in second place, lost in the opening round. Torrence now leads Millican 827-719. Kalitta jumped from fifth place to third, at 665.
Both Pro Stock leader Greg Anderson second place Vincent Nobile lost in the second round Sunday but they maintained their positions. Gray’s win pushed him to third place, just ahead of Enders. Unofficially, Anderson leads with 720 points and Nobile is next with 703. Gray is third with 693, Enders has 686 in fourth.
Andrew Hines maintained his lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle with 454 points. Eddie Krawiec has 401 and is second.
NOTES: Last week’s winners in Top Fuel and Funny Car were both eliminated in the first round. Clay Millican fouled by jumping early in Top Fuel and Robert Hight got out run in Funny Car. … Four of the top five drivers in the NHRA’s Countdown standings in Funny Car, and six of the top eight, went out in the first round. … The top eight drivers in the Pro Stock standings advanced through the first round and six of the first eight in the Top Fuel standings advanced through the first round. … Jeg Coughlin lost to Chris McGaha in the second round of Pro Stock, but he rebounded with a win in Super Comp. Coughlin has won in seven NHRA categories, the most categories in NHRA history.