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Drag Racing’s Brittany Force Beats Out Danica Patrick, Other Professional Drivers for RACER Magazine’s Rookie of the Year

Brittany Force Castrol

By Gary P Jackson

Father John Force, 16 time NHRA Funny Car champion, wins RACER of the Year and Drag RACER of the year honors as well

BForce_RACER_Cover

JForce_RACER_Cover

RELEASE:

The readers of RACER magazine turned out in record numbers to recognize two John Force Racing drivers for their high levels of excellence during the 2013 NHRA season. John Force the newly crowned 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champion was voted Drag Racer of the Year and even more impressively recognized as the RACER of the Year for all forms of motorsports. Force, driver of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang Funny Car, becomes just the third multiple time RACER of the Year winner joining four-time winner Michael Schumacher and two-time winner Jacques Villeneuve. Force won his first RACER of the Year award for his then record setting 15th Mello Yello Funny Car championship in 2010.

This is the kind of thing that really makes you stop and think. Someone was just telling me how great I did last year, and I had to tell ’em to stop. I didn’t want to hear it. Still don’t. It’s like my dad told me once, a long time ago, when I came home bragging about how I’d just won 50 grand at some race. He said, ‘What makes you think you’re so great? Because you read that in the paper? You’re probably the one who told them how great you are.’ I never forgot that. I try to stay hungry and stay humble and not think about it, but this award from RACER makes you think about it. The 2013 championship was special, and this award makes it even more special. All I can say is what an honor it is,” said Force when he was notified of both awards.

Force received an astounding 67% of the fan vote for RACER of the Year and an unbelievable 83% of the vote for Drag Racer of the Year. This was the seventh time Force has been named Drag Racer of the Year.

Another John Force Racing tradition was continued when Top Fuel driver Brittany Force was the overwhelming choice for RACER Rookie of the Year. Last year Courtney Force took home top rookie honors from RACER readers. Brittany, the first Force to race Top Fuel dragster, outdistanced NASCAR Sprint Cup rookies Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse as well as young drivers from racing series around the globe.

This is huge. I thought for sure Danica Patrick would win. She’s Danica Patrick. NASCAR’s fan base is so much larger than NHRA drag racing’s, but this just goes to show that we have the best fans,” said Force.

I struggled all year then ended the season at Pomona with a career-best E.T. and my first semi-final ever. Reaction times are still the toughest part. You can practice all you want, but it’s completely different when someone’s in the next lane and you’re strapped in with a helmet on and the engine making all that noise behind you. I’m still learning, and I’ll be learning for a while.

With a staggering 78 percent of votes, Brittany lapped the rookie field. Nearest contender was Carloz Munoz, whose second-place finish on his Indy 500 debut earned him nine percent of the poll.

It should be noted that at the second race of the young 2014 season, Brittany made it to her first final round, losing a very close race. She’ll be joining her famous father and two sisters in the winners circle soon.

~ Gary

Fans can see all the RACER awards at www.racer.com

Former RACER Rookie of the Year Winners

2006 Colin Braun
2007 Lewis Hamilton
2008 Joey Logano
2009 Ben Spies
2010 Ryan Dungey
2011 James Hinchcliffe
2012 Courtney Force
2013 Brittany Force

Former Overall RACER of the Year Winners

1995 JACQUES VILLENEUVE
1996 JACQUES VILLENEUVE
1997 TOMMY KENDALL
1998 JEFF GORDON
1999 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA
2000 MICHAEL SCHUMACHER
2001 MICHAEL SCHUMACHER
2002 MICHAEL SCHUMACHER
2003 PAUL TRACY
2004 DALE EARNHARDT JR.
2005 TONY STEWART
2006 MICHAEL SCHUMACHER
2007 LEWIS HAMILTON
2008 KYLE BUSCH
2009 JIMMIE JOHNSON
2010 JOHN FORCE
2011 TONY STEWART
2012 RYAN HUNTER-REAY
2013 JOHN FORCE

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Shawn Langdon, Robert Hight, Erica Enders-Stevens, Hector Arana Sr Lead NHRA AAA Texas FallNationals Fields

2013 AAA Texas FallNationals Header

By NHRA Communications

NHRA Funny Car driver Robert Hight secured his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 45th of his career on Saturday with a track-record performance, and he will try for his third straight victory of the season on Sunday at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.

Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang climbed to the top of the class with an impressive second round showing of 4.052 seconds at 311.85 mph. The red-hot Hight, who broke the elapsed time track record with the run, will open eliminations against two-time event winner Del Worsham.

It’s a lot of fun right now. It couldn’t happen at a better time than at our sponsor’s race,” said Hight, who jumped to third in the points standings with a win at Charlotte last weekend. “That was a good run. (Crew chief) Mike Neff is not one of these guys that goes up there and throws a Hail Mary.”

Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry driver Cruz Pedregon, a three-time event champ, holds the second position with run of 4.092 at 304.32 while series points leader Matt Hagan sits in the third spot with a performance of 4.093 at 312.78 in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger. Hagan’s speed also broke the track record.

In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon powered his 10,000-horsepower Al-Anabi Silver Racing dragster to his fifth No. 1 qualifier of 2013 and 11th of his career with a strong pass of 3.819 at 321.04. Langdon, who has a class-best five wins this year and earned three bonus points with the quickest pass of the first session, will meet T.J. Zizzo in the first round of eliminations.

It was huge to come out here and make as strong a run as we did in the first session,” said Langdon, who claimed the No. 1 qualifying spot in Dallas for the second straight year. “It was our goal to try to bring the deficit behind (points leader) Spencer Massey to less than one round. Now our focus is to win the race.

Doug Kalitta claimed the No. 2 spot with a run of 3.825 at 318.39 in his Mac Tools dragster. Protect the Harvest/MAV TV dragster driver Brandon Bernstein, who holds the track record in Dallas, secured the third spot after going 3.827 at 316.38. Fellow Texans Steve Torrence and points leader Massey, who has been the runner-up at his home track the past two years, took the No. 4 and No. 8 qualifying positions, respectively.

In Pro Stock, Texas native and fan favorite Erica Enders-Stevens earned her first No. 1 qualifier position of the season and sixth of her career with a stellar performance of 6.557 at 210.93 in her newly-funded Husky Liners Chevy Camaro.

Erica Husky

This is a great feeling for sure, especially doing it in front of my hometown fans in Texas,” Enders-Stevens said of her first No. 1 qualifier in her home state of Texas. “It was kind of nerve-wracking with only two qualifying sessions, so I hope to have more peace of mind during Sunday’s eliminations.”

Rickie Jones in his Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro took the No. 2 position with a run of 6.574 at 211.33 while his teammate, Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro driver Shane Gray, finished as the No. 3 qualifier with his pass of 6.591 at 210.77.

Enders-Stevens, who currently sits in the No. 7 spot in the series points standings, will take on fellow Texan Chris McGaha in the first round. Points leader Mike Edwards qualified No. 6 and will race Larry Morgan in the opening round.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana, Sr. earned his second No. 1 qualifier of the season on his Lucas Oil Products Buell with a run of 6.846 at 195.42. Arana, who was the runner-up last weekend in Charlotte, claimed his 23rd career No. 1 qualifier with the run and will meet Michael Phillips in the first round.

Hector Arana Sr

We’ve always had the power, but now we’re focusing more on consistency, taking it one round at a time,” said Arana Sr., who is the No. 1 qualifier for the second time in the past three races.

Son and points leader Arana Jr. took the No. 2 spot after a challenging first session on his Lucas Oil Buell, going 6.897 at 194.66 in the final qualifying session. He will face No. 14 qualifier Shawn Gann in the opening round. In the third spot is Matt Smith with his time of 6.893 at 194.07 on his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell.

We’ve always had the power, but could not take full advantage of it,” Arana Sr. said of his racing family. “This year, we’ve taken it easy on our runs. I’m truly blessed because I’m racing for a living and having my sons right with me to help out.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 28th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex, the 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel —
1. Shawn Langdon, 3.819 seconds, 321.04 mph vs. 16. T.J. Zizzo, 3.949, 290.44;

2. Doug Kalitta, 3.825, 320.58 vs. 15. Larry Dixon, 3.939, 292.71;

3. Brandon Bernstein, 3.827, 316.38 vs. 14. Antron Brown, 3.895, 311.05;

4. Steve Torrence, 3.832, 320.89 vs. 13. Tony Schumacher, 3.878, 320.20;

5. Clay Millican, 3.835, 320.74 vs. 12. Morgan Lucas, 3.872, 317.87;

6. Spencer Massey, 3.839, 318.02 vs. 11. J.R. Todd, 3.871, 311.27;

7.
David Grubnic, 3.848, 320.43 vs. 10. Brittany Force, 3.871, 312.06;

8. Billy Torrence, 3.853, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Vandergriff, 3.870, 316.75.

Did Not Qualify:
17.
Scott Palmer, 3.975, 302.48; 18. Troy Buff, 4.041, 284.45; 19. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.179, 260.31; 20. Terry McMillen, 4.302, 124.13.

Funny Car —
1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.052, 311.85 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.262, 291.95;

2. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.092, 304.32 vs. 15. Blake Alexander, Dodge Charger, 4.210, 294.56;

3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.093, 312.78 vs. 14. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.187, 301.27;

4. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.096, 306.88 vs. 13. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.178, 288.39;

5. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.115, 309.13 vs. 12. John Force, Mustang, 4.174, 297.94;

6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.122, 306.12 vs. 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.166, 303.50;

7. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.137, 301.87 vs. 10. Chad Head, Camry, 4.161, 304.12;

8. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.154, 304.39 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.154, 302.41.

Did Not Qualify:
17.
John Hale, 4.430, 277.94; 18. Todd Simpson, 4.706, 192.06; 19. Terry Haddock, 5.701, 126.29.

Pro Stock —
1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.557, 210.93 vs. 16. Chris McGaha, Dodge Avenger, 6.654, 208.68;

2. Rickie Jones, Camaro, 6.559, 211.33 vs. 15. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.622, 209.14;

3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.563, 210.77 vs. 14. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.612, 209.92;

4. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.564, 211.23 vs. 13. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.609, 209.17;

5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.566, 211.16 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.607, 210.31;

6. Mike Edwards, Camaro, 6.567, 211.56 vs. 11. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.601, 209.46;

7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.567, 210.90 vs. 10. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.583, 210.31;

8. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.582, 210.47 vs. 9. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.582, 210.31.

Did Not Qualify:
17.
Paul Pittman, 6.734, 206.07.

Pro Stock Motorcycle —
1. Hector Arana Sr, Buell, 6.846, 195.42 vs. 16. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.071, 189.28;

2. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.893, 194.07 vs. 15. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.034, 188.81;

3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.897, 194.66 vs. 14. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.005, 190.75;

4. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.899, 194.21 vs. 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.999, 185.18;

5.
Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.902, 193.27 vs. 12. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.969, 190.57;

6. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.913, 192.55 vs. 11. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.963, 193.54;

7. John Hall, Buell, 6.933, 190.22 vs. 10. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.955, 190.78;

8. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.936, 193.32 vs. 9. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.941, 191.46.

Did Not Qualify:
17.
Steve Johnson, 7.083, 187.03; 18. Freddie Camarena, 7.132, 189.42; 19. Redell Harris, 24.467, 33.91.

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also lead their categories as the No. 1 qualifiers at the second of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Rains washed out both of Friday’s qualifying sessions as competitors made two runs Saturday. Sunday’s eliminations start at 11 a.m.

Sunday’s eliminations will air on ESPN2 beginning at 8:30 pm [Eastern] 7:30 pm [Central]

AAA Texass FallNationals Footer

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Video NHRA Indy-Traxxas Shootout: Beckman’s Explosive Funny Car Win, Langdon Takes Top Fuel

Beckman Traxxas Winner Indy 2013

By Gary P Jackson

A wild Sunday at the 59th Annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the oldest, most prestigious national drag race in the country. While qualifying continued to set the 16 car fields for Monday’s final round of eliminations, the annual race-within-a-race, the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, the $100,000 to win spectacular, was being contested.

The Traxxas Nitro Shootouts consist of eight Top Fuel and eight Funny Cars, seven of which are event winners from the season, leading up to Indy, and one fan vote/lottery winner. This year’s fan/lottery winners were Tim Wilkerson in Funny Car, and rookie Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, daughter of NHRA’s winningest driver, 15 time world champ John Force, and sister of Funny Car stars Courtney Force and three time Indy champion Ashley Force-Hood.

In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon started his march to the final round by taking out Brittany Force, who was the provisional number one qualifier for the Nationals, with a holeshot. Langdon’s 3.874 beat Force’s quicker 3.866.

The final round was also a close one, as again Langdon had the better reaction time .062 to .091 against his opponent, Texas’ Steve Torrence, who was in his second straight Traxxas shootout final round. Langdon won with a 3.821 to Torrence’s 3.828.

In even more good news, team owner Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani, of Qatar was in town, and announced a 5 year contract extension with Alan Johnson, and Top Fuel drivers Langdon, and Khalid alBalooshi.

Funny Car was even wilder, with Jack Beckman’s really explosive win.

In the final round, Jack Beckman, the reining Funny Car world champion, took on the always tough two time champion Cruz Pedregon. As the cars reached the finish line at over 300 mph, Beckman’s car had an engine failure that produced a spectacular explosion, which in turn caused the carbon fiber Dodge Charger body to disintegrate.

Before the finals, Beckman had to get past number one seed Courtney Force in the semi-finals, doing so with a 4.08 elapsed time. Beckman was the picture of consistently in the Shootout, winning the first round over teammate Ron Capps with a 4.06 [quickest of the round] and back to back 4.08 runs against Force and Pedregon.

Besides making the highlight reels, Beckman took the win over Pedregon with a holeshot, his 052 to Cruzer’s .075 reaction time made the difference at the finish line as Beckman’s 4.08 beat Pedregon’s quicker 4.06 pass.

Video of the final rounds of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout:

From NHRA:

Langdon Torrence Top Fuel Final 2013 Traxxas Indy

In 2012, Shawn Langdon had to watch as the eight drivers who qualified for the inaugural NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel competed for the $100,000 prize during the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. This year, he made sure he would participate in the event by winning the season opener in Pomona, and he brought the win home for the Al-Anabi team.

Steve Torrence was denied in the final for the second straight year. Following big wins against Tony Schumacher and Spencer Massey, he lost a close race to Langdon. Langdon got a .062 to .091 starting-line advantage and edged Torrence in a 3.821 to 3.828 decision.

I wanted to get in bad last year, and we weren’t able to do that,” said Langdon. “It was a great feeling just to get in and be a part of it. There’s a lot of attention drawn to this one event. I’m hitting the gas in the finals for $100,000. It gets you in the stomach. There have been two moments in my career in the Top Fuel class that I got that kind of little, gut feeling with the butterflies rolling: the first time I ever sat in the car and the final just now.

Being a kid, I think back to the days at Pomona when I would watch guys like Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, and Joe Amato race the shootouts at the end of the year. I always had big interests in those events because it was always eight of the best drivers in the class competing for a lot of money. If you can’t get up for that, I don’t know what you can get up for.”

Langdon earned his keep in the cockpit by defeating Brittany Force on a 3.874 to 3.866 holeshot in the opening round. His car did the job with a 3.821 to 3.880 victory in the semifinals against Antron Brown.

I didn’t see the win light in the semi’s, and I pulled off the track thinking I lost,” said Langdon. “I shook Antron’s hand and wished him luck in the final, and he just looked at me like I had three eyes. I was a little bummed out. When they told me I won, it felt like I had a buyback into the final.”

Langdon’s win comes on the heels of an earlier announcement that Qatar, Al-Anabi Racing, and Alan Johnson agreed to a five-year contract extension. Team owner Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani was on hand for the win.

On top of the win, we’re out here at Indy, my mom came out, Sheikh Khalid is out here, and we announced our five-year agreement this morning,” said Langdon. “We’re having a good time. The car is running excellent. I couldn’t ask for anything more. The only thing left is to win Indy and win the championship.

Langdon Winners Circle 2013 Traxxas Indy

Beckman Cruzer Final 2013 Traxxas Indy

Jack Beckman, far lane, began the Traxxas Nitro Shootout Funny Car final in a coupe but completed it a winner in a convertible after a finish-line explosion after defeating Cruz Pedregon for the $100,000 winner prize.

Beckman After Explosion 2013 Traxxas Indy

There is an old adage that states, “If you can’t win, be spectacular.” Jack Beckman decided to be both, winning the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Cars in very spectacular fashion after the engine let go in his Valvoline MaxLife entry as he crossed the finish line, shredding the body and sending Beckman on a wild, bouncing ride through the shutdown area. Beckman was uninjured in the incident.

The first four seconds were fantastic. The next 10, not so good,” said Beckman of the final-round run. “Pomona when it blew up, it blew up earlier in the run, and the way the fire came out and what was left of the body, there was a little bit more fire up in my face. This one, it didn’t blow oil all over my visor like it did in Pomona, so I could see the whole way. I’m not sure I recommend that either. As soon as you lose the body, you lose all downforce, so the thing starts bouncing off the ground and you start sliding in your own oil, too. Man, I just did not want to wreck that chassis. We do have a back-up car, but you don’t want to go every qualifying run and then switch chassis out there, so we’ll put a body on it. The problem is when they blow up that hard, it tweaks a couple of things in the chassis, too. We’ve got the whole night to fix it. We’ve got another MaxLife body we can put on it, and we’re the only ones with the chance to double up. I kind of like that.

It gave me no warning whatsoever. Just like Pomona, it didn’t lay over. It didn’t do anything, and to be perfectly frank about this, when you’re in competition, even if it dropped a hole down there, you’ve got to stay in it. You’ve got to get it to the finish line, but there was nothing: good, good, good, good, boom.”

The spectacular finish came after a great side-by-side race with Cruz Pedregon in which Beckman himself played a key role in taking the $100,000 top prize in the bonus event for Funny Car competitors. Beckman left the starting line first against Pedregon, .052 to .075, and that helped guide him to a 4.08 to 4.06 holeshot victory.

You’ve got to race smart,” said Beckman. “The first two rounds were also qualifying, and we get those little points, so I wanted to stage as shallow on both of those rounds. In the final round, it doesn’t matter because it didn’t count towards qualifying, and there’s nothing to lose by staging deeper other than you don’t typically stage deeper. As it turned out, it worked out perfect for us.

The fact that we haven’t won anything this year makes it that much bigger,” added Beckman, who got into the Shootout based on points after there were only six winners prior to Indy. “I’m actually kind of at a little bit of a loss for words right now because it’s really surreal. I intended to be down there with an intact Dodge Charger and a bunch of happy guys, and they’re happy, but now they’ve got to work five more hours than they would have had to tonight. You never know if your last win is your last win, and you try to learn to appreciate every single one of them. This is an odd one because we’ve got to go right back out tomorrow and race, and this one’s a different race. But yeah, it feels fantastic. I won the Skoal Showdown in the only year I competed in it, so to get another eight-car shootout win is amazing. It’s one of those things where years from now you look back and go, ‘Wow, what an amazing day.’

Beckman’s 4.08 in the final was his third straight 4.0 run. He posted a 4.062 that was the quickest winning time of the first round to get past teammate Ron Capps. Beckman then clocked a 4.08 to defeat Courtney Force and advance to the money round.

Pedregon’s fate in the Traxxas Shootout was determined entirely on the starting line. He was on the losing end of a holeshot in the final, but Pedregon used holeshots to get to that title round. In the first round, Pedregon turned a .027 to .070 lead at the Tree into a 4.06 to 4.05 victory over last year’s Traxxas Shootout winner, John Force. In the semifinals, Pedregon’s .050 to .085 reaction-time advantage carried him to a 4.12 to 4.10 win against Tim Wilkerson.

Courtney Force was the number one seed in the Traxxas Shootout, based on her dominating win at the season opening Winternationals in Pomona, California:

Courtney Force Indy 2013

Courtney’s sister Brittany Force was the number one qualifier going into the final day of qualifying for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, got into the Shootout on the fan vote/lottery:

Brittany Force

Brittany Force Indy 2013

Tim Wilkerson won the fan/lottery vote in Funny Car:

NHRA_Wilkerson_mug

Tim Wilkerson 2013 Indy

For complete video of the Friday through Sunday NHRA Chevrolet U.S.Nationals qualifying click here.

Final Eliminations are Monday, with coverage starting at 12 pm [Eastern time] on ESPN2.

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Drag Racing Star Courtney Force at the Indy 500 Festivities

Courtney Force Indy 2013 Target Pits

From John Force Racing:

Courtney Force, driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car, attended Carb Day and experienced the festivities leading up to the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 this past weekend. The 24-year-old wanted to show her support for the series and represent NHRA as one of the sport’s many female racers.

Force enjoyed another “off-weekend” at yet another race track touring the paddock and making a couple stops in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center before watching final practice for the Indy car teams.

It was great having one off weekend, but I couldn’t keep myself away from the race track. I was able to watch final practice for the Indy 500, meet a lot of really cool people involved in Indy Car, talk to some fans at the Automobile Club of Southern California display and tour the paddock,” said Force.

CF_Auto Club Stage

She met with team owner Chip Ganassi, drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon in the Target Chip Ganassi camp as well as the legendary Alex Zanardi, just moments before an emotional presentation where Ganassi presented Zanardi with a restored “Old Midnight,” the car Zanardi drove last in 2011 before losing both of his legs in a crash.

The highlight for me was hanging out with Dario, Scott and Alex and hearing about Alex’s first time watching from the starting line when one of our cars took off and how it affected him. He told us that he was blown away by the power of the run, until he realized it was just the burnout! He watched a full run and said got emotional from experiencing the power of our cars, which was amazing to hear. We talked about a lot of differences between Funny Cars and Indy Cars. It was a blast to hear all of the questions and comments coming from a group of guys who I admire and look up to in another form of racing,” said Force.

Force with Franchitti and Dixon

Courtney Force with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, drivers for Chip Ganassi Racing.

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Drag Racing’s Long Record of Diversity is No Hype

By Gary P Jackson

Back in February, when the media circus was aimed directly at Daytona, and NASCAR racer Danica Patrick’s pole winning drive, another female racer, Courtney Force, was not only qualifying in the number one spot at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, she was winning the event. It wasn’t her first win either.

Force, the daughter of 15 time world champ John Force, drove her Funny Car to the number one spot with an elapsed time of 4.036 seconds at 318.24 mph. Come race day, Courtney dominated the field, and saved her best for the final round. Her 4.025 second 317.12 mph pass was not only low elapsed time of the event, but her career best. Courtney left Pomona with the points lead and a coveted spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will be held at the US Nationals on Labor Day weekend.

At the same event, John Force’s middle daughter, Brittany, was making her debut in Top Fuel, as was Leah Pruitt-Leduc, who has already raced in Funny Car and Pro Mod previously.

The very next weekend, as the media again looked to Daytona, and Fox Sports’ announcers were hyperventilating because Danica Patrick led a lap, one single lap, at the Daytona 500, Pro Stock racer Erica Enders-Stevens was busy winning at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. She did so in dominating fashion.

What is so remarkable about these two ladies’ wins, is that in the National Hot Rod Association it’s not remarkable at all!

Women have been participating, and winning, in the NHRA for decades. Courtney Force’s points lead wasn’t even of historic note, as her sister, three time Indy champion Ashley Force-Hood, led the points several years back, and finished second in the points championship that season.

The first female to win an NHRA national event was Shirley Shahan, who in 1966 won Top Stock Eliminator at the Winternationals, with her 426 Hemi Powered Plymouth.

Shahan would have a long and storied career in the NHRA. Since then women have participated in, and won many events at the sportsman level. All the Force girls, Erica-Enders Stevens, as well as most of the women pro racers, just like the men, started out in the sportsman categories. Erica started out in Jr Dragster, as a young girl. Disney made a movie about young Erica’s exploits called Right On Track.

If you go to your local drag strip, you might be surprised to find as many little girls racing Jr Dragsters as little boys!

NHRA’s legacy of women in racing arguably goes back further than all of this though. Even further back than the NHRA itself. Much like NASCAR, part of NHRA’s DNA comes from street racers, but NHRA also has deep roots in land-speed racing. NHRA’s founder, Wally Parks, was also part of the Southern California Timing Association, the sanctioning body that oversaw many of the races on the dry lake beds. Parks helped reorganize the SCTA in the late 1930s.

One of these dry lakes racers was a lady named Veda Orr. Now as you can imagine, not everyone was on board with women racing fast cars, but Veda’s husband, Karl, was a rather large and imposing fellow, and no one was gonna tell him that Veda couldn’t race! She and other women raced “unofficially.”

What makes Veda Orr stand out as a historical figure, was her efforts during WWII. All of the young men who raced on the dry lakes were, of course, enlisted in the fight. Many of the racers turned GIs would write Veda looking for news, anything from home. It didn’t take long before the letters were so numerous, she took up publishing the SCTA newsletter, something that had been left undone, and sending it to GIs all over the world. She gave these warriors a little taste of home, and the servicemen absolutely adored her.

After the war, the SCTA was again reorganized, and the board members voted to admit her, and allow her to race officially. It can be said, Veda Orr kept the SCTA alive during the war. Veda would go on to publish a pictorial book of dry lakes racing for the 1946-1948 seasons. The book has since been reissued several times. She has a huge place in motorsports history.

In modern times, the first woman to win as a professional was Shirley Muldowney. Shirley had raced for years in both door cars, and fuel dragsters, but it was her groundbreaking win in Top Fuel in 1976 that really paved the way for all of the women who now compete.

Around this time other women tried racing in NASCAR and at Indy, but were treated as “novelties” not serious racers, a real shame. Shirley faced her share of discrimination, for sure, but as a pro she quickly proved she was no novelty! In 1977 Shirley won the NHRA Top Fuel world championship, the first for a female. She would back that up with many more event wins, as well as championships in 1980 and 1982.

What makes Shirley so remarkable is when she won her second championship in 1980, she was the first person in history, man or woman, to have won more than one NHRA Top Fuel championship. When she won her third, in 1982, she was still the only person in the world with more than one NHRA championship in Top Fuel. During this period Shirley was also winning in the AHRA and IHRA as well.

The thing we enjoyed about Shirley wasn’t that she was a woman, but that she came to the track to race. She was there to rip the competition to shreds, and more times than not, that’s exactly what she did. Her reaction times, one of drag racing’s most important skills, were far superior than her contemporaries, and she flat knew how to get her car down the track. In fact, Shirley’s reactions were so good, many in drag racing, at the time, wondered if women didn’t make better race car drivers.

Since then, numerous women have raced and won in Top Fuel, including Lucille Lee, Shelly Anderson-Payne, Rachelle Splatt [from Australia] , Christen Powell, Lori Johns, Hillary Will, and Melanie Troxell, just to name a few.

The winningest female racer in the NHRA also happens to be the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, period, Angelle Drago. Angelle has three world championships to her credit. Pro Stock Motorcycles cover the quarter mile in less than seven seconds, at speeds around 200 mph.

There is not a single professional NHRA class that hasn’t had a female winner.

One of the hardest things to do in drag racing, especially the nitro ranks, is to win in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Only a handful of men have done this throughout the history of the sport. A handful of men, and one woman, Melanie Troxel.

Melanie has also won in Pro Mod, one of the hardest to drive race cars in all of motorsports. She is the only driver to have won in all three classes.

It’s not just women who have enjoyed great successes though. Minorities have always done well. The reigning Top Fuel champion is Antron Brown, a huge fan favorite.

Antron Brown

Before coming to Top Fuel, Antron was already a winning Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, where he was Angelle Drago’s U S Army Racing teammate.

Antron joins Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton in being the only black racers to have won major racing championships, but Antron is not unique in drag racing. There have been black racers in Top Fuel and Funny Car, as well as Pro Stock , Pro Stock Motorcycle, and Pro Mod.

In the 1960s, before there was Funny Car, there were the gassers. These lightweight supercharged cars, were fan favorites. When not racing at national events, the gassers were a huge draw at match races and open events across the country. There was no bigger names then, or bigger legends now, than the famed Stone, Woods, and Cook team.

Owners Fred Stone and Leonard Woods were black, and driver Doug Cook was white.

In 2008 NHRA’s weekly publication National Dragster ran a poll asking readers what their favorite race car of all time was, and the Stone, Woods, and Cook Swindler was the winner. Editor Phil Burgess did a follow up to the story that brings back great memories.

Hispanics have always been well represented in drag racing. From Joaquin Arnett and the sport’s earliest days to second generation Funny Car drivers Cruz and Tony Pedregon who have a pair of world championships each.

Drag racing is international, with races held all over the world. Throughout the years, racers have traveled to America to compete in the NHRA. Obviously there have been great racers and champions from Canada, but there have been racers from England, Australia, all over Europe, and the Middle East who have competed as well.

Currently, one of the top teams in the sport is based out of Qatar, and one of their drivers Khalid alBalooshi, races Top Fuel, after having been a standout in Pro Mod.

Though he now calls Montana home, Top Fuel racer David Grubnic is from Australia.

I wish I could tell readers why NHRA has such a great record of diversity, that is unmatched in other forms of motorsports, but I simply can’t. A race car doesn’t know, or care, who is driving it. For a driver, skill, not gender or color, is all that matters. That holds true for any kind of racing, not just drag racing.

Some will say that well, in drag racing, you only go straight, so anyone can do it. We’ve heard this before, always from people who have never actually tried it.

Let’s look at Funny Car, and Courtney Force.

The V-8 engines in Funny Car and Top Fuel make over 10,000 horsepower, burning highly volatile nitromethane fuel. To put that in perspective, each cylinder makes around 1250 horsepower, or almost double that of an entire NASCAR or Indy Racing League engine.

When Courtney Force steps on the throttle of her Funny Car, she feels twice the amount of g-force that astronauts in the space shuttle felt during take off. She goes from 0 to 100 mph in about eight-tenths of a second. By the eighth mile [660 feet] she’ll be traveling at 275 mph. When she pulls the parachute as she reaches the finish line, Courtney will feel negative g-forces about three times more than what she experienced at launch. To give you an idea of how hard this is on the body, two of the sport’s biggest legends, Big Daddy Don Garlits, and Joe Amato had to retire from Top Fuel racing, because their retinas had detached from their eyes, after so many years of pulling those parachutes.

If you look at a Funny Car, you’ll notice the exhaust points upward. There is a reason for this, the extreme exhaust pressure coming out of each cylinder produces thousands of pounds of downforce, and that helps keep the race car planted firmly to the track.

This is a double edged sword though. Nitro engines are finicky, on a good day. Many times, even on a great pass, one or more cylinders will lose fire, which tuners call dropping a cylinder. What happens then is the exhaust pressure from the side of the engine that has all four candles lit, will actually push the race car out of the groove, and in extreme cases, into the wall. A driver only has milliseconds to react, in a car that really doesn’t like to be driven. It takes great skill to get an errant Funny Car down the track in these conditions. We’ve seen Courtney do a great job of driving when it seemed her car wanted to stuff her in the wall. She does a remarkable job of taking the car right down the track when many others struggle.

No race car is easy to drive and certainly not one with the kind of power we are talking about here.

As a former racer, and someone who loves all kinds of racing, it’s frustrating to see so many lauding NASCAR and Danica Patrick, when the NHRA has such a long record of women, and minority winners. I don’t want to take away from Danica, she’s certainly a skilled driver, but she has yet to win at her sport’s highest level. In fact, she’s often finished races well out of the top positions. Danica has always sat in the very best equipment money can buy, yet no wins. It would be nice to see some women drivers not only be competitive in NASCAR, but win. So far, that has never happened.

On the other hand, in the NHRA women have captured the number one qualifying position 90 times. Women have won 92 NHRA events. Two women, Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Drago, have three world championships each.

Three Hispanic racers count for 5 world championships, and of course, the reigning Top Fuel champion is black.

NASCAR and the media have surrounded Danica Patrick with hype. Last week RACER Magazine named Courtney Force the 2012 Rookie of the Year, for all of motorsports. This huge honor is the first for any drag racer. Courtney joins some of the biggest names in all of motorsports who have also won this honor.

Meanwhile, the NHRA Gatornationals are this weekend in Gainesville, Florida. There will be numerous women drivers competing throughout the many classes. Don’t be surprised to see one, or more female winners. At Seattle in 2012 Courtney Force and Erica Enders-Stevens shared the Winners Circle with Megan Ellingson, who won Super Street.

You can catch qualifying Saturday and final eliminations Sunday evening on ESPN2.

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RACER Magazine Names Courtney Force Rookie of the Year In All of Motorsports

Courtney_no._1

By Gary P Jackson

RACER magazine has named drag racer Courtney Force as it’s 2012 Rookie of the Year. This honor takes in all of motorsports, not just drag racing. Courtney was also the winner of the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award [NHRA’s version of Professional Rookie of the Year] in 2012.

The RACER award is based on fan votes, and Courtney received an incredible 60 percent of the vote. She is the first drag racer in RACER’S history to win this honor.

Courtney joins some heady company, as former winners of RACER’S Rookie of the Year honors include Formula 1’s Lewis Hamilton, NASCAR’s Joey Logano, MotoCross racer Ryan Dungey and IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe.

Courtney backed up her stellar rookie season with a powerful performance at the season opening Winternationals, which she won from the number one qualifying spot, saving her best for last, running low elapsed time of the event while defeating Ron Capps for the win.

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Courtney Pomona Winners Circle

RACER magazine’s press release:

YORBA LINDA, Calif. — Courtney Force, the youngest daughter of drag racing’s most prolific and popular driver, 15-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, is RACER magazine’s runaway choice as Rookie of the Year, voted on by their global readership.

The 24-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., a former national event champion in Alcohol Dragster, reached four Funny Car finals in her 2012 rookie season. In July she defeated reigning Funny Car Champion Matt Hagan in the Seattle final for one of the most well-received victories by any driver in any drag racing class all season. A runner-up finish to Cruz Pedregon in the Pomona finals showed she’ll be a Funny Car title contender in 2013 — and victory in the season-opening Winternationals confirmed it.

I want to thank the readers of RACER Magazine for voting for me as RACER Rookie of the Year. To be considered with top NASCAR, Indy Car and F1 rookies is an honor just in itself and to be voted as Rookie of the Year is unbelievable,” said Force, the 2012 Automobile Club Road to the Future Award winner. “I have to thank all my fans and especially RACER magazine for this honor. I also want to thank my dad, John Force, Ford and my sponsor, Traxxas, for being so supportive last season.

RACER editor David Malsher commented, “If Courtney Force thought she had a tough battle on her hands in NHRA Funny Car last year, she had an even tougher battle in the RACER Rookie of the Year award. Or so you’d think, considering she was up against Simon Pagenaud in IndyCar and Daniel Ricciardo in Formula 1. But actually, Courtney wiped the floor with all of them, earning over 60 percent of the readers’ votes, and became the first NHRA driver ever to win this award. Scoring a win and fifth place in the championship standings in your first year of wrestling a 10,000-hp, 300-mph car is a heck of an achievement, and RACER readers clearly understand that.

The Spring 2013 issue of RACER includes full coverage of RACER of the Year presented by Hawk Performance, a wide-ranging interview with Ryan Hunter-Reay and the man he replaced as IZOD IndyCar Series champion, Dario Franchitti. The issue also features previews to the 2013 IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, ALMS, Grand-Am, WEC and NHRA seasons. RACER is beginning its 21st year of publication and is offered in print and digital editions and also in iTunes, Kindle and Android apps. It is also available at national bookstore newsstands in the USA and Canada. Visit www.racer.com for all the latest racing news and subscription offers.


RACER Rookie Racer of the Year Hall of Fame:

2006 Colin Braun
2007 Lewis Hamilton
2008 Joey Logano
2009 Ben Spies
2010 Ryan Dungey
2011 James Hinchcliffe

Other 2012 winners voted for by RACER’s readers include:

RACER of the Year — 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay

Road Racer of the Year — 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay

Oval Racer of the Year — 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski

Drag Racer of the Year — 2012 NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown

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Happy Birthday Antron Brown

Antron Brown

By Gary P Jackson

Just taking time to wish one of our favorite drag racers, NHRA/MelloYello Top Fuel Word Champion Antron Brown a very happy birthday!

If you watched the Winternationals from Pomona you know Antron survived a violent top end crash at over 300 MPH.

We are so glad that he came away from the crash without any major injuries.

He talks about the crash here:

Glad you’re OK, and Happy Birthday Champ!

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ICYMI: Full Video of the 2013 NHRA Winternationals Final Eliminations

PC1

By Gary P Jackson

Yeah, I know, I’m a tad late on this. Look for a post on Tuesday talking about why. Meantime, if you haven’t read John Force’s comments on the race as well as Danica Patrick and NASCAR’s hype, click over here for some strong words from the 15 time champion.

Courtney on Stage #1 Qualifyer

Courtney Force was number one qualifier in Funny Car with a with a 4.036 at 318.24 mph and dominated the field

Rather than give you the play by play, I’ll just let you set back and enjoy ESPN’s great coverage of the “Big Go West“!

You can check out NHRA’s recap and round by round results here.

Video courtesy: The Ultimate Drag Racing Channel For complete video of qualifying from the Winternationals click here.

Pomona Winners

Pomona winners Left to Right: Vincent Nobile [Pro Stock] Courtney Force [Funny Car] and Shawn Langdon [Top Fuel]

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John Force on NASCAR and Danica-mania: “It’s not like she delivered the baby Jesus”

Danica patrick RCA Victor Look

I get that Danica got the pole is a big deal, but it is not like she delivered the baby Jesus.

~ John Force

By Gary P Jackson

15 time NHRA Funny Car World Champion John Force, the winningest professional drag racer in history, is known for speaking his mind, and this weekend his mind was on the overblown media reaction over Danica Patrick capturing the pole for the Daytona 500.

You see, while everyone over in the roundy-round world was patting themselves on the back over having a single woman in competition at the highest level, John Force’s youngest daughter, Courtney, was in Pomona, California at the season opening Winternationals.

John’s middle daughter, Brittany, was making her professional debut in Top Fuel, as well.

Courtney not only qualified number one with a 4.036 second pass at 318.24 mph, she totally dominated the event, saving her quickest run [and career best] for the final where she defeated Ron Capps with a 4.025 at 317.12 mph. This is the second time she has defeated the veteran driver en route to a national event win, and the third national event win of her career [second since joining the professional ranks last season]

Courtney Force Defeats Ron Capps 2013 NHRA Winternationals

Courtney also stepped into first place in championship points, and earned a spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will be held at the U S Nationals on Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis.

Courtney Force Traxxas Nitro Shootout

Courtney is actually the second woman in history to sit in the number one position in Funny Car points. Her oldest sister, Ashley Force-Hood, previously held the number one position several years back, and would go on to finish second in the world championship battle that season.

With all of this in mind, John Force talked with racing journalist Michael Knight before Sunday’s final rounds at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. From the interview, published on Arizona Central, titled Courtney Force gets win; Danica Patrick gets press:

How big is Sunday’s story line of Danica Patrick trying to win today’s Daytona 500 after becoming the first woman to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup series pole?

I get that Danica got the pole is a big deal, but it is not like she delivered the baby Jesus,” John Force said.

Forgive the 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion for being blunt.

His youngest daughter, Courtney, 24, won last Sunday’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series opener in Pomona, Calif. — from the pole, and with the weekend’s quickest pass.

But those accomplishments by last season’s Rookie of the Year went virtually unnoticed by the national media, obsessed with Patrick’s qualifying run, celebrity — and boyfriend, fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

I’m like a bear with his baby cub: I’m going to lean toward my kid,” Force said at Firebird International Raceway before today’s Arizona Nationals.

But, in the big picture, they are NASCAR, and the world bows down to them. We don’t have that clout.”

Courtney admitted she was disappointed.

It’s a little frustrating,” she said before qualifying third in her Traxxas Ford Mustang on Saturday.

I guess I’m not too surprised because NASCAR is so huge. I wanted my team and NHRA to get the exposure. I didn’t really care if I got it or not.”

I think it would be cool for her to win (Daytona), because it would bring a lot of exposure to her and NASCAR. I’m hoping for more. The only thing really left is to win the championship as a female, and maybe I can do that and it will shine the light on NHRA.”

Drag racing has a long history of successful female racers, like Shirley Muldowney.

That’s the great thing about NHRA: It’s more widely accepted,” Courtney Force said. “It’s no big surprise, a woman succeeding. Maybe they’re (NASCAR) behind the game a little.

Sister Ashley Force Hood, NHRA’s first Funny Car winner in 2008, agreed.

NHRA is ahead of NASCAR on that,” she said. “I didn’t hear one person say to Courtney’s team, ‘Good job. You got a girl to win.’ It was, ‘You guys had a great car.’ That’s what makes us proud.

Sometimes you feel like you’re taking a step back when people make a big deal: ‘Oh, the first girl …’ That’s not what your goal is. You want to be better than everyone you’re competing against. It (Courtney’s victory) didn’t come out in the media the way we hoped but the people who know how hard these cars are to get down the track were impressed.”

I can understand NASCAR trying to milk Danica-mania for all it’s worth, but as a racer, it gets old. Sure, she’s a decent driver, and has certainly done well, but she has a long way to go yet. The good news is Danica herself knows this, and showed great maturity in Sunday’s Daytona 500. She didn’t win, but was certainly impressive in her finish.

That said, NASCAR is so far behind the NHRA when it comes to women and minorities, it’s rather sad. Women have won national events in our sport since the 1960s, and have won multiple world championships. Minorities, blacks and Hispanics, have also had great success in NHRA drag racing since day one. The current NHRA Top Fuel Champion, Antron Brown, is black, one hell of a race car driver, and a fan favorite.

Women drive roundy-round cars, and are plenty capable of winning in them, one wonders why it’s only a novelty in NASCAR.

By the way, the last person to win Funny Car Eliminator at the Winternationals from the number one position was the legendary Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, long before Courtney Force was born! Her outstanding performance at Pomona was a big deal, indeed.

For more on Courtney’s win at Pomona, check out Bobby Bennett’s reporting for Competition Plus, here and here.

Courteny Force with Wally at Pomona 2013

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NHRA Funny Car Star Courtney Force Gauges Team Progress Since First Las Vegas Appearance

From John Force Racing:

(LAS VEGAS) — The NHRA 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing series is approaching the completion of the season and is currently preparing for the second-to-last event; the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas. Lead “Rookie of the Year” contender Courtney Force says the pressure is on to keep up momentum and finish strong in her first professional year.

The Las Vegas race is going to be exciting because I will be participating in the FanFest for an autograph signing along with my dad and my sister, Ashley, as well as some of the other drivers. I’m definitely looking forward to this race because my dad will be running a specialty Destination Force body which I’m excited to see! He will be making the Destination Force Comic book come to life in his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Funny Car,” said Force.

Force had a memorable weekend in Reading, Pa. two weeks ago when she introduced and ran a special hot pink Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car body for breast cancer awareness and research. She qualified in the No. 5 spot, but suffered a tough loss in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.

Pretty in Pink

Being that it is my Rookie Season, I’m very proud of our accomplishments as a team and what I have learned throughout the season. There are so many great rookie drivers competing this season, but I’m just proud to say that I’m one of them and just getting the opportunity to drive one of these 8,000 horsepower cars is a dream,” said Force.

The last time Force competed at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it was only her fourth professional race in the Funny Car category. Since then, Force has competed in 17 races, picked up a win in Seattle, qualified in the No. 1 spot twice (Indianapolis and Dallas), and has broken a number of personal career-bests.

It’s crazy to think how much things have changed for our Traxxas team since the Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals in Vegas earlier this year. That was only our fourth professional race I had participated in with my new team. Now, we have much more experience and we’ve all really meshed well as a team. I’m so proud of everything we have accomplished and feel like I have learned a lot since the beginning of the season,” said Force.

Force’s older sister, Ashley, went to her first two final rounds at Las Vegas; one in the fall of 2007 and one in the spring of 2008. The new mother of Jacob John Hood was also No. 1 qualifier at Las Vegas in the fall of 2010.

Being that this is the second-to-last race of the season, I’m hoping that we can have a consistent car throughout qualifying and really try to go rounds on Sunday so that we can go into Pomona in a good position. We just hope to get qualified and do the best we can and hopefully move forward in the points standings,” said Force.

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