BAYTOWN, Texas (April 9, 2019) – Last year, Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil was the site of one of Brittany Force’s most triumphant moments in her standout career, as the 2017 Top Fuel world champ returned from a season-opening crash in Pomona to win in Houston just two months later.
It was a special moment for Force and she will look to add another in her 10,000-horsepower Advance Auto Parts Dragster at this weekend’s 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil. After racing to a runner-up finish on Sunday in Vegas, Force has momentum heading into the back-to-back NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race weekend, and she is thrilled to again try to take advantage in Houston.
“I’m excited to get to the back-to-back races,” said Force, who has eight career wins. “For me as a driver it puts me at ease. You haven’t been out of the seat too long and you jump right back into it, back into your routine, so I’m excited to get to Houston. Houston is a special place for me. We won there last year so I’m ready to get there. We really turned things around and stepped things up in Vegas so we should be looking good if we get some good qualifying passes in. I want to go out there on race day and win.”
Force (Top Fuel) and J.R. Todd (Funny Car) were last year’s winners of the event, which will include live finals coverage on the FOX national broadcast network starting at 3:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 14. It marks the NHRA’s 2019 season debut on FOX and is the fifth of 24 races this year. For Force, things have come together quickly with a new team and after the result in Vegas, the former world champion may be ahead of schedule as she competes for a second world title.
The John Force Racing Top Fuel team added crew chiefs David Grubnic and Mac Savage into the mix in 2019, and the potential has already been obvious. After a slow start to the season, Force came alive in Gainesville, qualifying No. 1 with a 3.680 at 326.32 mph and picking up her first round win of the year. She qualified third last weekend in the four-wide racing event in Vegas, winning her first two quads to advance to the final round. She went 3.810, falling to Mike Salinas, but the team accomplished a great deal as it moves into position for its first win of 2019.
“Coming into this season we’ve had big changes with a new team, new crew chiefs David Grubnic and Mac Savage and a new group of guys,” said Force, who jumped to eighth in points. “It takes a while until you figure out your routine and you find your stride and I’m very happy for this team.”
Force hopes the strong weekend carries into Houston, but the Top Fuel class is loaded with talent. She beat Terry McMillen in the finals last year, and Force will also have to deal with the likes of Salinas, defending world champ Steve Torrence, points leader Doug Kalitta, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, three-time world champ Antron Brown and Gainesville winner Richie Crampton. But she hopes to capitalize on the way the team is racing right now, eyeing a jump in the points standings. She sits just a round out of fourth and is pleased her team is being rewarded for its hard work.
“We really hit it hard (in Vegas) and it really showed,” Force said. “We were running consistently in the 70s, awesome all weekend and we came out and ended up runner-up. I’m very happy. Big moves for all of us as a team all around and I’m very happy with how we ended (last) weekend. We’re obviously looking for a win but we’ll have to chase it down (this) weekend in Houston.”
In Funny Car, J.R. Todd will look to grab early-season momentum as the defending world champion will face off with points leader Robert Hight, who has two wins in 2019, Phoenix winner Matt Hagan, 16-time world champion John Force, Bob Tasca and Tommy Johnson Jr.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes its second of 12 stops in 2018 at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil. Todd Tutterow sprinted to the victory at the season-opener at Gainesville, while the class also includes popular drivers Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series. The Mountain Motor Pro Stock class will also make its 2019 debut at the event, marking the first of four races during the year where the powerful Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars take to the track.
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 the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, April 12 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 13, at 2:30 and 5 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 14.
To purchase reserved seats, call (281) 383-RACE (7223) or visit www.houstonraceway.com. Kids 13 and under are free on the spectator side with a paid adult. To honor NHRA’s Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on reserved tickets in advance or at the gate. For more information, visit www.NHRA.com.
Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented By Pennzoil Fact Sheet
WHAT: 32nd annual NHRA SpringNationals, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in the pro categories – Top Fuel and Funny Car will earn points leading to 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition also will be featured in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, as well as the new class of Motor Mountain Pro Stock.
WHERE: Houston Raceway powered by Pennzoil, Baytown, Texas. From Interstate 10 take the State Hwy. 99 (Grand Parkway) exit, which is exit 799. Take a right on State Hwy. 99 and go to the first exit (2 miles) which is FM 565. Take a right on FM 565 and Houston Raceway powered by Pennzoil will be on your right. For additional information about directions please visit www.houstonraceway.com
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 12-14SCHEDULE:
FRIDAY, April 12 – E3 SPARK PLUGS NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 3:30 and 6:15 p.m.
MOUTAIN MOTOR PRO STOCK qualifying at 4:15 and 7:00 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 13 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and eliminations at 6:30 p.m.
E3 SPARK PLUGS NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m.
MOUTAIN MOTOR PRO STOCK qualifying at 2:15 and 4:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:30 and 5:00 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 14 – Pre-race ceremonies 9:45 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m.
E3 SPARK PLUGS NHRA PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES eliminations begin at 12:00 p.m.
MOUTAIN MOTOR PRO STOCK eliminations begin at 1:40 p.m.TELEVISION:
Sunday, April 14, FOX will televise two hours of live finals coverage at 3 p.m. (ET).
2018 EVENT WINNERS:
Brittany Force, Top Fuel; J.R. Todd, Funny Car; Matt Hartford, Pro Stock.MOST WINS:
John Force, 7, FC; Ron Capps, 4, FC; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 3, TF; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; Mike Edwards, 3, PS; Bob Glidden, 3, PS; Cruz Pedregon, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.680 seconds by Leah Pritchett, April ‘18; 330.07 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’15.
Funny Car – 3.851 seconds by Courtney Force, April ‘17; 331.77 mph by Robert Hight, April ’17.
Pro Stock – 6.499 seconds by Jeg Coughlin, April ’17; 212.66 mph by Mike Edwards, April ’13.
Top Fuel – 3.628 sec. by Clay Millican, Feb. ’18, Pomona, Calif.; 336.57 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ‘18, Phoenix
Funny Car – 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. ’17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, 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 (281) 383-RACE (7223). Tickets also available online at houstonraceway.com
Photos courtesy of NHRA
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.