This weekend is not only the biggest race of the NHRA season, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, but the weekend will also feature the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories. This is the all-star event for the Nitro-powered NHRA categories. The first seven winning drivers of the season qualify, or the current points leader and first six winners if that driver is not among the winners (they happen to be Tony Schumacher and Jack Beckman, so no worries, they are) make the field, plus the fan vote/lottery winner.
It’s been debated in other series whether or not an all-star event is wasteful. It’s not an invalid question given the cost of tires, fuel, parts, engines and the risk of wrecking a car. Part of what makes NHRA’s interesting, though, is that it incorporates these events into the qualifying for an event weekend, not just for the Nitro divisions but also for Pro Stock’s K&N Horsepower Challenge. This of course would not work in NASCAR, but drag racing lends itself well to the format, allowing the event to occur at little extra cost to teams.
That’s a win all around because let’s face it, all-star events are a pretty great thing. Besides the chance to win a little extra money, in this case for making runs they were going to make in qualifying for the most part anyway, everyone loves to earn bragging rights. It’s a win for the fans, too. Sure, they would have come out to see qualifying anyway probably, but it gives them a little more to root for. Don’t think some camps haven’t gotten some excitement out of supporting their drivers with the fan vote, too.
- Speaking of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, the eight drivers for both Top Fuel and Funny Car were selected Wednesday after fan vote results were announced on Tuesday. In Funny Car, a tight competition developed between the ladies, with Alexis DeJoria taking 43% of the vote to Courtney Force’s 42%. Del Worhsam got 10% of the vote, Cruz Pedregon garnered 2%, and John Hale, Chad Head and Tony Pedregon had 1% apiece. The vote percentage totals decided how many lottery balls each driver got for the final pick. Force prevailed in the pick and will be the final Funny Car driver. She will take on Beckman in round one. Over in Top Fuel, Brittany Force was top vote-getter with 57%. Clay Millican grabbed 24%, Larry Dixon 11% and Dave Connolly and Terry McMillen had 4% each. Millican might have had fewer lottery balls in the drawing, but he prevailed and will face off against Schumacher in the first round.
- NHRA announced two personnel changes this week. Emmy-winning multimedia executive producer Ken Adelson will be joining NHRA as vice president of broadcasting and digital content. As part of the new television deal with FOX Sports that starts next season, NHRA will be bringing production of its television programming in-house, and Adelson will create and oversee the production division. He will report to NHRA President Peter Clifford. Adelson previously worked as a senior consultant and executive producer with Desser Sports Media, served as executive producer for the Jockey Club, a horse racing show on FOX Sports 1, created the broadcasting and digital media departments for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder and served for nearly two decades as senior vice president, production operations and planning for the NBA.
- NHRA also announced this week the promotion of Marleen Gurrola to vice president of human resources. Gurrola has been with the NHRA since 1997 and has been responsible for all of the human resources functions of the organization. She will also assume responsibility for travel and office services, and all of NHRA’s regular employees and event workers at the NHRA Museum, five NHRA-owned facilities, and six Division offices.
- Finally, but certainly not the least, Frontstretch is again giving lucky readers the opportunity to win a VIP NHRA experience, this time at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Carolina Nationals later this month. It gets even better because not only are we giving away a pair of Saturday tickets with the opportunity to meet Ron Capps, but this time we’re also giving away a second pair of tickets along with the opportunity to meet Matt Hagan. That’s twice the chance of winning, so be sure to enter now!
Driver Profile: Brittany Force
Category: Top Fuel
Hometown: Yorba Linda, Ca.
Date of birth: July 8, 1986
2015 car: Monster Energy dragster
Crew chief: Todd Smith/Ronnie Thompson
Team Owner: John Force
Career wins/runner-up finishes: 0/6
Best points finish: 10th in 2014
Career best ET: 3.733, Reading, 2014
Career best speed: 329.91 mph, Reading, 2014
2014 – Four runner up finishes; three time No. 1 qualifier; qualified for her first ever Countdown to the Championship.
2013 – Won the 2013 Automobile Club Road to the Future Award (Rookie of the Year).
Some things most people don’t know about Brittany: Brittany is still looking for that first win but she’s been to the final round six times in her three years in Top Fuel, four times in 2014, her sophomore season, and twice so far in 2015. Brittany and her sister Courtney were responsible for pursuing and landing her current sponsorship deal with Monster Energy. She didn’t really plan to run in the Mello Yello Series, let alone in a Top Fuel car. Brittany was running in a Top Alcohol dragster in the Lucas Oil Series and was content to stay there when she got the opportunity to test in a Top Fuel car, something she’d always considered crazy and way too fast. Force says she will always try something once, so she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It took just one full pass to make her change her plans and pursue Top Fuel. She also said the category was attractive because it was different.
“We’ve only done Funny Cars. That’s all we’ve ever known. So I thought it would be something exciting and it’s been a challenge bringing a Top Fuel car into our pits, because we’ve only known Funny Cars,” she says. “It’s something new. It’s exciting.”
That’s Just Crazy!
Today’s profile driver, Brittany Force, tells us about a frightening crazy moment from last season in this week’s Frontstretch Crazy Things.
Number of the Week: 5
The number of drivers across both Top Fuel and Funny Car who have competed in all three prior Traxxas Nitro Shootouts and who will again be competing this weekend. They are Antron Brown, Schumacher, Capps, John Force and Courtney Force.
Where to Watch
This weekend is a biggie, the biggest of the year in fact. It’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals weekend. That’s three big days of coverage. If you’re kicked back at home enjoying the holiday weekend, be sure to catch some of the NHRA coverage to make your weekend complete.
Program Date/Time Channel
AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS Qualifying Friday, November 10, 6:30 PM ET FS1 (Live)
Qualifying Saturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ET FS1 (Live)
Eliminations Sunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ET FS1 (Live)