Courtney Force (Funny Car), Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) brought the NHRA youth movement to the winner’s circle in Sunday, as all three 30-and-under drivers took home Wallys from the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California. The victories were nearly overshadowed by a spectacular crash by 2012 Top Fuel champ Antron Brown in the second round of eliminations.
Force beat Ron Capps in finals after taking round wins against Phil Burkart, Matt Hagan and Bob Tasca III, earning her second Wally and first of her sophomore season in Funny Car.
“It was definitely unbelievable,” said Force following the event. “My team, (crew chiefs) Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, thanks to them, they had given me great race car all weekend long. I just try to keep it straight down the center and they really made my job easy. I really owe it to those guys. It was kind of bittersweet finishing here (at the NHRA Finals in November) and not getting that win, then coming back and picking up where we left off and finishing our job. We got the win and I’m just proud of my team.”
Langdon defeated Tony Schumacher to win in Top Fuel, also taking round wins from Clay Millican, Brandon Bernstein and his Al-Anabi racing teammate Khalid alBalooshi. It was also the second win of his career.
“Couldn’t have scripted it any better really,” said Langdon. “We struggled a little in qualifying. We didn’t really have the car that we thought we should have had, but we qualified seventh. We knew the things we learned in testing that we had a car capable of winning. It showed today.”
Brown actually won his second round match-up against David Grubnic, but got out of control at the finish line. After the car finally came to rest in the sand pit, the NHRA Safety Safari got to the car and helped him out of the enclosed-cockpit dragster. Brown received only minor injuries.
“I am feeling good,” Brown said. “I’ve got some scrapes on my legs and my back is a little sore, but overall I feel good. The best feeling was seeing how quickly the NHRA Safety Safari got to my car after it stopped. The car did its job and we’ll be ready for Phoenix.”
See video of the crash here.
Nobile earned his sixth career Wally at the Winternationals, earning round wins over Mike Hartford, Shane Gray and Greg Stanfield before meetting Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the finals; Coughlin Jr. turned a red light, giving Nobile the win.
“It’s pretty awesome leaving here with the points lead,” said Nobile. “That’s every team’s goal. Now we just want to stay there, stay consistent and keep the wins coming.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series gets back on track next weekend, February 22nd through 24th, with the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Arizona. Follow the action at www.nhra.com.
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