Courtney Force
Courtney Force

Photo by: John Force Racing

BRAINERD, Minn. – Coming off making history at the most recent NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event in Seattle, Erica Enders and Courtney Force are already looking ahead to the 31st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd Int’l Raceway, the 16th of 23 events in the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

“It's definitely cool that NHRA Drag Racing has a lot of women in different categories,” Force said. “But it’s amazing to kind of be a part of history with two females winning in a Pro class, especially next to Erica Enders when she got her second win and my first. It's definitely an honor, and I really think that more and more women are going to be coming into the sport, and not just out there to race; we're out here to win.”

Although Enders and Force made history in Seattle when they became the first two ladies to share the winner’s circle in NHRA history, in true NHRA Drag Racing fashion, both drivers know that Seattle was the last race and is time to start all over again in Brainerd.

“It was unbelievable that we had worked so hard to get our first win this year in Chicago because it took eight years, and then three weeks later, we have our second one. It's just a crazy feeling,” Enders said. “It’s a crazy feeling because I go out every weekend to try to win for my GK Motorsports team and all my guys, but I never really expect to end up with a Wally in my hand. Seattle was awesome, but it’s time to get back to work and try to do it again in Brainerd.”

Force, who is still in disbelief about her first Funny Car win, is ready to get back in her Traxxas Ford Mustang to continue her very successful rookie season.

Courtney Force
Courtney Force

Photo by: NHRA

“The win was definitely a huge accomplishment for us. I honestly didn't see my rookie season going this well, this early on. I'm excited,” Force said. “I'm very proud of my team. I have a great group of guys and a great crew chief in Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, and I'm excited, but I have so many more goals set for myself that I know it's only going to get better from here, and I’m excited to get back in the car and see what else my team can do.”

The only woman to ever claim a victory in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series competition at Brainerd Int’l Raceway is Shirley Muldowney, but Enders and Force aren’t the only ones looking to change that because there will be other female drivers in competition at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, including fellow Funny Car rookie Alexis DeJoria, Top Fuel competitor Hillary Will, and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Karen Stoffer.

As much as the ladies want to continue their recent success as the NHRA heads to Brainerd Int’l Raceway for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, the defending event winners will do their best to put a stop to that.

Don Schumacher Racing dominated both Top Fuel and Funny Car in 2011 with all-DSR finals in both categories. Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Johnny Gray (Funny Car) earned wins at the penultimate race of the regular season for the powerhouse team. In Pro Stock, four-time class world champ Greg Anderson earned the win at his home track, and LE Tonglet joined them in the winner’s circle with his victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle in front of thousands of adoring fans.

Drivers will not only be aiming for race wins but also will be looking to shatter some of the remarkable track records accomplished last year in Brainerd, such as Spencer Massey’s amazing 323.04-mph run in his FRAM/Prestone Top Fuel dragster, Ron Capps’ record-breaking speed of 307.37 mph in Funny Car, Anderson’s top speed of 209.59 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP, and Hector Arana Jr.’s electrifying 6.881 pass on his Lucas Oil Buell Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Erica Enders
Erica Enders

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Not only will teams be looking to take over track records, many teams will be looking to move up into the top 10 in championship point standings to secure their place in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs. Reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan is on the outside looking in with just two races left and 15-time Funny Car world champ John Force is on the verge of falling out of the top 10. In Top Fuel Bob Vandergriff and Clay Millican are fighting for that 10th and final spot. Four-time Pro Stock world champ Jeg Coughlin, Ronnie Humphrey and Larry Morgan are in a virtual tie for that 10th spot in Pro Stock.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers because they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. No other sport offers fans an up-close and personal experience like NHRA. Fans can stand within several feet of the crews as they crank up their cars, sending the smell and burn of nitro fuel into the crowd. And bring a Sharpie for the readily available autographs and photo opportunities at every corner. On the Midway, manufacturers and sponsors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, and freebies.

Schedule: Full Throttle Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17, and will continue at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18. Final Professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20

Television: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Aug. 18, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 9 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 19, and a re-air at 3:30 a.m. (ET) Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Source: NHRA Communications