The NHRA Full Throttle Series kicks off in 2012 with the 52nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, which is presented by Super Start Batteries. The exciting season opener will see new cars, teams, drivers and sponsors hitting the track.
Date: 9 to 12 February 2012
Venue: Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
Country: United States of America
Ron Capps and Antron Brown seem to be streaks ahead of the pack at this relatively early stage in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Racing Series. Both drivers have dominated their respective fields during the first two events of the season and have also started to build a rather impressive points lead in the Full Throttle standings.
Ron Capps may have endured a rather dismal 2008 season, but he managed to catch up somewhat at the end. This year he seems to have picked up where he left off. His explosion into the limelight this year started when he won the Funny Car season opener at Pomona in California. His most recent victory took place at the Firebird International Raceway on Sunday when he captured his second straight Funny Car title in the young campaign by beating Robert Hight and Del Worsham in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist Nationals. Not only did he win, but he managed to gain an impressive 97 point lead over fellow competitors. Commenting on his most recent victories, Capps told reporters: “I’m living a dream right now.” He also commented on his recent experiences behind the wheel, saying: “It’s like a really good cook learning how to cook again completely differently. The car is just so different to run, to feel, and it puts me in the trunk at half track. It’s so much fun to drive and when the win light comes on, it’s even better.” No doubt fans can expect to see more from Capps in upcoming races.
Brown began his 2009 Top Fuel season with a No.1 qualifier and a runner-up finish during the Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals held at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. He followed it up with his most recent performance in Phoenix which saw him take the lead over two-time event winner Brandon Bernstein to take the checkered flag. The win also boosted him to the lead in the Top Fuel standings. Speaking about his victory, Brown said: “This just shows how strong our team really is here at Mike Ashley Racing. With all the adversity we dealt with this off season, this is just an awesome feeling.” Brown and Capps were joined by Jeg Coughlin who won in Pro Stock at the recent 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Racing Series event.
When Doug Kalitta won the NHRA Top Fuel opener in Pomona on Tuesday, it was a rather emotional victory for him. Not only was the race physically and mentally draining due to the large amounts of rain which plagued the track, but this was the first time that Kalitta won since losing his teammate and cousin Scott Kalitta last June in a tragic racing accident.
The dramatic circumstances surrounding Doug Kalitta’s victory only added to the overall drama and excitement of the race. Kalitta took a clean victory, defeating Antron Brown at 3.822 seconds to Brown’s 3.847 seconds. The event had already been running for six days – having been drawn out an extra two days by the rain which prolonged eliminations. During the course of the race Kalitta managed to defeat Urs Erbacher, Morgan Lucas and Cory McClenathan and fourteen of the other sixteen cars in the field. On the final round of the race it was between him and Antron Brown, with Kalitta clutching the victory just seconds ahead of his opponent. Kalitta was ecstatic. It was the 31st Top Fuel event win for the driver, putting an end to a 27-race winless streak since his cousin’s accident. The win no doubt also put an end to the concerns of his family-run team, which is headed by his uncle and father.
The NHRA Top Fuel victory was particularly emotional and even fans could empathize as Doug’s father Connie came running into the winner’s circle to share his son’s special moment. Speaking about the race afterwards, Kalitta said: “I think of Scott when I’m in the car. It motivates me to get up on the wheel. Winning this race is special. Connie won here and Scott won here. In fact, this is the car that Scott drove to the win here in 2005. I’m sure he’s proud of the fact that all three of us have won here now.” Doug Kalitta added: “It was also special that Connie was in the winner’s circle with us. I’m just happy he still enjoys this. This is his 50th anniversary in drag racing and it would be great to give him a big year.”
When drag racing became more and more popular in the early 1950s and 60s, the National Hot Rod Association‘s home track was Pomona Raceway in California. The track was built as a quarter-mile and the cars’ speeds were only nearing 200 mph so the logistics worked. But that was then, and this is now. Today cars reach speeds in excess of 325 mph, and officials now fear that the track hasn’t changed enough to accommodate these high speeds.
This fact was brought into sharp relief recently when the life of Scott Kalitta, a Palmetto Funny Car driver, was brought to a catastrophic end when his car launched into the barrier at the end of a run last month in New Jersey, causing the car to explode with the driver still trapped inside. There were likely more factors involved in the crash than simply the lack of space and increase in speed, but the tragic event was a stark reminder that something needed to be done about the problem. The accident took place in Englishtown on a track that was built in 1965 – one of many tracks that, like Pomona Raceway, have run out of space to expand the runoff area at the end of the quarter-mile in case of emergencies such as these. Since the runoffs cannot be expanded, something else needs to be done to ensure that these tracks continue to remain relatively safe places to participate in motor sports. With this in mind, the NHRA has made the decision to shorten the races for Top Fuel and Funny Cars to just 1000 feet instead of the full 1 320-foot quarter-mile that has been the standard up until now. Both events see the fastest cars on the track and the most risks taken, and shortening the track will no doubt see a lot of cars slowing down in order to stay on the track.
Although the NHRA has said that this is only a temporary solution to the problem, a lot of people in the auto racing industry are up in arms about it. They feel that speed is the name of the game and a good driver will just suck it in and do their best. They also fear that the NHRA’s decision will become permanent. However, the decision made by the NHRA is clearly not about slowing the races down – it’s about the long-term safety of the drivers involved in these races. As long as there is insufficient space for a car hurtling down a run at 325 mph to slow down safely, the risk of more accidents like Scott Kalitta’s is just too great. Tracks must be altered, races must be shortened or technology must improve – we will no doubt see interesting developments in all three of these facets of racing in the near future.
Ashley Force was born on 29 November 1982 – the daughter of John and Laurie Force. John Force has been National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) champion fourteen times, so it came as no surprise that Ashley showed an interest in auto racing at an early age. After high school, Ashley attended California State University-Fullerton graduating with a B.A. in communications, specializing in television and video. In 2007 Ashley Force was voted by an AOL Sport Poll as the Hottest Athlete, chosen over Tom Brady and Danica Patrick.
Ashley finished 4th in driver points in 2004 after winning three of the final five races of the season as a Top Alcohol division rookie. One of her victories was the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals held at Indianapolis. Ashley and her father John made NHRA history as the first ever father-daughter winners at the season finale race of the Automobile Club of Southern California held at Pomona.
In 2007 Ashley progressed to driving a Castrol-sponsored Mustang in the professional Funny Car division for John Force Racing. Her first race in this division found Ashley up against, and losing to, her brother-in-law, Robert Hight. In April 2007 Ashley and John Force, as father and daughter, again made NHRA history – this time for competing against each other in Atlanta. Ashley won the race with a top speed of 317.05 miles per hour in a time of 4.779 seconds. She went through to the semifinals which ended in a tie, recorded as the highest ever Funny Car event finish by a female.
Ashley has continued with her love for movies and television, thereby putting her B.A. degree to good use. She is featured on “Driving Force“, an A&E reality show focusing on her father, John Force and his drag racing daughters – Ashley, Courtney, Brittany and Adria (Ashley’s half-sister). “Driving Force” follows the day-to-day life of John while he balances his business with family responsibilities.
Ashley’s mother, Laurie, relinquished her role of managing contracts for John Force Racing so that she could focus on raising her children. John Force, having established a successful business, has resolved to devote more time to his daughters, and fully supports their interest in racing.
Auto racing fans are assured of interesting times ahead as they track the progress of the Force family. Ashley Force has certainly shown that she has what it takes to succeed in her chosen career.