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Courtney Force, Erica Enders make history at Northwest Nationals
For the first time in NHRA history, two women won pro titles on the same day.
Special to The Seattle Times
KENT — It was ladies day at the NHRA with women winning two pro championships in the same day for the first time in the history of drag racing.
Rookie Funny Car driver Courtney Force won her first-ever event championship and Erica Enders took home her second Pro Stock title at the 25th NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.
Force, a rookie who qualified 12th in the field of 16, beat 15-time world champion and father John Force in the semifinals. She then beat defending Funny Car champion Matt Hagan with a 4.238 pass at 293.54 mph to take home her first title.
"I feel bad about beating (my dad), but I was just doing what he taught me to do," she said. "I grew up telling him 'I'm going to race just like you.' I don't think he believed it. Hopefully, now I've convinced him."
John Force was quick to acknowledge that the sport is changing.
"It's always been a man's sport," he said, "but the rules are changing."
Force has four daughters, and two have Funny Car wins. Ashley Force Hood won twice before taking time off to have her first child.
"You teach them how to ride a trike, and then drive a car, and then put them in a race car and there's only so much you can do," he said. "She really did it herself out there today. It took me 12 years to win an NHRA event. It took Ashley two years and now Courtney less than one year. I'm just really proud of her."
Courtney Force, 24, was an extreme longshot, even though she has been to the final round in three of the last five races.
"This track is tough," she said. "It wants to pull you to the left in both lanes and you have to fight hard to keep it straight."
Now sixth in the Funny Car points standings, she admitted the win came much quicker than she expected.
"This is my learning year," she said. "I really didn't expect it. To have me and Erica in the winner's circle really shows the men that we're out here to win."
Enders, 28, won for the second time this season and beat Allen Johnson, who had won the first two legs of the Western Swing in Denver and Sonoma.
"I know he wanted to sweep it," Enders said, "but I told him I was going to take that broom out of his hand."
Johnson's streak ended when Enders, who moved up to sixth in the points standings, took him out in the semifinals. She then beat Jason Line in the final.
Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence got some breaks early and went on to win his third title. He beat Steve Chrisman in the first round despite going only 208.46 mph.
"We're living lucky," Torrence said. "I was on the starting line and saw Erica win. Then I watched Courtney win and I said 'I definitely want to be the guy who stands between them.' "
Seattle driver Megan Ellingson won the Super Street competition to give women three titles in one event for the first time in NHRA history.
In Top Fuel, Don Schumacher Racing teammates Spencer Massey, the top qualifier, and Tony Schumacher lost in the second round, making it the first time in 43 events that the team did not have a car in the semifinals.
It was also a quick exit for Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson, who had won the Funny Car title here three years in a row. His streak of winning 13 rounds in a row here ended when Ron Capps won in the second round.