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Courtney Force wins funny car title at NHRA Winternationals

Driver, 24, beats Ron Capps in the final at Pomona with a run of 4.025 seconds at 317.12 mph. Shawn Langdon prevails in top fuel and Vincent Nobile wins in pro stock.

February 18, 2013|By Jim Peltz, Los Angeles Times
  • Courtney Force won the funny car division of the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona.
Courtney Force won the funny car division of the NHRA Winternationals in… (Marc Gewertz / NHRA / Associated…)

Adding to a banner day for women in U.S. motor racing, Courtney Force won drag racing's funny car event Sunday at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona.

Hours after Danica Patrick made history by capturing the pole position for NASCAR's Daytona 500, Force powered her Ford funny car past Ron Capps of Carlsbad in the final round of eliminations at Auto Club Raceway.

Force, the 24-year-old daughter of legendary funny car driver John Force of Yorba Linda, prevailed with a run of 4.025 seconds at 317.12 mph down the 1,000-foot drag strip.

It was the second win of her career for Courtney Force, last year's funny car rookie of the year, who drives for her father's team and had the fastest car during qualifying.

"They've given me a great race car all weekend long," Courtney Force said. "They really made my job easy."

In top fuel, the National Hot Rod Assn.'s other premier class, Mira Loma native Shawn Langdon also won his second career race by defeating seven-time champion Tony Schumacher in the final round.

The winning run for Langdon, who drives for the Al-Anabi Racing team, was 3.721 seconds at 322.27 mph.

"It's a great way to start the year," said Langdon, 30, who grew up watching Schumacher and getting his autograph in Pomona. "Couldn't have scripted it better."

Although Force and Langdon won, it might have been Schumacher teammate Antron Brown who left Pomona as the most thankful driver.

Brown, the reigning top-fuel champion, survived a fiery crash in the second round of Sunday's eliminations caused by an explosion of his dragster's 8,000-horsepower engine.

The engine blew just as Brown crossed the finish line in the right lane ahead of David Grubnic. Brown's car burst into flames, careened into Grubnic's lane and flipped upside down as the dragster began disintegrating.

Brown's car then drifted down the rest of the drag strip because of momentum until it stopped in the safety sand trap at the end of the track.

A shaken Brown, 36, got out with the help of safety workers and gingerly walked away, his only injuries being sore knees and a headache.

"It all happened real fast," Brown said. "The car just banged and it went boom. I was along for the ride for the rest of it."

In winning the top-fuel title last year, Brown became the first African American to claim a major U.S. motor racing championship.

He drives for the team owned by Don Schumacher, Tony's father, which now outfits its top-fuel dragsters with plastic canopies that cover the drivers' heads.

"That capsule did its job," said Brown, who quickly called his wife in Indianapolis to say he wasn't seriously hurt but would not race the rest of the day. "We're just going to go back, regroup and find out what happened."

Earlier, Courtney Force's sister, Brittany, who made her debut in the top-fuel ranks during the weekend, was eliminated in the first round by veteran Brandon Bernstein.

Brittany made a solid run of 3.822 seconds at 323.43 mph and said that "even though we went out first round, we did get qualified" to appear in Sunday's final rounds.

Another female drag racer, funny car driver Alexis DeJoria, also lost in the first round, to Johnny Gray.

In the NHRA's pro stock division, Vincent Nobile won after his final-round rival, Jeg Coughlin, left the starting line too soon.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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