Ladies of NHRA Look to Continue Success at Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway
In the world of motorsports, 2013 has been the year of the ladies, some of whom will look to make even more history at the upcoming Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, April 19-21.
On the same weekend Danica Patrick was making headlines for winning the pole at the Daytona 500, NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force took home a Wally in the season opener in Pomona. Erica Enders-Stevens followed up Force’s win with a trip to victory lane the following week in Phoenix, marking the first time in NHRA history that two women have opened the season with back-to-back victories.
Women finding success in the NHRA isn’t new. Shirley Shahan was the first woman to win an NHRA national event in 1966. Shirley Muldowney enjoyed success throughout the 70s and 80s.
Some of today’s biggest rising stars are female, including 2012 NHRA rookie of the year Force, and her sister Brittany, who is making her debut in Top Fuel this season. She joins Leah Pruett in that category to compete against the guys.
“It is male-dominated, but we all have the same passion,” said Brittany. “That’s the great thing about drag racing, that we all have the same passion and we all drive these cars because it’s what we love. And everyone is really supportive.”
Courtney races Funny Cars in a class that includes fellow female racer Alexis DeJoria, as well as Courtney and Brittany’s dad, 15-time Funny Car champion, John Force.
“The biggest thing over at the NHRA is that there are so many different categories within our sport and there’s a lot more females coming into the sport,” said Courtney. “I have a lot of young fans, a lot of girls coming up to me telling me that they want to be like me when they grow up and I think that’s so amazing to see.
“I think the biggest thing is our cars don’t know if we’re male or female. We go out there, we drive the cars and we do the best we can and we have to compete against the men and do our best to beat them. And I think we’re all doing a pretty good job. It is male-dominated, but there’s a lot of females that are not only out here to compete, we’re out here to win.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that the girls will tackle this year is the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. No female has won at zMAX Dragway in the top four NHRA categories, but Courtney and Brittany are hungry to pick up that win.
“[zMAX Dragway] was probably the most nerve-wracking track I’ve ever competed at,” said Courtney. “This obviously is the Bellagio of drag strips. There’s no other race track on the planet that’s four-wide; there’s no other place you get to see 40,000 horsepower going down the track at once. These are 10,000-horsepower cars and they’re going 300 mph in just under four seconds.
“That’s the great thing about this track. It’s rare and it’s not like you can go practice it at all the other race tracks. This is the only track that is this way and it definitely makes it exciting for the fans and for the drivers.”
Enders-Stevens is also hoping to add a Four-Wide Wally to her collection in the Pro Stock category.
"Winning at Charlotte – and any Bruton Smith track – is a big deal," Enders-Stevens said. "Bruton Smith has done a lot for our sport, and his tracks are the nicest facilities on the circuit. It would definitely be neat to get it done there. It's our backyard, and Charlotte is the only race track that Cagnazzi Racing has not conquered. It's definitely on our to-do list."
For the first time since 2010, the Pro Stock Motorcycles will compete at the Four-Wide Nationals. King, N.C.’s Angie Smith, who competes against husband Matt Smith in the category, feels that the women of the NHRA are not at any disadvantage.
“We are on a level playing field,” said Smith. “We’re out here to race to win. We don’t want to be treated any differently. We stepped into a male-dominated sport because we love it and that’s what we do. At the end of the day, we don’t want to be portrayed any different. We just want to go out there and race and turn on the win light.”
Fans who want to see Courtney, Brittany, Enders-Stevens, Smith and all of the other stars of the NHRA going for the Wally at the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals can purchase three tickets and get one free in select sections. Children 13 and under are admitted for free every day of the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Every ticket is a pit pass.
Tickets and camping are still available for the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 19-21 at zMAX Dragway, by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) and online at www.4widedrags.com.