As final fours go, Sunday’s Top Fuel quartet at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals would have made even North Carolina, Kansas, Duke and Villanova raise their collective eyebrow.
Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, Antron Brown and Brittany Force have combined for 16 class championships, including the past eight. It was a veritable clash of drag racing titans. And when the smoke and fire and cloudy haze that kept track temperatures down on a balmy 80-degree day lifted, it was the least decorated of the fantastic four who stood alone at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“To look at that final quad and see the guys we were good enough to pull up next to — and then beat them all — is something we’re very proud of,” Force said after earning her 12th career win and second at Las Vegas.
“I watched Tony Schumacher when I was out here watching my dad (16-time Funny Car champion John Force) as a kid. So just to be able to line up next to him is very exciting, and then to turn the win light on is even better.”
It was a statement victory for the 2017 Top Fuel champion, who parlayed quick and consistent reaction times — thought to be her weakness — into a winning effort against some of the sport’s legendary drivers.
“I think I found something that worked for me — firing myself up but also calming myself down at the same time,” Force said after notching the second four-wide win of her career with a 3.718 run at a blistering 338 mph. “Taking a deep breath, bringing my heart rate down. I’ve been here all hyped up, crazy, and it doesn’t seem to work for me.”
Capps triumphs as driver-owner
It also was a milestone day in Funny Car, as Ron Capps defeated Matt Hagan, Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria for the 69th victory of his illustrious career but first as a team owner after departing Don Schumacher Racing after winning last year’s championship.
“It was like my first win going back to when we won with Don Prudhomme (as his car owner). I still can’t believe it,” the personable California native said after speeding to his sixth LVMS win with a 3.914 elapsed time.
“Here I am in my 50s, living a lifelong dream. I grew up in the sport — literally grew up in the sport. I was conceived at a drag strip. So every part of my being has been part of drag racing. Fast forward to this day when I would be holding one of those (winning trophies) as an owner is just nuts.”
Enders adds to LVMS legacy
It was a red-letter day for female drivers, as Erica Enders won the Pro Stock final with a 6.668 pass, topping a final quartet of Cristian Cuadra, Mason McGaha and Dallas Glenn. It was the 35th career victory for the four-time champion and her record ninth at LVMS, surpassing Schumacher.
“We laid down a pretty stellar number there in the final, and Vegas has always been pretty good to me,” Enders said after making it two straight four-wide wins at LVMS with her second victory in four 2022 starts. “Even when I haven’t been good out here, we still are able to turn on win lights consistently.”
It was an impressive comeback for the Texas driver who set a national elapsed time record at the Gatornationals in Florida the last time out only to lose on a slow reaction time off the starting line in the first round.