NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing World Champions Crowned In Hollywood
Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – HOLLYWOOD, CA – Brittany Force, Robert Hight, Bo Butner and Eddie Krawiec were feted as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series champions Monday during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.
The championship drivers were honored for their season-long achievements and presented with checks and trophies for winning 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship titles during the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.
Force was crowned the second female Top Fuel racer to win the category crown after she clinched the championship Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. In her championship year, Force raced to four wins including the season ending event. She also had two runner-up finishes and two No. 1 qualifying positions during the year.
Force, daughter of 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force, became just the second female to win a Top Fuel world championship by defeating Richie Crampton in the quarterfinals. The other female to win a championship in the category was legendary racer Shirley Muldowney.
Hight raced to his first championship since 2009 and his Jimmy Prock led team, who set a national E.T. record for the category at Brainerd, found a tune-up that would propel him to the points lead in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Countdown to the Championship. In the six-race playoffs Hight won two events and was the No. 1 qualifier at three consecutive races. Hight raced to a runner-up finish at the season-ending event.
Butner powered to his first world title in the same season he recorded his first career Pro Stock win in Houston. Butner and his KB Racing teammates, Greg Anderson and Jason Line, finished one-two-and three in the points, respectively. Starting at the Norwalk event, Butner raced to four final round appearances in six events and was able to enter the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Countdown to the Championship as the No. 1 seed. In the Countdown. He defeated Tanner Gray at Pomona in the finals to clinch the championship by seven points over Greg Anderson.
Krawiec won his fourth championship on the strength of a season opening win for the two-wheeled category in Gainesville. The team hit their championship stride beginning in Indianapolis when he won his second Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. In the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship Krawiec cemented his crown with four wins in the first five races and took the points lead starting in Charlotte 2. Krawiec closed out the year with a runner-up finish at the season finale.
Pro Stock racer Tanner Gray was named the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award and the $20,000 prize. The award recognizes the top NHRA rookie performer of the year. Gray in his rookie season raced to his first win at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas. The victory put Gray in the record books as the youngest national event winner in NHRA history. Gray also notched victories in Topeka, Kan., Sonoma, Calif., Brainerd, Minn., and the second event in Charlotte, N.C. He also raced to four No. 1 qualifying positions. The other candidates in the rookie class were Troy Coughlin Jr. (Top Fuel), Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Jonnie Lindberg (Funny Car), Andy Rawlings (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Shawn Reed (Top Fuel), and Mike Salinas (Top Fuel).
“It’s feels good to win the award,” Gray said. “Our season could have always been better, but I am really proud of what my team has accomplished. For someone who has never drag raced, I was able to come out here and win with the hard work, dedication and effort from my entire team. They definitely made the learning curve easier and not as steep as it could have been. I owe this award to them.”
Chevrolet was honored during the evening as the 2017 NHRA Manufacturers Cup winner. The season-long points battle was captured on the strength of the Camaro Funny Cars driven by 2017 and two-time Funny Car champion Hight, 16-time category champion John Force, and Courtney Force. The Pro Stock category was also represented by first-time world champion Butner, 2017 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future award winner Gray, Anderson, Line, Erica Enders, Drew Skillman, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Chris McGaha. This is the 22nd time Chevrolet won the award and the first time since 2015.
Additionally, Justin Lamb won the Stock Eliminator championship in his Chevrolet COPO Camaro, and David Barton earned the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown title in a Chevrolet COPO Camaro.
“It is a tremendous honor for Chevrolet to win the NHRA Manufacturers Cup for the 22nd time,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president, performance vehicles and motorsports. “This achievement is the result of the collective dedicated effort of the Chevrolet engineering staff with our Chevrolet Camaro SS teams in the Pro Stock and Funny Car classes, as well as our COPO Camaro teams and drivers in the Sportsman classes. It takes a focused effort to earn this championship, and we thank the drivers, crew and all who made this possible.”
Tom McKernan was honored during the event as the recipient of the Don Prudhomme Award, one of NHRA’s highest honors, named for Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme, a true legend of NHRA as both a driver and an owner. The Prudhomme Award is presented to an individual who has made a profound impact on the growth and positive image of NHRA drag racing. McKernan, a long time chief executive officer of The Automobile Club of Southern California, was given the award because of the huge positive impact McKernan has made on the NHRA.
Drivers in nine categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also were recognized as 2017 world champions: Joey Severance (Top Alcohol Dragster), Shane Westerfield (Top Alcohol Funny Car), David Rampy (Competition Eliminator), Justin Lamb (Super Stock and Stock), Austin Williams (Super Comp), John Labbous Jr. (Super Gas), Lynn Ellison (Top Dragster), and Jeffrey Barker (Top Sportsman).