Langdon, C. Force, Nobile take season-opening wins

Courtney Force raced to victory in Funny Car Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) also were winners at the first of 24 events in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Force powered her Traxxas Ford Mustang past NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger driver Ron Capps with a pass of 4.025 seconds at 317.12 mph to earn her second career victory.

“It was definitely unbelievable,” Force said. “My team, [crew chiefs] Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, thanks to them, they had given me a great race car all weekend long. I just try to keep it straight down the center, and they really made my job easy. I really owe it to those guys. It was kind of bittersweet finishing here [at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in November] and not getting that win, then coming back and picking up where we left off and finishing our job. We got the win, and I’m just proud of my team.”

In Top Fuel, Langdon drove his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to the win with his pass of 3.721 at 322.27, defeating seven-time champion Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team. In front of a hometown crowd, Langdon said his second victory is so much sweeter than the first.

“Couldn’t have scripted it any better, really,” Langdon said. “We struggled a little in qualifying. We didn’t really have the car that we thought we should have had, but we qualified seventh. We knew from the things we learned in testing that we had a car capable of winning. It showed today.”

In the second round of eliminations, 2012 world champion Antron Brown’s Matco Tools dragster went out of control and crashed near the finish line. Brown emerged from the crashed car under his own power and was checked and released by NHRA emergency services officials. He received only very minor injuries in the incident.

“I am feeling good,” Brown said. “I’ve got some scrapes on my legs, and my back is a little sore, but overall, I feel good. The best feeling was seeing how quickly the NHRA Safety Safari got to my car after it stopped. The car did its job, and we’ll be ready for Phoenix.”

Nobile claimed his sixth Pro Stock victory with a performance of 6.571 at 211.03 in his Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger, taking the automatic victory over Jeg Coughlin Jr., who turned on the red-light at the starting line and fouled out in his Dodge Avenger.

“It’s pretty awesome leaving here with the points lead,” said Nobile. “That’s every team’s goal. Now we just want to stay there, stay consistent, and keep the wins coming.”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rolls into Firebird Int’l Raceway in Phoenix Feb. 22-24 for the NHRA Arizona Nationals, which will be aired on ESPN2HD.