Force, Schumacher Awarded
Oakley Funny Car driver Ashley Force was awarded Rookie of the Year at the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles last night. She started off the sponsor portion of her acceptance speech by thanking her friends at Oakley.
“For everyone who knows me, it’s really important I have those sunglasses whenever I start crying!” said an elated Ashley Force.
Force took home $20,000 from the Automobile Club of Southern California with her Road to the Future Award. A distinguished panel of auto racing journalists selected Force, who two weeks ago in Las Vegas became the first female driver in NHRA history to advance to a final round in Funny Car. The 24-year-old second-generation racer is the 10th woman to compete in the 7,000-horsepower category. Other nominees were Justin Humphreys, Craig Hankinson, and Matt Scranton in Pro Stock and Barry Henson in Pro Stock Motorcycle
The biggest story of the evening was Oakley’s Tony Schumacher becoming the first Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to win four consecutive POWERade Series world championship crowns. Schumacher received from NHRA and POWERade a check for $500,000, which included a $100,000 Countdown bonus. It was Schumacher’s fourth consecutive crown and his fifth overall, tying him with Joe Amato for most in the category. Schumacher drove his Alan Johnson-tuned U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster to six victories during the season, including a dramatic must-win performance at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, to steal the title from "Hot Rod" Fuller at the last moment.
Oakley’s Jeg Coughlin was also presented a check and trophy for his achievements during the 2007 POWERade Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s first championship playoffs. Coughlin took his third Pro Stock world championship with a come-from-behind effort, driving his Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt to the win at the season finale and posting a runner-up effort in Las Vegas for a 7-1 eliminations record during the two-race Countdown to One. The Delaware, Ohio, driver received a $250,000 check from NHRA and POWERade, which included a $50,000 Countdown bonus. Coughlin won four times in eight final-round appearances during the season.
The evening featured two very moving tributes. The first was to NHRA founder Wally Parks, who died Sept. 28 at age 94 after a lifetime dedicated to growing and nurturing NHRA to position it as a worldwide leader in motorsports, and the other was to Funny Car driver Eric Medlen, who died March 23 from injuries suffered in a testing crash at Gainesville Raceway four days earlier. Medlen, 33, a team driver for John Force Racing, was one of the bright young stars in NHRA.
After the ceremony, drivers, family and friends hit the dance floor and celebrated the end of a phenomenal NHRA season.
NHRA ON TV
Television coverage of the 2007 NHRA POWERade awards ceremony will air Sunday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2.