A lot has happened since my last blog post. For starters, we WON THE U.S. NATIONALS, the biggest, most prestigious race in NHRA drag racing! It’s the race every driver wants to win. They say no career is complete until you’ve won it.
To win that race was huge for our team, and it was especially exciting for me personally. With my win at Indy, I became the first woman in history to win three Funny Car races within a single season. To say it was a major accomplishment for our Patron XO Café team is certainly an understatement.
Indy marked the last regular-season race before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Our team is now in its third year, and we had never before made it into the Countdown. With our big U.S. Nationals win, we ended the regular season in the No. 4 spot in the standings and in a good position going into the Countdown.
The first Countdown race was at Charlotte. The weekend started off on a positive note. We picked up six bonus points during qualifying for having the best run of the session in Q3 and Q4. In fact, our Q4 run of 4.090 seconds earned us the No. 1 qualifier title -- the second of my career.
To go into the first race day of the Countdown in the No. qualifying 1 spot was awesome. Unfortunately for us, though, we seemed to be plagued by the ‘‘No. 1 qualifier curse.’’ I had the advantage off the line over my opponent David Richards, but both of our cars lost traction early into the run. Richards and I were both on and off the throttle, battling it out in a pedalfest until about half track, when a supercharger malfunctioned on my car and Richards was able to pull ahead and take the win, ending our day. This was not the way we wanted to start out the Countdown, of course, but it just wasn’t our day.
After Charlotte, I headed home to Austin. We had four days between Charlotte and our next race in Dallas, which is somewhat of a home race for me as Austin is only a few hours away. That makes it easy for my family to drive over for the weekend and come out and support our team. Dallas is a special race for me for several reasons -- I got my Funny Car license there, I debuted in the Funny Car ranks there, and most important, I met my husband there two years ago.
Dallas was another weekend of great qualifying runs. We earned bonus points in Q2 and Q4, and qualified second. Come Sunday, we fared slightly better than the week before, winning our first round, but unfortunately, it was another early day for us as we fell to our teammate and my mentor Del Worsham in the second round. He and I battled it out until about half track, when my Toyota Camry dropped a cylinder, and Del pulled ahead and took the win. I’m extremely competitive and don’t like losing to anyone, but losing to my teammate and friend made the early exit slightly less painful.
From there, it was on to the third Countdown race, aka the ‘halfway point,’ or as I like to call it, “crunch time,’’ in St. Louis. The two early Sunday exits hurt us in the points standings and by the time we got to St. Louis, we had fallen from fourth to fifth.
We struggled with qualifying all weekend, which is unusual for us. In fact, after not making it down the track in our first three attempts, we were put in the nerve-racking position of having to rely on the fourth and final round of qualifying to get into the Sunday elimination show.
Thankfully in Q4 our Camry made a full, clean pass, running 4.108-seconds, which got us in the show. The first round found us matched up against No. 7 qualifier Matt Hagan. Both of our cars made full passes, but he had the slight lead the whole way down the dragstrip and crossed the stripe at 4.158 seconds, beating our 4.170-second run. Once again, the first-round loss definitely hurt us, as we fell to seventh in the standings.
While it’s been frustrating to have won just one round in the first three Countdown races, I’m still extremely proud of our team and all of the incredible things we’ve been able to accomplish this season. We’re at the halfway point, and while we’re pretty far out of the No. 1 spot, there are still races to win and anything is possible. We have three more chances to get this car back in the winner’s circle, and I’m confident that our team can get the job done!