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Women are roaring again in NHRA racing

In real life, it was education that was the great equalizer according to the 19th-century statesman Horace Mann.

In hockey, “Terrible” Ted Lindsay used to say it was the hockey stick.

In drag racing, it has to be a tightly wound combustible engine.

No other sport has leveled the playing field between men and women like drag racing has. Another chapter in progressive motor sports was written last weekend at the New England Nationals where the NHRA flirted with its first sweep of the car divisions by female drivers.

Brittany Force won in Top Fuel.

Erica Enders won in Pro Stock.

Courtney Force nearly won in Funny Car. First she survived a harrowing engine explosion and fire during a track-record E.T. qualifying run, then she battled all the way back to the finals on Sunday before losing to Matt Hagan by two-hundreths of a second.

The NHRA didn’t sound trumpets and play Katy Perry records to mark the occasion. Whereas Danica Patrick finishing 10th in a crash-filled NASCAR race in Delaware was sort of a big deal, women have been winning drag races since 1976, when Shirley Muldowney broke through for a victory in Columbus, Ohio.

Muldowney would finish with 18 national wins. That’s only third on the all-time list among women, behind Enders’ 21 in Pro Stock and Angelle Sampey’s 42 in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Counting four wins in Top Fuel (three by Leah Pritchett, one by Brittany Force) this season and Enders’ first winning pass since she took home the Wally at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2015, women have won 132 NHRA races and eight world championships (three by Muldowney, two by Enders, three by Sampey).

Brittany Force’s winning speed during a Weekend in New England that would have blown Barry Manilow’s socks right off was 328.62 mph — a whole faster than men drove horse and buggies during Horace Mann’s day.

Other Gaughan feted

Most people know Michael Gaughan as owner of the South Point, the guy who writes the checks so son Brenadan can go NASCAR racing. But he also was quite a racer himself. On June 22, Michael Gaughan will be enshrined in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Napa, California, presented by Gateway Motorsports Park.

Gaughan, 74, spent more than two decades as a desert off-road racer and won his share of races, including the 1966 Mint 400.

He later founded South Point Racing with Bill McAnally, another West Coast Stock Car Hall of Famer. They won three straight NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championships with drivers Sean Woodside and Brendan Gaughan and went on to post nine NASCAR Truck Series victories with Brendan Gaughan and Steve Park at the wheel.

Others to be honored with the Class of 2017 include off-road legend Walker Evans, former IndyCar champion Joe Leonard and Scott Pruett, who also raced IndyCars and won dozens of sports car racing titles.

White flag

■ NHRA has announced its 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and The Strip at Las Vegas Motor received its usual two dates. The DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals is set April 6 to 8; the NHRA Toyota Nationals — part of drag racing’s Countdown to the Championship — is scheduled Oct. 25 to 28. The Strip once again will join Pomona, California, and Charlotte, North Carolina, in hosting two nationals.

■ Scott Gafforini, a six-time LVMS Bullring champion, returned to victory lane by taking the second of two 35-lap feature races highlighting the annual Chris Trickle Classic. It was Gafforini’s first victory in nearly a year. David Anderson won the first feature, giving him two wins this season.

■ Note to NASCAR: This year’s NBA playoffs have been abysmal from an excitement standpoint, but there’s a zero percent chance the baskets will be lowered to nine feet or points be awarded for winning the quarters to make them more interesting.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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