NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force had a monumental weekend at yesterday's NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, California. She started off strong, earning the top qualified position in Funny Car, and never looked back, dismissing competitors Peter Russo, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan and 16-time champion (and father) John Force, to score her fifth career win.
But Courtney also eclipsed another monumental career achievement on Sunday, becoming the winning-est female driver in Funny Car history over sister Ashley Force Hood, who had four career Funny Car wins.
“I’ve just had my eyes set on Ashley for a while. There was a big cluster of people who had four wins and I kind of became obsessed with going for No. 5. You always want to do well and I know that once Ashley stepped out of the seat and started a family she had totally made herself. She did a great job and I looked up to her. I knew she had four wins and I looked at where her stats were to try to see where I was at and compare. She’s just done so well. I looked up to her and I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job if I can do half as well as she did. It’s cool to reach No. 5, but I’m very proud of my team because obviously I wouldn’t be here without them and the hard work that they put in. I’m only as good as my team is,” said Force.
The 26-year-old went up against Peter Russo in the opening round for the first time in her career, and got lucky when Russo’s car had complications on the line and would not make the call to fire. He was unable to make the run, resulting in a win for the youngest Force. Her Traxxas Ford went up in smoke as she posted a 6.631 second run at 96.06 mph.
“After qualifying we had the No. 1 spot, but we ran a 4.04 during the coolest time of the day. It’s still a hot track out there. It looked good and it puts you to the No. 1 spot, but it wasn’t where we wanted to be going into race day. We wanted consistent runs throughout qualifying and I’m looking at the guys that are running the 4.07s and 4.10s and 4.11s in the heat of the day qualifying sessions. Pulling up for round one you’re just thinking we ran 4.17 in Q1 and it was kind of as good as it got for our Traxxas team (in the heat ). It was unfortunate Russo wasn’t able to make the run, but pure luck we were able to get the run by smoking the tires. It doesn’t come easy. You definitely have to look at it and say we got lucky on that run, but it was a bummer that he couldn’t run with us,” said Force.
In round two, it was Force up against Ford competitor Bob Tasca III. Tasca had lane choice, but Force quickly pulled away with a 4.276 ET at 197.65 mph. She is now 9-2 against Tasca in eliminations.
In the semi-final round, Force lost lane choice once again this time to Matt Hagan, who she beat in the final round en route to her first career win in 2012 at Seattle. Matt Hagan qualified No. 5 and had lane choice. Force took the win with a 4.235 ET at 193.86 mph as Hagan had problems down track.
“I think our entire team is definitely gelling better. Every year I’ve had the same crew chief since the start of my rookie season and the great thing about John Force Racing is we all stick together as a team and we’re not over here trying to move our guys around left and right. I like to keep my same routine. It makes me comfortable and I think it makes everybody else comfortable. I think it helps us to do better all in all. Year after year I’m getting more comfortable in the seat, trying harder, working on my lights, leaving better and I actually put a lot more pressure on myself now in my third season because now I’m looking at, well, maybe we do have a championship car,” said Force.
This is the third time she has won from the No. 1 spot and the sixth time she has qualified No. 1 in her three year Funny Car career. The win marked her first at the Sonoma facility, and combined for a total of 234 wins for John Force Racing. With the win, Courtney took the edge over father John Force, now at a 6-5 career record.
“Going up in the second round it started being that we got by with that one then we got by with that one. We didn’t have lane choice pretty much all day long until the final and I’m sitting there going should we really switch lanes? We’ve actually been getting down okay and getting the win light in the left lane, but I knew dad wanted that right lane so I thought we might as well take it, it might mess them up a little,” said Force.
Courtney was able to navigate straight down the race track to get her sixth win over her father. She is now vying with Alexis DeJoria to become the first woman Funny Car driver to win as many as three races in a single season.
“The pressure was actually off because I was already celebrating after I won the semis. I watched my dad win and I knew if I won the semis I was going to have him in the final and no matter what, one of us was going to be in the winner’s circle. One of us was going to win and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter who it is. But dad has 140 win right now, I’d really like to just get five,” said Force.
Courtney currently owns claim to the fastest speed in the history of 1,000 foot racing at 325.37 mph and has posted top speed in seven of 15 races this year. She also won the 100th pro tour event by a woman when she prevailed May 25th at Topeka, Kan. this year.
“It just turned out to be a great day. It definitely wasn’t what I expected after qualifying and not having a completely consistent car. I saw dad in the final round right out my window the whole way down track and we were able to get around him and get that win. I think I saw puffs of smoke. I don’t know if it was his car or mine. I felt like mine was trying to spin the tires.
“I think about way too many things when I’m against dad. Normally I’m calm and collected and I think whatever is going to happen will happen, but I was so wanting this win that I was thinking don’t screw up on the light, don’t red light, don’t pull in too deep. I wanted to pull in deep, but I didn’t want to light the red light and just ruin it for my team; typical final round scenarios that go through your head, but even more when it’s against my dad. I was nervous. I just didn’t want to screw up and it was just one of those deals where I just wanted to go and get this car straight down the track and do my job as a driver. I knew everyone would be looking at me so I just didn’t want to screw it up for us,” said Force.