Funny Car driver Courtney Force has been coming into her own since her rookie season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series – on her debut, she was “John Force’s youngest daughter,” now she’s a threat to visit the winner’s circle every week. Her most recent trip to the winner’s circle was her biggest win to date – she took home the 100th win by a female in Mello Yello Series history at the NHRA Kansas Nationals, at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas.
“People are like, ‘What's it like being out there racing against those guys?’ I just looked at them and I said, ‘My Funny Car doesn't know if it's a male or female behind the wheel,’” said Force in a recent NHRA teleconference. “You just got to be strong enough, passionate enough and have the drive in order to drive one of these cars. They're tough to drive. But you know you've got to give it your all. It doesn't care if you're a girl or John Force, Matt Hagan, anybody. It's going to drive how it wants to drive and you have to be the person behind the wheel that has the strength to control it.”
The legendary Shirley Muldowney was the first woman to win a race in the NHRA, and since then 13 other woman have joined the ranks, including Angelle Sampey, Melanie Troxel, Force’s sister Ashley Force Hood and current competitors Alexis DeJoria and Erica Enders-Stevens. The Force sisters – Courtney and Top Fuel driver Brittany – DeJoria and Enders-Stevens are a built-in support system for each other.
“You know what, the biggest thing that I thought was cool was actually after my loss in Atlanta in the final round (to her John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight), Alexis, she reached out to me, and Erica Enders reached out to me,” said Force. “They both said, ‘We're really sorry. We thought you had it. We really did want you to have that.’ They're girls. Obviously, they want to get the win for the number 100. Everybody wanted that. It was really cool to see them show their support, kind of try to make me feel better after last weekend.”
“Then to come out again this weekend and to get the win, I mean, Alexis, I love her to death. She was texting me before the run, ‘You can do it. You can get this. I know you're going to do it.’ Seriously, it's the coolest feeling knowing there's these girls out here that I'm competing against that are that supportive of me.”
“Erica wrote me on Twitter congratulating me, as well as her team congratulating me. It was really cool to see such positive energy coming out of these girls that I know wanted to get it for themselves. My sister Brittany, she ran into the media center jumping up and down, she was so excited. Funny Car runs before Top Fuel. She was like, I hope you get it, I hope you win it. My sister was an amazing person, just being so positive, really pushing me forward to really try and get that win.”
Another cheerleader in Force’s corner was in his own car on Sunday – her boyfriend, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to double-up in the winner’s circle, as Rahal finished 33rd out of 33 cars in the Indianapolis 500 after electrical problems ended his day on Lap 44.
“He said, ‘Well, at least one of us won something today,’” said Force. “He had a tough weekend. I was bummed out I couldn't be there to support him, especially after his electrical problems in his car, not being able to have the day that he wanted. That was on my mind, too. There's always a lot on my mind going into race day. To know he was having a bad day over in Indy, one of the biggest races of the year, he worked hard all month long. It was tough to see him have a bad day like that. He definitely was very positive and supportive, was congratulating me, happy that I got it. It was really cool. He goes, ‘At least you could cheer my day up a little bit by getting that win,’ so it was cool.”
Force and the other women of the NHRA Mello Yello Series go for win No. 101 this weekend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, home of the 45th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals, Thursday through Sunday, May 29th through June 1st. Pro category qualifying gets underway on Friday, May 30th at 4 and 6:15 p.m. ET and continues Saturday, May 31st at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. ET. Final eliminations for the NHRA Summernationals begin Sunday, June 1st at 11 a.m. ET. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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