This weekend Courtney Force managed to turn a No. 10 qualifying position into a semi-final appearance and hang on to the No. 7 spot in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car point standings at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
The 25-year-old female racer, who will grace the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue on July 12th, posted a 4.07 in the opening round against Tim Wilkerson today to kick off eliminations. Courtney also set the track speed record with the first round run of 319.67 mph.
“We were matched up with Tim Wilkerson in the first round today. We had him in the opening round last weekend in Chicago, also. He’s a tough competitor. He’s definitely got a good race car this year and he had lane choice over me. It made me a little nervous, so I felt like I had to step up my game. We got down there and had a great pass. We were able to outrun him with a 4.07 so I was excited for round two,” said Force.
This was the seventh time the two Ford teams have raced each other in eliminations and the fourth time they have met in the first round on race day. Force is now 6-1 to Wilkerson, only having lost to the fellow Ford driver last weekend in Joliet, Ill at Route 66 Raceway.
“Second round was another all-Ford match-up against Bob Tasca III. I knew he was to my my brother-in-law and teammate Robert Hight in the points, so I needed to win,” said Force.
Force took the win over Tasca with a 4.08 to his 4.11. Force is now 5-1 to Tasca in previous events.
“Our Traxxas Ford Mustang team pulled through and we were able to get that win light. It was important to us to help out (teammate) Robert (Hight). It was a good win for us,” added Force.
In the semi-final round, Force took on Ron Capps without lane choice. Her Traxxas Ford Mustang smoked the tires and got sideways, giving Capps the win.
“We had a tough match-up with Capps. The track heated up so it was a little different situation compared to the first round. We lost lane choice, but I left on him and our Funny Car was a ways out ahead of him. We hit a little bump out there and it sent the tires spinning and put me sideways. By the time I got my Traxxas Ford Mustang straight, he was already getting the win light.”
“We both have great cars and (crew chief) Ron Douglas did a great job tuning this car, so it was a tough loss for me and for this team. We made a lot of changes in qualifying so I’m looking forward to the next race and seeing what we can bring to the table,” said Force.
In the opening round team leader and No. 1 qualifier John Force took out rising star Blake Alexander. Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang was quickest of first round with a 4.025 second run. This was the second time the 15-time Funny Car champion has raced the driver from Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia and also the second time he has defeated him.
Force squared off with veteran Jack Beckman in the second round but came up short in his bid to advance to the semi-finals. The winningest driver in NHRA history will remain winless at the famed Norwalk facility for at least one more year.
“We went some rounds and Courtney went some rounds. The fans here get you so excited you just want to win for them and for our sponsors like Castrol, Mac Tools, Ford, BrandSource and Traxxas. I was glad I was No. 1 and racing that kid Blake Alexander in the first round keeps you honest,” said Force.
“He has the gut ache to get a win just like I do and you can’t look past drivers like that. I was hoping to get to race Courtney in the final but it didn’t work out. I have to thank the Baders for giving us such a great place to race. They are great promoters. This Castrol GTX Mustang is a great hot rod and Mike Neff and Jon Schaffer have it running great. We ran 4.02 in the first round today. I love being out here and I’ll keep coming back until I win a national event here.”
For No. 2 qualifier Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team the first round left them with an unfulfilled feeling and the gut ache of a missed opportunity. Going into the first round against Bob Tasca III Hight had won the previous seven meetings. His career record is 9-4 now against his fellow Blue Oval racer.
“I am not sure what happened on that run. It just wasn’t meant to be. We wanted to go some rounds today and get further up in the Top Ten. It didn’t work out for us but we will be ready for the Western Swing in a couple of weeks. We just finished four in a row and that will get us in a groove for the Denver, Sonoma and Seattle. We will get back in the shop and get our Auto Club Mustang ready,” said Hight.