Courtney Force Wins Season Opening Mello Yello NHRA Winternationals in Dominating Fashion
After grabbing her third No. 1 qualifier of her career, Courtney Force wrapped up the weekend today with her second career win and first at the season-opening 53nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway. She defeated Ron Capps in the final round of eliminations and ran the quickest pass of the weekend a 4.025 second run.
“It was definitely pretty unbelievable. My team, Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, thanks to them. They’ve given me a great race car all weekend long; a consistent one, running 4.0s. I just try to keep it straight down the center. They really made my job easy. I really owe it to those guys,” said the 24-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif.
Force is the fourth person to qualify No. 1 and win the Winternationals in the last 25 years. She took on the No. 16 qualifier at the start of race day and never looked back. Today was the first time Force and Phil Burkart Jr. have faced each other in eliminations and the daughter of 15-time world champion John Force came out on top with a 4.066 ET at over 316 mph.
“It is always tough racing someone in the other lane no matter who they are, whether they are the No. 16 qualifier or the No. 2 qualifier.
Force went on to race No. 9 qualifier Matt Hagan in the second round and claimed victory when Hagan slowed and Force posted a 4.070 ET. She is now 4-2 to the 2011 Funny Car World Champion.
The 2012 Rookie of the Year and Nationals spokesperson for Ford Motor Company’s Driving Skills for Life also ousted fellow Ford racer Bob Tasca III in the semifinals after he fouled out and sent Force on to the final round of eliminations against Ron Capps.
“I saw the red light. I knew I was good but it was definitely pure luck. I got on the radio and I said, ‘guys, we just won that by pure luck. God wanted us to win that round.’ But you know what, Bob Tasca III, we both get fired up against each other. He’s always good on the lights so he’s always a tough competitor, but the main thing is we both bleed Ford blue and we knew one of the Fords were going to the final so we were excited about that. You know, things happen. We both just wanted to get that win and we got lucky,” said Force.
The Traxxas Ford Mustang driver next pulled off the win in an exciting matchup against Capps in the final round. Force had lost the luxury of lane choice, but posted the quickest time of the weekend, a 4.025 ET and cruised into the winner’s circle.
“Going against Capps I was honestly terrified. I knew the last time I ran him it was out here in the finals and I knew he wanted revenge. He was running well all weekend. He got lane choice over me and it definitely made me nervous. He’s a tough competitor.”
“Going down there my car was flying. It got over to the centerline and I just held onto it because I didn’t know, I thought maybe he was right out my window. I wasn’t looking over in his lane, I was just paying attention to my own, trying to keep it straight and get past the finish line to get that win and was able to get the job done. I’m excited it was definitely a tough round not knowing where he was on the track, but we were able to do it,” said Force.
By winning the first event of the season, Force also now occupies a spot on the board reserved for the first driver entered into the Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will be held in Indy at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Last year, Force won the fan vote and was entered into the bonus race.
“Making it into the Traxxas Shootout, I think that’s the coolest thing here at my home track, being the first one on that list, you know my dad won the Winternationals last year and it’s pretty cool. It was kind of a bittersweet finish here in the final not getting that win and coming back and picking up where we left off and finishing our job. We got the win, got in the winner’s circle and I’m Just proud of my team.”
“That right lane for some reason has been tough for me this weekend. We spun the tires down there. We found a little bump in the road. But getting it down there and running a 4.02 in what was considered the bad lane, for me that was unbelievable. Ron Douglas just knows how to tune this car and I think we have a pretty bad hot rod going into Phoenix. I’m excited to see what we’re capable of doing.”
“It’s pretty surreal and crazy that we went to the top spot and I’m leaving here in the points lead. That just crazy to me and it’s exciting to be out here at my home track. My friends are all out here so I get to celebrate in the winner’s circle with them. I was starting to think the only race I could win was Seattle so it was kinda cool to come out here and prove myself wrong. We had a good hot rod and we had a good day,” said Force.
Photo Credit: Sal Sigala Jr