SONOMA, CA--- Courtney Force took home the Wally from the No. 1 spot today at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals when she dismissed competitors Peter Russo, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan and 16-time Champion John Force to score her fifth career win. She became the winningest female driver in Funny Car history with the win. She took that title from her 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 ever and got lucky when Russo’s car had complications on the line and wouldn’t 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. It is her first time winning at Sonoma, the 234th win for John Force Racing. Coming into Sonoma, she was 5-5 to her father, John Force.
“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 took her Traxxas Ford Mustang 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.
Force currently owns 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.
Despite qualifying number one for the third time this season, Brittany Force was unable to parlay the strong, consistent performance of her Castrol EDGE Dragster to her advantage. The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year was the odds-on favorite to go rounds today, and potentially make to the finals at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, but as they say in racing, the sure thing when two race cars line up for eliminations is only one’s coming back for the next round. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Brittany Force.
“I am starting to think that the No. 1 qualifier is a curse in Top Fuel. Schumacher went out in the first round last weekend, and we did it this weekend. I was actually talking with him on Friday about it. In Topeka I was No. 1 and was able to go to the semi-finals but we just can’t get the win from the top spot,” said Brittany Force.
In her first round match up with Clay Millican, Brittany Force had lane choice. At the flash of green from the Christmas Tree, Millican’s dragster left first with Brittany in hot pursuit. Millican crossed the finish line first with a 3.921 second run at 305.63 mph to Brittany’s faster and quicker 3.909 second run at 308.28 mph.
“I am going to let it go and move on. We lost a cylinder on that run and that hurt us. I am not going to focus on this loss too much. I am going to start looking forward to Seattle. We will have a brand new race to try and get this Castrol EDGE dragster its first win,” said Brittany Force.
The Castrol EDGE team will head to Seattle next weekend to wrap up the annual NHRA Western Swing at the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals. Even with her first round loss today, Brittany Force is still solidly in 7th place with 824 points. She knows her Castrol EDGE Dragster is a fast and consistent race car and she’ll be ready to do it all over again at Pacific Raceways.
John Force was looking for his 8th win at Sonoma Raceway today unfortunately for the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello World Champion he came up on the losing end of this epic family match-up.
As their 8,000 horsepower Mustangs left the starting line, John was out on Courtney and was on his way to his third win of the season until the massive Goodyear slicks became unglued from the track at the 660 foot mark. That was all Courtney needed to go around her dad and take the win.
“I was outrunning her at half-track by a car and then it rattled. It drove through that little bit of rattle and then it blew the tires off. I still thought I had her but she went by me right at the finish line. We were fast all day and they were a little slower,” said John Force.
The good news is the reigning NHRA Funny Car clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship with his semi-final win over Alexis DeJoria. So, despite not winning and coming away with a runner-up finish, John Force was excited and happy to see his daughter hoist the Wally with her crew in the winner’s circle at Sonoma Raceway.
“She has her sponsor, Mike Jenkins the president of Traxxas here, and getting these wins helps all our sponsors like Castrol, Auto Club, Peak, Mac Tools, BrandSource and Ford. We got the win and we got the money. I moved up in the points and she moved up in the points. I locked into the Countdown today and she is getting closer to clinching every race,” said John Force.
This was the 6th time this season John Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang stampeded to the final round and with the tuned up Jimmy Prock has on John’s hot rod; it won’t be the last as the team has the momentum to go all the way.
“It is awesome. This is one of our home tracks here in California. I like the way my car is running. It is pretty consistent. I lost last week to Robert (Hight), but we are eating up points and that is three finals in a row for me. The trick is to get all your race cars in the Countdown,” said John Force.
On his way to the final round match up with daughter Courtney, John Force defeated Paul Lee in round one, Tommy Johnson Jr. in the quarter-finals, and Alexis DeJoria in the semi-finals.
“I surround myself with good teammates, great drivers and fantastic sponsors like Castrol, Ford, Traxxas and others. We want to perform not just for them, but also for the fans that came out today to see us in action,” said John Force.
The Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car team and Robert Hight were looking to get the second leg of the Western Swing on the heels of his Denver win today at Sonoma Raceway. As the No. 6 qualifier Hight was paired up with veteran Tommy Johnson Jr. in the first round and he had lane choice. Hight staged his Funny Car and then surprisingly his race car lurched forward leading to a red-light and disqualification. This was only the second time in Hight’s career he has fouled out of a race.
“I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t nervous. I have one of the best cars out here. I got a good night’s sleep and was ready to go some rounds. I just rolled up there, got staged and the next thing you know my foot just went. Mike Neff and these guys gave me a great race car. We ran strong in the heat yesterday and I think we would have had a great day. I just have to focus better. I will be ready for Seattle and I am going to put this race behind me,” said a disappointed Hight at the end of the day.
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MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 1216; 2. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 1097; 3. Ron Capps, 957; 4. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 941; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 938; 6. Alexis DeJoria, 883; 7. Matt Hagan, 868; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 840; 9. Del Worsham, 816; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 762
TOP FUEL – 1. Doug Kalitta, 1223; 2. Antron Brown, 1177; 3. Shawn Langdon, 1065; 4. Tony Schumacher, 911; 5. Steve Torrence, 867; 6. Spencer Massey, 862; 7. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 824; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 801; 9. Richie Crampton, 752; 10. JR Todd, 741
PRO STOCK – 1. Erica Enders Stevens, 1229; 2. Allen Johnson, 1107; 3. Jason Line, 1074; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 1073; 5. Dave Connolly, 1023; 6. Shane Gray, 931; 7. Vincent Nobile, 926; 8. V Gaines, 688; 9. Chris McGaha, 686; 10. Jonathan Gray, 568
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Andrew Hines, 853; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 762; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 614; 4. Hector Arana, 542; 5. John Hall, 516; 6. Matt Smith, 483; 7. Michael Ray, 462; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, 461; 9. Angie Smith, 435; 10. Steve Johnson, 430
JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.070 seconds at 313.73 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (2nd Quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q2)
Race results: Beat Paul Lee, Tommy Johnson Jr,, Alexis DeJoria, Lost to Courtney Force
ROBERT HIGHT, 44, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 6th at 4.088 seconds at 310.48 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q3)
Race results: Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr,
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 1st at 4.045 seconds at 319.22 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +6 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2)
Race results: Beat Peter Russo, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan, John Force
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.762 seconds at 325.53 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q2)
Race results: Lost to Clay Millican,
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Aug. 1-3 27th O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, Seattle, WA
Aug. 14-17 33rd Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, MN
Aug. 27-Sept. 1 60th Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis, IN
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