Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force tops Carolina Nationals qualifying for seventh No. 1 of season

Courtney Force’s quickest time Friday held over two days of qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals as she secured her seventh No. 1 of the season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car class.
Force, driving the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, made a pass of 3.891 seconds at 330.07 mph in the second session Friday. Hot conditions kept Force from improving in either of Saturday’s two sessions, as she suffered from traction issues in attempts in the left and right lanes.
But her competitors struggled, too, and she swept the No. 1s for the two races this year at zMAX Dragway. She set a track record in the Four-Wide Nationals with a 3.851-second pass in April. She now has three No. 1s at the track, but this is her first in the traditional “two-wide,” fall race.
“I’m really proud of my team for giving me a great race car,” said Force, who now has 17 career No. 1s in the Funny Car class. “It’s been a lot of fun to drive this car and get these No. 1 qualifiers. We know we have to bring that same success into Sunday, and I am just looking forward to tomorrow as we try to end up in the winner’s circle.”
Force will face No. 16 Bob Gilbertson, whose best pass was 4.448 seconds at 215.58 mph, in the first round. It marks the first time the pair will race each other in elimination rounds.
It marks a strong start to the Countdown to the Championship – the six-race stretch that determines the title in NHRA’s four professional categories – for Force, whose career-best finish in the points standings was fourth in 2014. She earned three bonus points via qualifying.
“We were just overpowering the track on those other runs, which I guess isn’t the worst problem to have,” Force said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. This is the home track for Advance Auto Parts, so we want to show them we can shine and win tomorrow, and that would be a great start to the Countdown.”
Elimination rounds begin at noon Eastern tomorrow, with live television coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.
4-Second Reads:
  • Qualifying Round 1 (Left Lane): 6.089 seconds/110.50 mph; smoke about the 330 mark and coasts to the finish (No. 11 of session and No. 11 overall; no bonus points in session)
  • Qualifying Round 2 (Right Lane): 3.891 seconds/330.07 mph; stellar pass goes to quickest overall through her pairing and first driver in Funny Car in the 3.8s this weekend; track career-best speed by seven mph (No. 1 of session and No. 1 overall; three bonus points in session and three bonus points overall)
  • Qualifying Round 3 (Left Lane): 6.783 seconds/86.96 mph; smokes tires around 300-foot mark; most competitors having trouble in left lane this session (No. 14 of session and No. 1 overall; no bonus points in session and three bonus points overall)
  • Qualifying Round 4 (Right Lane): 5.960 seconds/112.45 mph; lost traction around 250-foot mark and slowed (No. 13 of session and No. 1 overall; no bonus points in session and three bonus points overall)
  • This is the seventh time this season and 17th time in her career Force has qualified No. 1. She is looking for her fifth victory and sixth finals from the No. 1 position. Her seven No. 1s lead all drivers in the nitro categories this season.
  • Force has also qualified No. 1 at Las Vegas, Nev.; Houston, Texas; Charlotte, N.C. (spring); Atlanta, Ga.; Englishtown, N.J.; and Denver, Colo.
  • Force holds a 28-12 elimination-round record from the No. 1 position.
  • Force’s previous four victories from the No. 1 position were: Pomona, Calif. (2013 Winternationals); 2014 Topeka, Kan.; 2014 Sonoma, Calif.; and 2014 Dallas, Texas.
  • This is the third time Force has qualified No. 1 at Charlotte. Her previous two other times came in the Four-Wide Nationals, in 2015 and 2017.
  • Force’s first-round matchup against No. 16 Bob Gilbertson marks the first time ever that the two will face each other in elimination-round competition.

John Force Racing PR/Photo Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery

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