Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force to start No. 7 in Sunday’s NHRA Funny Car race at Gateway

Courtney Force proved last weekend’s race in Reading she could race to the finals of an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car finals from the No. 8 qualifying position.
In Sunday’s race, the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park, Force will again try to come from mid-pack, as the driver of the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS starts one position better – No. 7.
Her best run of 3.877 seconds at 329.50 mph came in Friday’s second session, and set up a matchup against No. 10 J.R. Todd, another contender in the Countdown to the Championship, the final-six race stretch that determines champions in NHRA’s professional categories.
Force made three other passes, but smoked the tires in each of those attempts, including twice Saturday. Still, she’s confident that her team, led by crew chief Dan Hood and co-crew chief Ronnie Thompson, has enough to return to her third consecutive final round. She started the Countdown with a finals appearance two weeks ago at Charlotte and backed that up last weekend at Reading.
“We had a couple tough days of qualifying, but luckily, our Advance Auto Parts team made one solid pass Friday, a stout run,” said Force, seeking her first victory of 2017 on Sunday. “It’s disappointing that we didn’t get the consistency that we were looking for throughout qualifying, but we had the same situation last weekend, and went all the way to the final round. That’s what we’re hoping to do again tomorrow.”
Force is currently third in Funny Car points, and within two rounds of taking at least second in the standings. She had started the Countdown sixth in the standings.
“We’re going to have to turn things around as we’re struggling a little bit, getting it to run well down this track, but I’m confident in my team and crew chiefs that we’ll get this thing put together for race day when it matters most,” said Force, the 2014 race winner at Gateway. “It’ll be a tough matchup first round against a Kalitta (Motorsports) car and J.R. Todd, as he’s looking to move up in the Countdown as well. But I think my team has what it takes, and we’ll see if we can get this thing running rounds and get it turned around.”
Todd had a best run of 3.904 seconds at 332.02 mph.
Elimination rounds for Sunday’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals begin at 11 a.m. Central. Fox Sports 1 will televise three hours of live coverage, starting at 1 p.m. Central.
4-Second Reads:
  • Qualifying Round 1 (Right Lane): 4.304 seconds/206.92 mph; good launch but smoke started coming from car at about midtrack, then slowed (No. 13 of session and No. 13 overall; no bonus points in session)
  • Qualifying Round 2 (Left Lane): 3.877 seconds/329.50 mph; good pass though drifted toward the right at the end of the run (No. 6 of session and No. 6 overall; no bonus points in session and no bonus points overall)
  • Qualifying Round 3 (Right Lane): 4.340 seconds/202.97 mph; good launch but smoked the tires around the 600-foot mark and slowed (No. 8 of session and No. 6 overall; no bonus points in session and no bonus points overall)
  • Qualifying Round 4 (Left Lane): 9.550 seconds/59.93 mph; smoked the tires before the Christmas tree (No. 15 of session and No. 8 overall; no bonus points in session and no bonus points overall)
  • This is the first time this season and 12th time in her career Force has qualified No. 7 for a race. The last time she qualified No. 7 was last season at Chicago.
  • Force is looking for her first victory and second finals from No. 7. Her only other finals came at Denver in 2012.
  • This is the second time Force has qualified No. 7 at Gateway; she was also No. 7 at the track in 2015.
  • Force’s first-round matchup against J.R. Todd marks the fourth time the two will compete against each other. Force holds a 2-1 advantage in the previous three meetings, her last victory at Bristol in June.

John Force Racing PR/Photo Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery

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