For the fifth time this season Courtney Force and her Advance Auto Parts team raced their way into the finals, and for the first time this season, they were the runners-up. Force defeated her father John Force in the semifinals after he defeated Robert Hight in the second round and after a consistent two days of qualifying, Brittany Force had a first round exit at Summit Racing Motorsports Park.
Courtney Force maintains a stronghold on the Funny Car points standings after reaching the 28th final round of her career and third in four years at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
In the first round, Force defeated first time opponent John Smith with an impressive 3.994-second pass, the second quickest of the session. She then ended two-time world champion Shawn Langdon’s day in the second round with the quickest pass of the day at 3.971-second before having to face-off against her father and 16-time world champion John Force in the semifinals. Courtney defeated John with a 4.007-second pass at 323.58 mph, bettering his 4.053 at 321.27. Courtney is now 13-15 against her legendary father but 4-0 against him this season.
In the finals, Courtney Force faced-off against Matt Hagan, who had one win previously this season at the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Hagan had the advantage off the starting line but Force would run him down until her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car lost traction towards the finish line. Force finished the race with a 4.220-second run at 227.54 mph, not quick enough for Hagan’s 4.094 pass at 288.21.
“We made some great strides this weekend, we struggled a bit to get down both lanes and we only had two qualifying runs but we got the No. 1 spot. We were really hoping to have lane choice all day but we lost it on the run where I beat my dad in the semifinals,” explained Force. “We were actually out ahead of Hagan on a good run in the final when it lost traction and he drove around me to get the win. It was still a great race for the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro and my team did another phenomenal job. Great end to the weekend with the fact that we were able to extend our point lead. And coming from a DNQ last year, I think this was a great comeback.”
The fact that John Force is tired of getting beat by his kid is testimony to the fact that the Hall of Famer is not content simply to race. In the middle of his 42nd pro season, the 16-time Funny Car Champion still wants to win – and still believes he can.
“The car’s starting to go rounds,” he said after losing to Courtney in Sunday’s semifinals, his fourth loss to his youngest daughter in as many meetings this season. “We only got two qualifying rounds but this ol’ PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevy is starting to go down the racetrack. That’s what we’ve been working for. We moved up a little in points. It’s still tight, but we’re moving forward. (Crew chief) Jon Schafer, these young kids, Ronnie Thompson, they’re starting to prove themselves. After we crashed (at Chicago, in the first race of a four-in-a-row stretch that ended Sunday), we came back and went to the finals at Richmond and the semifinals today and both times I get beat by my daughter.”
On Sunday, Courtney used a .044 reaction time with 4.007 second time and to beat her dad’s .055 reaction time with his 4.053 second effort.
“She’s doing her job for Advance Auto Parts and for Chevy,” Force said, “but I want to do mine, too.”
Two-time and reigning series champion Robert Hight bowed out in the second round citing the need for “a few more runs” before he and his Auto Club of Southern California crew are completely at ease with a return to last year’s engine combination.
“We were running bigger cylinder heads, a different camshaft and a different supercharger to start the year because we were trying to go faster and set records,” Hight said. “(Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) decided to go back to what we ran last year, the same stuff Courtney’s running right now, because with the NHRA’s new track prep, we just can’t run as hard as we want to.”
Hight lost in the second round to John Force after running a 4.116-second pass at 321.27 mph. Force had a 4.085 pass at 319.75.
“We dropped a cylinder against John and it slowed down a little,” Hight said. “But it won’t take long for Jimmy and Chris (Cunningham) to figure it out. We’ll be ready when we get to Epping (for the July 6-8 New England Nationals).”
Few were happier to see the end of the current four-in-a-row stretch than the Monster Energy team that prepares the 10,000-horsepower dragster driven by reigning Top Fuel champion and ESPY Award nominee Brittany Force.
After another successful and consistent stint of qualifying, Brittany Force and her Advance Auto Parts Monster dragster struggled in the first round, smoking the tire almost immediately. Force and her team will be looking forward to the week break to have a chance to regroup, re-assess and reload before the July 6th start of the sixth annual NHRA New England Nationals at Epping, N.H.
Force, the No. 2 qualifier lost Sunday to Terry McMillen who beat Force for just the third time in 20 career meetings when her car inexplicably lost traction almost as soon as she hit the throttle.
“It was tough. We only got two qualifying passes instead of the normal four. We ran consistent with 3.77s down each lane qualifying, but that was on a cool track. Today, we came out on a 104-degree track in the first round and it blew the tires right off of it. Our plan is we’re going to do some testing tomorrow and get this thing figured out. Hopefully it’ll be warmer because we need to figure out this car in the heat, that’s where we’ve been struggling.”
After some testing and a weekend not spent at the race track, John Force Racing will continue on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H. at New England Dragway July 6-8.
JFR PR/Photo Credit Gary Nastase, Auto Imagery