Funny Car points leader Courtney Force resumes her Jekyll-and-Hyde relationship with Pacific Raceways this week when she drives the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS in pursuit of the Funny Car championship at the 31st annual CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals, the final event in the arduous Western Swing.
“It’s a track we’ve won on in the past,” said the 12-time Mello Yello tour winner, “so coming from a decent weekend at Sonoma where we qualified No. 1 (for the 10th time in 15 races) but didn’t have much luck on race day, we’re really hoping to be able to go some rounds at Seattle and finish out the Swing on a positive note.”
Although she has won at Pacific Raceways in both the Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car categories, she has had to deal with some adversity, too.
“I’m hoping it’s even now with that love-hate thing,” she joked. “I had a high in 2009 when I won in Top Alcohol Dragster and a low the next year when I had really bad tire vibration that caused a rear tire to explode just before the finish.
“Going out there and getting my first win in Funny Car in 2013 was definitely a high but then crashing there (in 2016) was another low. So, I think we’re due for another high which I hope is our Advance Auto Parts team ending up in the winners’ circle again.
“I’m just excited to be back at that track, racing in front of those fans and looking for a good weekend to protect our points lead.”
The youngest of 16-time NHRA world champion John Force’s four daughters, Courtney has held the lead for the last 10 events and already has punched her ticket for the Countdown to the Championship beginning in September.
With crew chiefs Dan Hood and Brian Corradi handling the tuning assignment, the statuesque 30-year-old, who stepped out of the racing arena this year as a presenter at the CMT Awards, has set a torrid performance pace at the wheel of an Advance Auto Parts Chevy that has posted quick time and top speed at five of the last six events and at nine of 15 overall this year.
Having ridden that performance to a category-best four wins this year, Courtney has put herself in position to make NHRA history as the first woman ever to win a Funny Car Championship.
Already the winningest woman in the category, she is trying this year to finish the mission begun by older sister Ashley who contested the championship in 2009 before finishing second to teammate Robert Hight. Ashley was third in points the following year before climbing out of the cockpit to start a family.
Courtney was third in points a year ago, an impressive finish made the more so by the fact that she was the only driver among the top seven without a trip to the winners’ circle.
Qualifying at the 31st annual CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals begins with two sessions on Friday at 4 and 6 p.m. with two additional sessions on Saturday at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Eliminations are set to begin Sunday at 11 a.m.
JFR PR/Photo Credit: Gary Nastase, Auto Imagery