Back to the site of her first career win.
Courtney Force has had tremendous success in obtaining landmark wins during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, which may be one more reason why the Funny Car star is excited to return to Pacific Raceways.
Force and her 10,000-horsepower Traxxas Ford Mustang grabbed headlines earlier this year when she recorded the historic 100th NHRA win by a female driver. She then followed that up with her fifth career Funny Car victory last weekend in Sonoma, giving Force the most Funny Car wins by a female driver in NHRA history. At two races this season — Topeka and Sonoma — she and sister Brittany qualified No. 1, the first time sisters have held the top nitro qualifying spots at the same race in NHRA history.
Now Force returns to the site of her first career victory at this weekend’s 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries. Another Seattle win would be the perfect capper for the three-week NHRA Western Swing and Force, who is currently fourth in points, likes the direction her team is headed.
“I think our entire team is definitely gelling better,” Force said. “Every year I’ve had the same crew chief (Ron Douglas and Danny Hood) since the start of my rookie season and the great thing about John Force Racing is we all stick together as a team. I like to keep my same routine. It makes me comfortable and I think it makes everybody else comfortable, and I think it helps us to do better.
“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.”
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. The race is the 16th of 24 events in 2014 and Force finds herself in the thick of the championship chase as the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship approaches.
She has advanced to the semifinals or better in five of the past nine events, earning wins in Topeka and Sonoma. It has vaulted Force from 10th into the top five in points and she has delivered in numerous key situations throughout the year.
Force beat her father
The latest came last weekend in Sonoma when she qualified No. 1 for the second time in 2014 and beat her father, 16-time and reigning world champion John Force, in the final round. It also vaulted her past her sister Ashley Force-Hood and others for the all-time female wins lead in Funny Car.
“I’ve had my eyes set on Ashley for a while,” Force said. “There was a big cluster of people who had four wins and I kind of became obsessed with going for number five. Ashley did a great job and I looked up to her. I knew she had four wins and I looked to see where I was at and compare. 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 number five, 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.”
Force’s first Funny Car celebration came in Seattle in 2012, a memorable event she wouldn’t mind repeating in 2014. To do so she will have to get past a star-studded lineup that includes defending event winner Hagan, Tim Wilkerson, who has three victories at the facility, points leader and JFR teammate Robert Hight, Del Worsham, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Meeting her father in the final is also a possibility. Two of her wins have come at her father’s expense and should Courtney Force find herself in the same situation in Seattle, she hopes to display a calmer demeanor.
“I think about way too many things when I’m against dad,” Force said. “Normally I’m calm and collected and I think whatever is going to happen will happen. But I so wanted that win that I was thinking, 'don’t screw up on the light, don’t red light, don’t pull in too deep.' 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.”
Crampton wants another
Last year’s Top Fuel winner Lucas stepped out of his ride at the end of last season but his replacement, crew member Richie Crampton, already claimed his first victory in his rookie season. He will have to stave off challenges from the likes of Tony Schumacher, who has four wins at Pacific Raceways, Antron Brown, Steve Torrence, points leader Doug Kalitta, reigning world champion Shawn Langdon, Sonoma winner Khalid alBalooshi, Spencer Massey, three-time season runner-up Brittany Force and Denver winner J.R. Todd.
In Pro Stock, Vincent Nobile wants another Seattle win in preparation for the Countdown to the Championship but he will have to ward off a strong list of challengers. Greg Anderson will compete for his fourth Seattle win, while other top drivers include Jason Line, who is the most recent event winner, defending world champion Jeg Coughlin, Allen Johnson, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray, Jonathan Gray and Chris McGaha.