SURPRISE WIN FOR COURTNEY FORCE IN SEATTLE -John Force Reaches Semis, Mike Neff Moves to 9th in Points- Kent, WA -- Add 21 year old Courtney Force to the growing list of Forces hoisting Wally's, the trophy awarded for an NHRA national event ...
SURPRISE WIN FOR COURTNEY FORCE IN SEATTLE
-John Force Reaches Semis, Mike Neff Moves to 9th in Points-
Kent, WA -- Add 21 year old Courtney Force to the growing list of Forces hoisting Wally's, the trophy awarded for an NHRA national event victory. At the 22nd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals outside Seattle the youngest driving Force raced to her first final and won, defeating veteran Top Alcohol Dragster driver Chris Demke in a great final. Force grabbed a starting line advantage, battled with Demke over the ¼ mile track before moving ahead as Demke slowed at about 1,000 feet. The Cal State Fullerton junior was not convinced she won even after seeing her win light.
"It is unbelievable. When I saw my win light I didn't believe it at first. I was hoping (I had won) and when I went around the corner and saw (JFR marketing manager) Kelly (Antonelli) and all our friends standing at the top end clapping. I thought maybe I did get the win but I still didn't want to get my hopes up. I am just so excited I can't even believe we won in Top Alcohol Dragster with our Sanyo car for BrandSource, Castrol, and Auto Club. I am just so excited we are bringing one of these cars to the winner's circle in Seattle," said Force.
The communications major was feeling the pressure after her semi-final victory when she watched her father 14-time champion John Force lose his semi-final race to former JFR teammate Tony Pedregon. As she was walking back through the pits the public address announcer gave her a startling announcement.
"I was walking around after my dad went out in the semis and I heard the announcers say it is all up to Courtney Force now. I thought, 'I wish I hadn't heard that.' I wish I would have been wearing my headphones. That is too much pressure. (Funny Car driver) Jack Beckman came up to me told me to just have fun. He told me to not think about it as a final. I just went out there and had fun and happened to get a win," said Force.
Force had a tough semi-final opponent, someone she was very familiar with personally just not on the race track, her sister Brittany. The two Forces who have come up through the ranks of Super Comp and in two years of Top Alcohol Dragster had never raced each other in eliminations before today. Brittany Force was amped up for the race and unfortunately jumped the Christmas Tree, red-lighting, and handing her sister a free pass to the final.
"She said she was really excited about (racing me). She wanted to get going and get to the other end first. She just left a little too quickly. She was happy for me. She ran over and hugged me. She congratulated me for going to the final. We knew one of us was going to the final and either way it would be our first official final, added Courtney Force.
Team leader and father John Force summed up the day outside the Pacific Raceways press center as well as his feeling seeing his youngest daughter grab her first win. She is only 125 national event victories behind the winningest driver in NHRA history but he is happy she got just one.
"(She her win) was a rush. It is a moment of emotion where you want to scream and cry at the same time. These are little kids that I watched them grow up and her mother raise. To see them come out in a sport that I have loved my whole life and I gave everything to. I wanted my children all to feel what I felt," said the 14-toem world champion. "Even if they don't stay in the sport to know one time the feeling of being the greatest show on earth, NHRA Drag Racing. Courtney got a taste of that today."
"I think we have a good rounded team. One of the things we have is a lot of potential with our drivers in my own family to move up in the future. They are the Next Generation. They are learning. They are on top of the world because Courtney won today. She did what she was supposed to do the way (crew chief) Jerry Darien taught her. She got a win."
"My (funny car) teams moved up in the points. Ashley (Force Hood) is just a round or two out of the points lead. Robert (Hight) is struggling right now. We are going to put a lot of focus on his car right now this week with (Auto Club crew chief) Jimmy Prock on how we can get her to run at Sonoma. It is just not where it needs to be. My Mustang is finally coming around. I am excited and I am starting to come around mentally. At the end of the day to see three daughters racing is great. Brittany had that fire to win in the semi-finals against her sister Courtney. She wanted to win too. I am very proud for Courtney but I have to be honest I am proud for her mom, Laurie. These are her children. She raised them, God bless her. I know what it means to her to see them deliver and Courtney delivered today."
Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One Mustang made a nice move up the point standings moving into 9th place and putting a few more points between himself and rookie Matt Hagan and Cruz Pedregon. Neff defeated Jeff Arend in a tire smoking battle in the opening round but he dropped his second round match-up to eventual funny car winner Tim Wilkerson.