CHANDLER, Ariz. (February 19, 2012) - Courtney Force out-raced the best of the best today while on her way to the semifinal round at the 28th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals. Force qualified 12th of the meet, went up against her father John Force for the first time ever in the leading round of eliminations this morning and won with a 4.146 ET at over 307 mph.
“Coming up here for first round I had my dad and I knew it was going to be tough. I raced him in qualifying a couple times. We both had fun and kind of messed with each other on the tree and then we were able to do it again first round. I don’t know if it threw him off, but I was able to get the win. My car went out and ran pretty good and he got in trouble early in the right lane,” said Force
Courtney got a great lead off the line and never had to look back, as the Castrol Ford Mustang got sideways and the elder Force spent time trying to correct the car.
“I hate beating him (John Force). He is my dad and I have dreamed about racing him for such a long time. The fact that I can go out there against him first round was pretty amazing. We have had a pretty consistent car all weekend. I know he was trying to step it up that run to try and outrun me. I know we have a good car and it got a little lose at the top end. We just want to go from A to B and not make any mistakes. I waited on him a little bit. He wasn’t going to go in to stage so I waited a little longer because I know he likes to be second. We definitely had some fun on the starting line. That was a good win for Traxxas and Ford plus Auto Club, BrandSource, Mac Tools and Castrol. I hate beating up on Dad, but that was fun,” said Force.
The largely-celebrated win sent her into a quarterfinals match-up where the youngest Force would have lane choice over new full-time racer Todd Lesenko. Alongside Lesenko, Force recorded her career-best ET with a 4.099 at 306 mph and proceeded to turn on her win light for the second time today.
“Second round we had Lesenko. I actually ran my career-best ET, a 4.09, and the best of the round so that definitely gave me a lot more confidence going into the semis. I was excited to get my first second-round win in a Pro category. It must be rookie luck because I am still in shock that I am even out here driving one of these. That was awesome,” said Force.
Despite the team’s constant efforts to improve, Force lost in the semifinals to teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight. Force ran a 4.199 ET at 299.93 mph to Hight’s 4.158 ET at 304.32 mph.
“Going into the semis it was tough because we had Robert Hight. I had to race another teammate, but after the 09 we had lane choice over him and we were hoping to run the 09 again, but we had a little trouble,” said Force. “We’re still not sure if it dropped a cylinder, we’re going to look at the computer again and check it all out. He flat out outran me. I saw him out of my window and even tried to drive past him; it just wasn’t enough. I’m happy that we took the Traxxas Ford Mustang into the semi’s, we ended up with an all-Force final, and we’re leaving with a win today by Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team,” Force added.
“If she keeps this pace going next race she will be in the finals. She is doing a great job. It is not as much fun having to race your teammate knowing that they can step up and run good. She had lane choice against me and she had run 4.09 the round before. We knew we couldn’t run 4.09 against her. I asked Jimmy to just make it go, Moneyball, let’s just see what happens. Luckily it worked out. She is doing a great job. She is loving it. I can tell you right now she is ready to go to Gainesville,” said Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang and today’s national event winner.
After qualifying and taking her Traxxas Ford Mustang to the semifinal round, Courtney is securely in the Top 10 for the second week of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season. The first Force daughter to compete in Funny Car, Ashley Force Hood, didn’t get her first round win until her third race of the year at the 2007 Gatornationals, where she also first bumped into the Top 10 in points.
Ashley didn't race her dad for the first time until her fifth race (Atlanta, 2007) and dismissed him from the show in the first round.
“It was amazing to have all of the fans out here. Half of them were rooting for my dad first round and half of them were rooting for me so it’s definitely exciting. I think we gave them a good show. Each round they were all very motivating when I’d go out and sign for them. It’s hard to get them all, but I did my best to try to make time for them. These fans are great. They’re out there buying shirts and we’re just trying to give them a good drag race and I wish I could have taken this car to the final, but these fans are out there win or lose so it was nice to do this well in Phoenix,” said Force.
“I’m so proud of my guys because they’ve been working so hard for this and they got stuck with a rookie driver this year, but I’m hoping to make them proud. Scott Wible and Ron Douglas are tuning an amazing race car for me this season. They’re making my life easier. I’m just trying to keep my car going straight down the track from A to B, keep it off the wall and keep it away from the centerline. The track here in
Phoenix was a little tricky, but I definitely learned a lot in the seat of my Traxxas Ford Mustang,” said Force.
Force will leave Phoenix 6th in the Funny Car point standings.
“We were happy with the way the car ran today. We struggled a little in qualifying, but we made some really good runs today. Courtney drove the car very well and the team’s getting better with every race so we’re happy with the progress we’re making from week to week. We have a little time now to get prepared for Gainesville. We’re going to come out swingin’ there and try to do even better,” said Ron Douglas, crew chief of the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car.