Courtney Force takes Advance Auto Parts Chevy to final round
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 12) – Courtney Force put her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS into the Funny Car final of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
But she fell just short in her bid to win the race for a second time.
After defeating Jim Campbell, J.R. Todd, and her father, John Force, in successive rounds, Courtney Force – the No. 3 qualifier – faced Matt Hagan in the finals. Despite a solid pass of 3.901 seconds at 326.95 mph, she couldn’t overcome Hagan’s run and settled for the runner-up spot.
However, her second-place finish gave her a good start to the points standings, as she trails only Hagan 119-99.
“We had a solid first outing here,” Force said. “Obviously, it’s the kickoff to the 2017 NHRA season here at the Winternationals, our home track. We came right off of testing and continued the momentum over here in Pomona. We’re really excited. Our Advance Auto Parts team is performing well, our Chevy Camaro is running fast, and these guys did an amazing job.”
Force had a bit of a lucky first round, as she had to get out of the throttle and limped across the finish line in 6.610-second run at 105.68 mph. But Force got the win as Campbell idled behind with a problem.
She then faced J.R. Todd – a Funny Car debutant – and landed a strong 3.892-second pass at 326.08 mph to win and set the stage for an all-Force semifinal.
“We got lucky in our first run, and it really set us off for the rest of the day,” Force said. “Second round, we laid down a solid number. Then going up against my dad, it was a close side-by-side run, and luckily we were able to get that win over him.”
Having lost eight consecutive rounds against her father, Courtney Force whisked past him at the start of the run and never looked back, breaking that losing streak and putting herself in the finals of an NHRA Funny Car race for the second time in three races (the last being the penultimate race of the 2016 season at Las Vegas).
Her opponent, Hagan, had squeaked out a victory in his semifinal run to set the matchup. Force and Hagan both had good starts but Hagan pulled away toward the end, besting Force by about 15 feet, or 0.0316 seconds. Hagan went 3.875 at 330.07 mph.
Force’s pass was 3.901 at 326.95 mph.
“Tough final round against Matt Hagan,” Force said. “We gave him a run for his money and had a close run. It tried to pull me toward the inside and I came close to the centerline, but I stayed in it, looking to get that win. Just wasn’t enough.”
With a smile, Force is already looking toward the second round of the season, at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz. There earlier this month, she recorded a time of 3.804 seconds, unofficially the quickest time ever for a Funny Car.
“We’re going to get after it in Phoenix in a couple weeks,” Force said. “It’s definitely a great start for kicking off the new season for our Advance Auto Parts team. I’m really looking forward to being in the No. 2 spot going into the second race of the season.”
The NHRA Arizona Nationals is set for Feb. 24-26.