Defending Houston winner Courtney Force looks for consistency
BAYTOWN, Texas (April 18) – Courtney Force has proven through the first three races of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season that the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car is one fast car, and has backed that up with official and unofficial records since preseason testing.
Now, Force and her team are looking for consistency. There may be nowhere better than the next race on tour – the NHRA SpringNationals this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway – where Force is the defending race winner.
“Houston was a good race for our team, for my crew chiefs Danny (Hood) and Ronnie (Thompson) last year,” Force said. “It’s always a little bit more comforting going back to a track that we were able to win at in the previous season. I’m really excited to get back there.”
Force started out strong in 2017, making it to the finals of February’s season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif. But three consecutive first-round losses have the team looking for consistency on race day. Force has been stellar in qualifying, as she has qualified no worse than fourth in all four races.
So what does the team need to do to ensure that race results mirror qualifying efforts?
“Getting the tuneup right and figuring it out during your qualifying sessions – and then not changing your setup for race day,” Force said. “I think we tried to push our car a little too hard and expect more out of it. That has kind of messed us up a little bit. I think we just need to stick to what we know and stick to the setup we used throughout qualifying.”
Force qualified No. 1 for the most recent race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but struggled again in the first round, smoking the tires right after the start and dropping out of the race.
“Our main goal is looking for that consistency,” said Force, fifth in Funny Car points standings. “Coming off of testing in Vegas, we’re starting to feel pretty good about it. We know our car can run some incredible numbers, but it’s trying to find that consistency on race day that we need.
“Obviously, we are at a point where we’re trying to turn things around. Knowing that we’ve done well at Houston makes us feel a little bit more comfortable going into a familiar place like that. And knowing that we can run numbers on that race track is comforting, too.”
Two qualifying sessions are slated for Friday (5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Central) and Saturday (2 and 4:30), with final eliminations slated for Sunday at 11 a.m.
Fox Sports 1 will broadcast three hours of eliminations starting at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Courtney Force has competed in the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston five times, and every year since 2012, the first year she competed in the event.
Force is the defending NHRA SpringNationals winner in the Funny Car class, having defeated in succession Bob Bode, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Tim Wilkerson. It marked Force’s only victory of 2016 and only time she advanced to the finals of this race.
Force’s record in elimination rounds at Houston is 7-4.
Force’s best qualifying effort for the NHRA SpringNationals was No. 3 (last season).
Force is 3-2 in first-round NHRA SpringNationals race matchups.
In her career, Force has eight victories and 134 round wins.
Force is currently fifth in the Funny Car points standings.
Force is one round away from 250 elimination rounds in her career.
Force’s best time/speed at Houston – 3.913 seconds (2016 E4); 327.90 mph (2016 E4)
Force’s best time/speed of career – 3.838 seconds (2017 Phoenix Q1); 333.49 mph (2017 Gainesville Q4)
The Advance Auto Parts team recently acquired a new race trailer, which is being used for the first time this weekend.