POMONA, CA — Courtney Force blazed a new path to start her sophomore season on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, posting the quickest time in qualifying and leading the Funny Car field for just the third time in her young career. Force covered the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona track in 4.036 seconds at 318.24 mph in the first session on Saturday taking the No. 1 position from 2012 Funny Car champ Jack Beckman.
“It’s really exciting, especially because it’s my home track. I love coming out here and doing well in Pomona. My dad won it in the opening last year. This Traxxas Ford Mustang has been running pretty good thanks to all of our sponsors; Traxxas, Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, BrandSource and Mac Tools. We got Stingray on board this year, so it’s definitely an exciting season and we’re just hoping that tomorrow we can continue to do the same and maybe even a little better.”

Force, the 2012 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner, had to run beside Beckman in the final qualifying session with the top qualifying spot on the line.

“I got a little nervous next to Beckman. I saw him out ahead of me and I was like, ‘Don’t take the No. 1 spot away from me!’ I was getting nervous. That right lane is really tough. There’s a bump down there so we tried to move our car a little more over to the inside and just tried to drive it all the way down there and it went fine. We were able to run a 4.07 so we were happy with that. Being able to run good down both lanes is always good going into race day. We feel good and we’re excited so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Today’s qualifying efforts by Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team brought a well-deserved No. 1 qualifier recognition to the John Force Racing stable. With that came the delight of putting a front loading washer and dryer set in the hands of a lucky fan, compliments of BrandSource and the “Win With Force” promotion. (additional information attached)
All week Force has been getting advice from her father and 15-time Funny Car champion John Force. The second year driver continues to take it all in but she was hoping for a break in the constant coaching with the emergence of her sister Brittany Force in Top Fuel.
“My dad has been twice as bad as normal because there are two of us; me and Brittany. He’s definitely got his hands full. We came back after mine and dad’s run and we’re in the pit area, he’s in a full fire suit drinking a cup of coffee, which I have no idea how because I was sweating, but I was like, ‘we gotta run up because Brittany’s about to run,’ and he just drops everything and starts running. He’s not used to being in Funny Car as well as Top Fuel. He’s a little confused and we gotta get a routine down, but he was running up there so he could give Brittany her last few things of advice,” said the youngest Force.

“I love being out here with her, if Dad can just kind of take a few steps back, I think if she qualifies good then I think he’ll be OK tomorrow. Hopefully,” added Force. “The funny thing is, when we were little he wasn’t really around because he was always out here. The second we turned eighteen, Dad shows up and all of the rules are applied. He’s trying to figure out the boss/father situation.”

The second year driver is not taking her No. 1 qualifier for granted. The Funny Car category has never been more competitive and the driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang is not looking past any driver.
“Sometimes you go out first round so I don’t ever let that (No. 1 spot) change my outlook on things. We’ve got a good race car, but there are guys who are right behind me. I really gotta watch out for them. We just gotta go out there and try to run consistently,” said Force. “I don’t want to make any mistakes as a driver. I’m still learning. I’m still new to all of this. I’m pretty excited that we got the no. 1 spot, but I still gotta focus, keep it going and just really not get distracted by anything and do my same old routine.”

A new era at John Force Racing also began with Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster qualifying for the 53rd annual O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals. The rookie driver sits No. 15 in the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history. Her qualifying time of 8.845 seconds at 293.22 mph will set her up for a first round match-up with Brandon Bernstein.
“One of my goals for this year was to qualify for every race. We came out to Pomona and did it with this Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster. I am definitely excited about racing tomorrow. We are going to have some fun,” said Force. “I am excited to be running Brandon. I have known him forever and I have been watching him forever. I am a rookie driver but I am going against one of these guys that has been out here forever.”
When Brittany was asked if she thought her legendary dad, John Force, would place a side bet with Brandon’s legendary dad, Kenny Bernstein, she laughed and said, “I am not sure but I bet my dad might call Kenny.”
While the daughters of John Force were busy focusing on their success on the track behind the wheel as a team owner and father Force was focused on the big picture.
“Shirley Muldowney proved that women can do this. I am excited to see (Top Fuel rookie) Leah Pruett make the show. Glad to see (Larry) Dixon back. At the end of the day to put all four cars in with the changes that we made over the winter; it is all working,” said John Force, the winningest driver at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
“Robert (Hight) and the Auto Club team struggled some and (crew chief Mike) Neff and I struggled with the Castrol GTX Funny Car but we are in the show. Courtney was low ET with the Traxxas Funny Car. She is learning the trade with (crew chief) Ron Douglas. At the end of the day after the long winter and a year of testing that Top Fuel dragster to get all four in at the first race, god it just took the load off me. It is great to see that my kids can perform. They are very important to my sponsors like Ford, BrandSource, Mac Tools, Champion, Stingray Systems, System 51, and PPG who are all are pumping millions into this operation. I am excited because we did our job. We made Pomona. That is the key.”
Force will race veteran Ron Capps in the first round tomorrow. His Castrol GTX Ford Mustang covered the historic race track at Pomona in 4.108 second to place him 11th quickest in the sixteen car field.
“Bring him on. We are going to have something for him,” said a fired up Force.
Force is 3-1 against Capps at the O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals with their last meeting taking place in 2012 where Force won on a hole-shot.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club team will also have their hands full with the most recent winner at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the Auto Club Finals winner Cruz Pedregon, in the first round. Hight made one solid run down the track a 4.111 second run at 311.20 mph in the first session today to set him up against the No. 5 qualifier Pedregon.
This will be the 25th meeting between these two world champions. Hight holds a 14-10 edge in the win column. Hight has only faced two other drivers more than Pedregon, Ron Capps (21-14) and John Force (14-12) in his nine year career.
* * * *
JOHN FORCE, 63, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 11th at 4.108 seconds, 306.05 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Ron Capps (42-24)
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
ROBERT HIGHT, 43, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 12th at 4.111 at 311.20 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Cruz Pedregon (14-10)
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
COURTNEY FORCE, 24, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 1st at 4.036 seconds, 318.24 mph
First Round (W-L): Phil Burkhart Jr. (0-0)
Bonus Qual
ifying Points: +6 (second quickest of Q1, quickest of Q3 and third quickest of Q4)
BRITTANY FORCE, 26, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 15th at 3.845 seconds at 293.22 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Brandon Bernstein (0-0)
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0