Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force takes provisional No. 1 after first day of NHRA qualifying in Vegas

Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force takes provisional No. 1 after first day of NHRA qualifying in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (March 31) – Courtney Force set a Funny Car track record in qualifying Friday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and seeks to hold the No. 1 position through Saturday’s sessions ahead of the NHRA Nationals, the fourth round of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Force – in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS – turned in a time of 3.867 seconds at 327.66 mph in the opening round of qualifying and held the top spot through two rounds, as others took turns – unsuccessfully – trying to knock her out of the No. 1 spot.

“We’re starting the weekend out on the right note,” said Force, who qualified No. 1 at the Las Vegas spring race in 2014. “To go to the top spot and set the track record definitely feels good. I’m proud of my guys – (crew chief) Danny Hood and (co-chief) Ronnie Thompson and all the guys. Feels good to get the car down there.”

If her time holds firm following Saturday’s sessions, it will mark Force’s 11th career No. 1 and first since last year at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver. It will also continue a trend, as she already has qualified No. 3, 2 and 4 respectively in her first three races.

“I honestly didn’t think (the time) would hold up, as the conditions were so cool,” Force said. “It’s crazy to see that it’s almost too cold out here. Hopefully we can hold on to it through tomorrow.”

Force said the most important thing was about the sessions was just getting the car down the track.

“We had a great start at Pomona (advanced to final round), and then qualified well at Phoenix and Gainesville but had tire shakes, so we were disappointed because we know we have a good car,” Force said. “Coming out here, we have a mindset to just get the car down there. To do that on the first run out of the box definitely puts in a more comfortable position. But it doesn’t matter where you qualify; we’ve been in the top half and it hasn’t made a different for us. Hopefully we can turn things around – this has always been a really good track for our team and everyone at John Force Racing.”

In her second qualifying attempt, Force had a wild ride. Lined up in the left lane, the car encountered a vibration shortly after her launch and began to wiggle. As soon as she lifted, she said, the car got sideways, three wheels got into the air, and she nearly hit the wall. She saved the car, however, and coasted down the track to the finish.

“We kept it off the wall,” Force said, “and I told my sponsor I just wanted to give the fans and everyone a really good view of Advance Auto Parts from the starting line.”

It was a struggle throughout the day for most competitors to qualify – in fact only one car made a successful run in Funny Car in the second round. That was true for both John Force in the PEAK Motor Oil and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS and Robert Hight in the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS. Force’s best run – 4.356 at 198.26 – came in the round two, despite his car shaking and him pedaling. Despite those issues, he earned a bonus point for the third quickest time of the session and moved to No. 9.

Hight’s best time of 7.168 at 90.94 also came in the round two, elevating him to No. 12.

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force was third quickest through two rounds, garnering a time of 3.760 at 323.58 in the Monster Energy dragster.

Nitro class qualifying continues Saturday with the third and fourth rounds scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and 8 p.m. Eastern. Sunday’s NHRA Nationals is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern.