Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force races to
Reading final for second consecutive runner-up finish
READING, Pa. (Sept. 24) – Courtney Force took her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS to her second consecutive finals in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competition Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway, and cut further into the Funny Car points lead with a runner-up finish.
Force, the No. 8 qualifier, reached the finals after defeating Bob Tasca III, teammate and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight and past champion Jack Beckman. Her semifinals victory over Beckman matched her up against defending champion Ron Capps. While she was in contention the entire race, one of her parachutes deployed early, forcing her to slow before the finish line.
“We struggled a little bit in qualifying but we turned it around when we needed to make it count, and we went into race day running consistently in the 3.90s all day long,” said Force, third in the points standings. “Being able to pick up those points, we’re staying in the No. 3 spot, but at least we’re creating a little bit of a gap for the people behind us and getting closer to getting around the guys in front of us.
“I’m excited to see what we can do next weekend. I think it’s important that or Advance Auto Parts team has found the consistency when it matters most.”
Force, who admitted she struggled in the four qualifying sessions, started the day with Tasca and won while posting a 3.962-second pass at 298.81 mph, slowing just before the finish as her car got loose. That effort cost her lane choice for the second round, a matchup against Hight, who at the time held the points lead after collecting 10 bonus points and a first-round win.
After four losses already this season, including last weekend’s finals in the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., Force came out on the winning end against Hight. Her 3.965-second pass at 326.16 mph was enough to defeat Hight, who smoked the tires midway down the track. It also kept Force narrowly ahead of her closest competitors in the points standings, many of whom were also in the semifinals and vying for third.
Force took command in her matchup against Beckman, earning a second straight win over her former driving instructor to launch into the finals after a pass of 3.968 seconds at 329.50 mph. Her second straight finals appearance presented her with a potential historic matchup, as sister Brittany Force had already secured a berth in the Top Fuel class finals. They were seeking to become the first pair of sisters to win professional categories in the same race weekend.
Capps got the jump at the Christmas Tree, with a reaction time of .043 seconds to Force’s .067 seconds. Force cut into the lead bit-by-bit before one of her parachutes came out with about 200 feet remaining. That was enough to slow her to a pass of 3.993 seconds at 311.70 mph, with Capps’s taking the win at 3.968 seconds at 326.48 mph. Still, it marked Force’s best result at Reading, as her best previous finish was a quarterfinals appearance in 2013.
“Going to our second final round in the second race of the Countdown to the Championship is huge,” Force said. “I think we could have had a shot at winning it, but our chute shook out down track and slowed us right before the finish line. It was a little bit of bad luck, but all in all a great weekend.”
Force returns to competition for the third race of the Countdown to the Championship and 21st race of the season, the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals next weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Best Qualifying Effort: 3.935 seconds/321.88 mph (Round 2, Qualified No. 8)
Elimination Round 1 (Left Lane): 3.962 seconds/298.80 mph (RT – .085 seconds), def. No. 9 Bob Tasca III, 3.999 seconds/325.45 mph (RT – .065 seconds); fell behind at the line but led at the 60-foot mark and never trailed again, despite her car moving around from the 660-foot mark on … this was the 200th career elimination round for JFR from the No. 2 position; vs. Tasca – now 13-2 all-time (most elimination round wins against a single opponent); 1-0 this season; 1-0 at Reading
Elimination Round 2 (Quarterfinals, Right Lane): 3.965 seconds/326.16 mph (RT – .080 seconds), def. No. 1 Robert Hight, 5.868 seconds/118.94 mph (RT – .055 seconds); fell behind at the Christmas tree but took control when Hight smoked the tires; vs. Hight – now 9-14 all-time (breaks four-race winless streak); 1-4 this season; 1-0 at Reading
Elimination Round 3 (Semifinals, Right Lane): 3.968 seconds/329.50 mph (RT – .073 seconds), def. No. 5 Jack Beckman, 3.948 seconds/327.74 mph (RT – .148 seconds); got a huge jump at the Christmas tree and never looked back, winning on a holeshot; vs. Beckman – now 9-9 all-time; 2-2 this season; 1-0 at Reading
Elimination Round (Finals, Left Lane): 3.993 seconds/311.70 mph (RT – .067 seconds), lost to No. 3 Ron Capps, 3.968 seconds/326.48 mph (RT – .043 seconds); fell behind at the Christmas tree, and as she was making up ground, one of the parachutes deployed early and she slowed; vs. Capps – now 8-16 all-time; 1-2 this season; 0-1 at Reading
Now 155-130 (285 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds (.544)
Now 12-11 (23 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds after qualifying No. 8 (.522)
Now 4-6 (10 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds at Reading (.400)
Now 24-19 (43 rounds) this season in elimination rounds (.558)
NHRA Funny Car Points Standings: 1. Ron Capps 2273; 2. Robert Hight 2265; 3. Courtney Force 2234; 4. Matt Hagan 2183; 5. Jack Beckman 2173; 8. John Force 2116.