Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force carries momentum into St. Louis after consecutive finals

Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force carries
momentum into St. Louis after consecutive finals

MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 27) – On the strength of back-to-back finals and runner-up finishes in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competition, Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force has jumped from sixth in the points standings to third with four races remaining in the annual Countdown to the Championship.

That she did so at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., and Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., is even more reason for optimism heading into the final four races of the Countdown. Previously, her best finishes at Concord was a semifinals appearance, and at Reading, a quarterfinals finish.

Force has won races at each of the upcoming four tracks on the schedule. She won in 2014 at Gateway Motorsports Park, which hosts the next race on the circuit and halfway point of the final six-race stretch that determines champions in NHRA’s professional categories. Two rounds of qualifying for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals are scheduled for Friday, with two rounds Saturday and elimination rounds Sunday.

“Our Advance Auto Parts team is excited to be back in St. Louis,” Force said. “This is a race we’ve won at in the past, and it definitely can turn things around if we can get a win in the middle of the Countdown. We were able to do it before – we’ve won at this track in the past – and at this point, being that we’ve moved up to third in the points standings, it would be huge if we could get a win. We’re looking for it. We’ve come close so many times this season, and we’ haven’t been able to get the job done, but hopefully we can make it happen this weekend.”

In the regular season, Force recorded a sixth-place finish in the points standings despite not winning a race. However, her six No. 1s and overall strong qualifying results netted her a significant amount of bonus points, keeping her within striking distance as the playoffs began. After earning her seventh No. 1 two weeks ago in the NHRA Carolina Nationals in Charlotte, she ran to a runner-up position, after meeting teammate Robert Hight in the finals.

She started an uncharacteristic No. 8 at Reading, but her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS ran remarkably consistent on race day, with three runs in the 3.96-second range on an equally atypical hot Reading surface. Those runs pushed her into the final round, which she nearly won, only to come up short when one of her parachutes deployed just before the finish. Regardless, it marked another strong finish and more points, that put her within 39 points – less than two rounds – of Funny Car points leader Ron Capps. She is also only eight points behind Hight for second.

“As long as we can keep our car running consistently, I’ll be happy,” Force said “We’ve got to keep pushing because there are a lot of teams coming up behind us in the points, and if we want to pass the guys ahead of us, we’ve got to push this car and this team to be our best at these last few races. This is the time we’ve got to make it count if we want to get that championship.”

In addition to winning at Gateway in 2014, Force has qualified in the top half of the bracket in all five of her races there, and holds a 6-4 record in elimination rounds. With her recent success, Force has no doubt she can carry her momentum over to the St. Louis-area track.

Two qualifying sessions for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m. Central on Friday, with two more sessions at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Elimination rounds are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Fox Sports 1 will carry one hour of live television coverage of Friday’s first qualifying session, beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern. FS1’s coverage of Saturday’s sessions is scheduled for 1 a.m. Eastern on Sunday. Three hours of live elimination-round coverage begins at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

4-Second Reads:
Courtney Force has competed in five races at Gateway, and every race since 2012, her rookie season.
Force has one victory in one finals appearance at Gateway – in 2014. She defeated Bob Tasca III, Del Worsham and father John Force in the first three rounds, and defeated Matt Hagan in the final.
Force is 6-4 in 10 elimination rounds at St. Louis.
Force’s best qualifying effort at St. Louis has been No. 4, which she has achieved three times (2012, 2013 and 2014).
Force is currently third in Funny Car points standings, the same position for the second straight event. She started the Countdown to the Championship in sixth.
In 2017, Force has a 24-19 record in 43 elimination rounds and seven No. 1 qualifiers, the most she has recorded in a single season. She has been to four finals this season, included each of the last two races.
In her career, Force has eight victories, 155 elimination-round wins, and 17 No. 1 qualifiers.
Most recent NHRA victory – 2016 NHRA SpringNationals in Baytown, Texas
Most recent No. 1 qualifying effort – 2017 NHRA Carolina Nationals in Concord, N.C.
Best time/speed at St. Louis – 3.918 seconds (2016 Q2); 325.30 mph (2015 Q4)
Best career time/speed – 3.815 seconds (2017 Topeka Q2); 338.68 mph (2017 Topeka E1)
Force will be signing autographs for fans from 6-7 p.m. Central on Thursday, Sept. 28, at Advance Auto Parts, 3216 Nameoki Road, Granite City, IL 62040.