No. 1 qualifier continues impressive Vegas weekend for Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force
LAS VEGAS (April 1) – Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car driver Courtney Force is piling up an impressive list at the NHRA Nationals this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
No 1 qualifier? Check.
Track record elapsed time? Check.
Extending an impressive qualifying streak? Check.
Fast race car in final qualifying session? Check.
First victory of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season? Stay tuned.
Force earned the 11th No. 1 qualifier of her young career with a track-record elapsed time of 3.867 seconds at 327.66 mph.
“It’s an awesome run for our team and the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro,” Force said. “To head down there and run a 3.86, to set the track record definitely felt good. It was a great run for us and we’re excited about it.”
Force has now qualified in the top half of the Funny Car field 28 races in a row, a streak that includes all of 2016 and the first four races of this season. She’s also now qualified first, second, third and fourth in the first four races of 2017.
“Dan Hood, Ronnie Thompson – my crew chiefs – have done an incredible job,” Force said. “Like we said after Phoenix and Gainesville, we definitely needed to change things around. We are qualified in the top half where we like to be, and obviously everyone wants to start race day in the No. 1 spot, but it all comes down to tomorrow. This is a great start for the weekend for our team. I’m really proud of my guys.”
Despite Force’s solid qualifying efforts this season, she has struggled in the previous two races. Force raced to the final round in the season-opener but has fallen in the first round in the two races since then.
In addition to her pole-winning pass in the first session, Force made a solid run of 3.905 seconds at 325.45 mph in the final session.
“The conditions today are probably comparable to what they are going to be tomorrow for race day, so it always puts a smile on my face when we get a run down there when the sun is still out,” Force said. “That means you’ve got a pretty good race car. I’m happy about it.
“It was a little bit strange. I felt like my guys had me pulling up a little bit to the outside of the groove in that right lane, and I was wondering why. But I’m like, ‘My guys have a reason for everything.’ Normally, they give me a heads-up, but I’m like, ‘I see where the groove is, and I’ve just got to find it on the way down there,’ and it ended up being a good run.”
Force will face a new first-round opponent for the first time in five races when she squares off against No. 16 qualifier Gary Densham on Sunday. Force had raced Jim Campbell in the first round of the last four races, dating to the season-finale in Pomona in 2016.
Densham’s best pass this weekend was 5.263 seconds at 138.23 mph.
“To be wearing this green hat (awarded to No. 1 qualifiers) going into race day from the top feels great,” Force said. “But our main focus is definitely going rounds tomorrow and hopefully ending up in the winner’s circle here in Las Vegas.”