Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force advances to semifinals of NHRA SpringNationals in Houston
BAYTOWN, Texas (April 23) – The goal for Courtney Force and the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS team in the NHRA SpringNationals this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway was to put the past three races behind them and win rounds.
Force – the No. 1 qualifier for the second consecutive Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race – made it to the semifinals, where – despite a solid third-round pass – she fell to teammate and No. 4 qualifier Robert Hight in a close race. Hight lost to Ron Capps in the finals.
The Yorba Linda, Calif., native won for the first time since the season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., where she made it to the finals. In the first-round matchup against No. 16 Jeff Diehl, Force escaped with a 5.344-second pass at 132.02 mph, while Diehl slowed to a 10.819 at 77.81 mph.
The second and third rounds went smoother. She cruised to victory against No. 9 Alexis DeJoria with an elapsed time of 3.947 at 294.37 mph. That set the stage with an all-JFR semifinal with Force and Hight, whom held a slight 10-8 advantage going into the matchup.
The pair posted nearly identical reaction times – Force’s .089 seconds to Hight’s .088 – and ran close before Hight pulled away at the end. Officially, his pass of 3.908 at 324.98 mph was slightly better than her 3.943 at 324.28 mph.
While it didn’t result in victory, Force said she can see her team has made progress from a recent test at Las Vegas, and can take solace in setting the track record in terms of time (she had the track speed record prior to Hight besting the mark in his second elimination round race).
“I’m proud of my guys,” said Force, now fifth in Funny Car points standings. “We struggled in the first round, but made it through, got the car back out. We made a solid pass in the second round, and in the semis, it was a great race against Robert Hight. We weren’t able to get around him for the win, but it was a great race and great race day for our team.”
Now, Force sets her sights on the Four-Wide Nationals next weekend at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. She’ll enter that race looking for her first victory in the event, and the season.
“What we’re taking away from this weekend is that consistency we’ve been looking for with our race car,” Force said. “We may not have a Wally in hand, but we have things we can take away from this track and use in the future. I’m looking forward to the next race.”
Qualifying for Charlotte begins Friday with the first two rounds of qualifying, followed by two more rounds Saturday. Elimination rounds are scheduled for April 30.