COURTNEY FORCE RIDES EMOTIONAL ROLLER-COASTER TO PHOENIX WIN
It was an emotional roller-coaster ride Courtney Force didn’t want to take.
After watching her legendary father John Force sent to the hospital after a horrific crash following a second-round win over Johnnie Lindberg, Courtney had to summon the courage to move on Sunday at the Arizona Nationals.
She did that and more.
Courtney proceeded to capture the victory when she beat Tommy Johnson Jr. in the finals at Wild Horse Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
Courtney clocked a 3.834-second elapsed time at 337.16 mph, which bettered the track-record speed she set in qualifying. Johnson slowed to 6.814 seconds after smoking the tires.
This was Courtney’s first nitro Funny Car victory since Houston 2016, and her first win with Brian Corradi as a co-crew chief. Corradi left Don Schumacher Racing and Antron Brown’s Top Fuel team and joined John Force Racing this past offseason. Courtney’s last final-round appearance came at the Las Vegas race this past fall.
The victory puts Force second in the points standings behind Matt Hagan who she defeated in the second round, just moments after seeing her father’s wreck.
“It’s been great having Corradi working with Dan Hood, they are kind of like family, like I’ve said before,” Courtney said. “Brian and Dan have known each other for a long time and it has been a really great connection with the entire team. Every single one of my guys on my Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro has been working so hard. Today was actually a tough day; we had a 40-minute turnaround in the semis, and they got it up there. We were able to get that win, obviously my dad wasn’t in the other lane for that run, but we still made a solid pass down the race track. We didn’t have lane choice in the final and we came back up there, and it was nice of TJ to wait for us and we were able to go down there and lay down that killer number. Thanks to my guys, they gave me the confidence to get in that car today and they make me feel safe in that car because of the amazing job they do on it.”
This was Courtney’s ninth career NHRA nitro Funny Car win and snapped her 43-race winless streak.
“To take home the whole race and get the Wally at the of the weekend is incredible,” she said. “It’s definitely a great start to our season and we’ve been looking for a win for a long time now, and it feels like forever, but this one definitely feels good and I know this will help my dad feel a lot better.”
That final-round performance caught Force a little bit by surprise.
“We lost lane choice and we really had not got down in the left lane and it was the final round and I knew we were going to be gunning for it,” Force said. They told me all day long, if anything doesn’t feel right in the car we aren’t going to be mad at you if you need to shut it off. My dad told me to go out there and kick their asses and I told him I was going to do it. I’m really excited I’m able to bring him home the Wally. My (emotions) are a little overwhelming.
I’m shocked I didn’t cry in my top-end interview because it has been an extremely emotional day. Coming from Pomona we were all trying to get our heads on straight and have a fresh start when we come to Phoenix and dad has a huge explosion in the lights and that’s one of those things that’s out of your control. It’s unfortunate that it happened to his car and him and I’m glad to see that Lindberg is Ok, but you have to switch your focus and get back in the car and my dad and my crew chiefs are the ones who gave me the confidence to get back in my race car and battle it out all day long. These cars are unpredictable, we know that as drivers and we had a great race car all weekend and I’m real excited that we able to prove to everyone we have the car to get it done.”
Courtney acknowledged she saw her father in the ambulance before he left the track and went to the hospital, which lifted her emotionally. John was released Sunday evening from the hospital and came back to the track to congratulate Courtney.
“He looked good,” Courtney said. “He was yelling and screaming at everybody, per usual, but he told me to go out there and kick their asses. That was the only thing he said to me and that was all I needed to hear to get back in my race car. I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about. When he’s yelling and screaming, that’s when you know he is all OK. Hearing that from him is the confidence I needed. He would have told me to sit it out if the car wasn’t safe. I push myself hard and I do it for my team, do it for the fans out here who came out here to watch a good race and I do it for my sponsors. I don’t want to let anybody down.”
According to Courtney, her team told her she didn’t have to get back in her race car after her father's accident, which she thought about.
“You start questioning things a little bit but I told them I’m fine, I’m good,” she said. “I said let’s get it down there, and let’s have a good run and take it round-by-round. It is the same race car we’ve been running, and you have to block out that out and know this is the race car you know how to drive (Matt) Hagan came up to me when I had to race him (in the second round) and he told me you’re a great driver, you know how to do this - just clear your head. It was kind of nice to hear that. I know he didn’t want me to beat him, but it was nice of him as a competitor to tell me you know what to do out here and just remember that. It’s great to have competitors out here who are so amazing and so supportive.”