ENNIS – Courtney Force is still searching for her first victory since early in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, but back-to-back final round appearances to open the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship this year has the Funny Car standout thinking about something even bigger – winning her first career world championship.
The quick start to the NHRA’s six-race playoffs in her 10,000-horsepower Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS has bumped Force to third in Funny Car points, just 39 points behind reigning world champ Ron Capps. Heading to the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Oct. 12-15, at Texas Motorplex, Force wants to maintain that momentum and pick up some wins along the way.
“Coming into the Countdown and really finding some momentum with our car and our team, this is the time to do it,” Force said. “We’re definitely putting ourselves in a pretty good position so far to start off this Countdown. I’m really proud of my guys, and I feel like (crew chiefs) Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson have really figured this car out and really found that consistency we needed all season long. We’ve really turned the corner at the right time. It’s a great feeling as a driver.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 15. It is the fourth of six events in the Countdown to the Championship, officially kicking off the second half of the playoff race. With a 2014 win in Dallas to her credit, Force feels good about her chances.
She will look to become the ninth different winner in the loaded Funny Car class this season, while also trying to snap a 38-race winless streak that dates back to Houston in 2016. The good news is the regular season inconsistencies seem to be behind Force and her talented team, as she was the No. 1 qualifier in Charlotte and made several good runs the past two weekends.
“Getting a win is what we’ve been looking for all season long,” said Force, who has eight career wins. “I told my team I’d rather have that win in the Countdown. But as long as we keep this car consistently going rounds, that’s the most important thing. Obviously, we’d love to get a win. That would really turn things around for us and keep our momentum going. But at this point, we’re just trying to stay focused on getting this car down the track, running great numbers and going rounds.”
Getting wins in the loaded Funny Car class does not come easy. Capps jumped back in the points lead with his win in Reading, while Force’s John Force Racing teammate, Robert Hight, knocked off Force in the Countdown to the Championship opener. Hagan sits just 90 points back off Capps as well, meaning Force can’t let up. She’s also well aware that early success in the playoffs won’t mean as much if she can’t keep the strong performances coming down the stretch in crunch time.
“Anything can happen,” Force said. “It really is anybody’s championship right now. We’ve got to stay focused, keep our momentum going and keep this Advance Auto Parts car running consistently. We’ve got a great team behind us. It’s going to be tough no matter what. We’ve got to keep fighting, and anything can happen. We’ve started off on a better foot in this Countdown, as opposed to years’ past. It’s really a great feeling with the position we’re in right now, but a win could really set things off for us and send us in the right direction.”
Brown looks to get on track in Top Fuel trying for a third straight world title. Texan Steve Torrence is the current points leader, with playoff winners Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force close behind.
Skillman has four Pro Stock wins this season but has yet to break through in the Countdown. Bo Butner grabbed the points lead with a Reading win, while Greg Anderson sits in second.
Krawiec has been red-hot in Pro Stock Motorcycle, winning three straight races, including two in the playoffs, to open a 71-point lead on LE Tonglet. Hector Arana Jr. sits 89 points back.
The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, stick around to see the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and afterburner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers with an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 14, at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 15.