In the Speed Zone With Courtney Force

Recently, Force netted her second win of the year at Atlanta Dragway. (Photo Credit: Marc Gewertz/NHRA)

Recently, Force netted her second win of the year at Atlanta Dragway. (Photo Credit: Marc Gewertz/NHRA)

All things considered, Courtney Force competes in a sport where her timing and reaction are as intangible as the team and car she pilots each race weekend.  In the world of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing, particularly with the Funny Car class, things truly happen in a hurry.

Truly, Force describes Funny Car racing perfectly in her Twitter biography, stating that she competes at “330 mph in the NHRA Mello Yello series.”  No doubt, in this racing series, there’s more that goes on beyond getting across that drag strip in less than four seconds.

Naturally, teamwork goes a long way with making dreams come true.  Undoubtedly, Force and her Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro team are among the very best, consistently battling for championships and race wins since 2012.

Furthermore, Force has a great support system that includes her father and 16-time Funny Car champion racer John Force, her sisters Ashley and Brittany, and her husband Graham Rahal, one of the top racers in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Certainly, the passion for racing can be found with Force and her family.  By far, the Force name is synonymous with NHRA drag racing, much like the Allison, Earnhardt, Parsons, Petty, and Labonte clans of NASCAR.

Humble, respectful, thoughtful, and determined, Force and her team recently won their second race of the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car season.  Earning an exciting victory at Atlanta Dragway, the 29-year-old native of Yorba Linda, CA sits atop the points lead after seven events.

From 330 miles per hour to this racing website, Force talks about her successful start to 2018, her family and team, and the importance of social media.  Arguably, the apple does not fall far from this famous racer’s family tree with cordiality and talent.

In the meantime, let’s head to the drag strip and talk with one of the leading stars of the NHRA.  Friends, it’s time to get “In the Speed Zone With Courtney Force!”

Rob Tiongson :  It’s been a terrific start to the year for you and your John Force Racing team as you won your second race of the season, this time coming at Atlanta.  With two wins and the points lead after seven events, how excited are you about your team’s strong performances and your outlook on the championship?

Arguably, as Courtney Force earned her second win of the year, the 10-time race winner is all smiles. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Arguably, as Courtney Force earned her second win of the year, the 10-time race winner is all smiles. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Courtney Force :  Our Advance Auto Parts team’s extremely thrilled.  We’ve had a good start winning in Phoenix and then going out there winning this past week at Atlanta Dragway.  It’s been a great start for us.  I think we’ve got a pretty good racecar and I’m very fortunate to have the team that I have and my crew chiefs, Brian Corradi and Dan Hood, working on my car.

We’ve found a little bit of consistency and we think that’s great.  I’m feeling confident, especially now that we’ve just taken over the points lead after last weekend.  We have high hopes, for sure, that we can go out there and hopefully get that championship by the end of the year.  But, it’s still going to be a long season.  We’re just going to do the best job that we can to stay at the top.

RT :  And you’ve just come off a three race stretch that started nearby me at Houston and ended with the win at Atlanta.  Speaking of consistency, since your rookie season in 2012, you’ve battled for championships all while earning 10 wins in the Funny Car division.

When you think about your journey in the NHRA, particularly in this class of cars, does it sometimes feel like a blur in terms of your growth professionally and personally?

CF :  I think it’s a little surreal to think of how far we’ve all come.  I got my start back in 2012 in Funny Car but I started racing at the age of 16 in Super Comp dragster and Top Alcohol dragster.  It’s crazy.  I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’ve worked with a lot of great crew chiefs and teams and to have the support of so many sponsors.

To think that I’ve got 10 career wins now, we’ve had multiple number one qualifiers, we’ve broken records…it’s been very surreal.  But, it’s been a lot of fun and it’s due to all of the people that I have around me and all the guys that are working on the racecar.

RT :  I’m sure along the way, you’ve gotten great advice from your father John and your sister Ashley, who raced in your class of cars, and your sister Brittany, who won the championship in the Top Fuel dragster class last year.

In terms of having great resources to look towards for advice, how much advice do you get from your father with racing?  Are there times you can provide some advice or input to your father and sister in terms of the collaboration effort during a race weekend?

Certainly, Force is razor focused when it comes to the task at hand. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Certainly, Force is razor focused when it comes to the task at hand. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

CF :  I’ve always been able to go to my dad for advice.  He’s always the first one there for us if we ever have any questions or concerns.  He’s always been supportive.  We’ve all had our ups and downs in the Funny Car category.  I think it’s great because we’re all on a team where we all work together as one team.

If one of our teams goes out early, you’ll see those same team shirts in a different pit area on the John Force Racing side to help out on that car or help push our teammate into the final round or the winner’s circle.  It is really great to be working with so many amazing people.

My dad’s always there for me for advice.  I feel like my sister and I are always there for him as well when he goes through some of his hardships too and try to motivate him and get him back to finding the positives.

He’s had a little bit of a rough start for this season, but he knows he’s got a great team behind him and he built that.  Everyone just kinda has to go through the ups and downs and they’re going to be alright.  They’ve definitely got a pretty good racecar there with his team and they’ve got things coming around in these past few races.

RT :  You and your family have definitely been indelible with the growth of the NHRA.  Also, social media has been instrumental with the growth of most racing series, particularly with the interaction between drivers and fans.  How important has it been for you to interact with fans on platforms like Facebook and Twitter to engage them with a unique racing series like the NHRA?

By and large, the Force family (Courtney, John, and Ashley) shares a strong bond on and off the track.

By and large, the Force family (Courtney, John, and Ashley) shares a strong bond on and off the track.

CF :  It’s huge.  The one thing that my dad always taught us was to go out there and be with the fans.  The fans are the reason why we’re out here doing what we love.  If we don’t have that support, then we’re not going to be out here racing forever.

That’s what we’ve found with social media.  Social media gives us an immediate way to connect with the fans.  They’re able to have conversations with us and respond to our posts.  And we respond back.

Brittany and I do our own social media.  I’ve got my own Twitter page, Instagram, and Facebook page.  It’s a great way to let fans go behind the scenes cause they can watch our racing on FS1, but they can get a behind the scenes look at our family and what goes on behind the scenes with something other than driving a racecar.

I think it’s great.  I think a lot of fans connect with that.  And we have them coming up to us at the racetrack and talking about our posts and how they love it.

We’re getting my dad involved.  My dad is new to social media and he’s still trying to figure it out.  But, he realizes the response that we get with social media.  That’s what fans want nowadays – that immediate satisfaction of a post, a news story, or how our race went.

It’s something that he’s starting to learn, and I know that sponsors are definitely drawn to that as well, knowing that we can connect immediately with our fans.

RT :  Given how every ticket for an NHRA race fan at events is a pit pass, how humbling is it when you meet a fan who’s told you they’re inspired by you or want to take up a career in racing because of you?

Moreover, Force understands and appreciates her role as not only one of the top racers in the NHRA, but as a role model to young fans. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Moreover, Force understands and appreciates her role as not only one of the top racers in the NHRA, but as a role model to young fans. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

CF :  It’s huge.  It’s extremely gratifying to know that you’re in the sport, doing what we love, and we have young girls that come up to us and tell us that they look up to us as role models, and they didn’t know that girls could drive a racecar and didn’t know they could win until they saw us on TV.

I think that’s really cool to be able to connect with someone so young and aspiring to be a driver or be involved in motorsports, and shedding the light, showing them that they’re capable of doing that if they set their mind to it and they’re passionate enough, that they’re capable of doing anything. So, I think it’s a lot of fun.

I think it’s really cool that fans can come right up to us as every ticket is a pit pass.  They can come right in and go to the back of our pit area and watch our team tear up and rebuild a motor.  They can meet with the drivers and come face-to-face with us and get our autograph and get a picture before heading up to watch us race.

RT :  That’s a really cool part with the NHRA experience compared to other sports.  That level of interaction and a feeling of camaraderie may not be prevalent in other sports.  Another part of the NHRA’s growth has been FOX Sports, which has been the official TV broadcasting partner of the NHRA since 2016.

From your perspective, how has it been like to have FOX Sports cover the action and chronicle the excitement and drama during the race weekend for you and your fellow competitors?

CF :  I think it’s huge.  FS1 does a phenomenal job of really getting in there and showing the stories of all the drivers and the teams.  They’ve done a great job trying to get as much of our race live on TV for the fans so they can feel like they’re a part of it even if they can’t be at the event.

They do a great job at getting in the pits, showing the teams working on the cars and getting interviews with the drivers and showing great side-by-side racing, showing the fans, and showing us during interviews.  They definitely do a great job of relaying that to the fans who aren’t able to make it out to an event.

RT :  One of my writers, Adam Lucas, wanted to know how competitive you and your husband Graham are against each other.  Do you both go for bragging rights each weekend that you’re racing?

CF :  Luckily, Graham and I don’t have to compete against each other being in different types of motorsports.  We’re both very competitive but we’re very supportive of each other.  He was able to be out there for my win at Atlanta this past weekend.  I just kinda turn it around and show my support to him during this month and hopefully he can get a win at Indy as that’d be huge.

RT :  Our managing editor, Ashley Hobbs, wanted to know who would play you, your father John, and your sister Brittany in a movie about your lives and racing careers?

Force's take on a hypothetical movie about her and her family provides some unique perspective. (Photo Credit: Ashley Hobbs/TPF)

Force’s take on a hypothetical movie about her and her family provides some unique perspective. (Photo Credit: Ashley Hobbs/TPF)

CF :  Oh gosh.  I don’t know.  That’s a good question.  Whoever would play my dad in the movie would have to be loud, noisy, and charismatic. (chuckles) I know a lot of fans say that he looks like Gary Busey. (laughs) He always said, “I’d like to have Mark Wahlberg play the young me.”  I don’t know who’d play me or Brittany.  I’d have to think about it.

RT :  Your dad is really fun to talk to.  I met him in Boston.

CF :  I like the idea of Jennifer Lawrence as she’s always a fighter in her all of her Hunger Games movies and she seems like a pretty tough girl that doesn’t let a lot of things get her down.  I kinda like to have her play me as a role.

RT :  Motorsports can be a difficult but rewarding realm of sports to get into.  What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to get into racing but might not want to necessarily be a driver?

CF :  There’s a lot of different opportunities in motorsports in general, from PR to marketing to the media that are writing the newspaper articles, TV reporters, the broadcasters, the announcers in the booth, and the race teams out there like the crew guys and girls working on these racecars.

Everyone has a specific job on every team from the clutch to the bottom end to the tires and body and being the car chief and crew chief.  There’s a lot of different opportunities and positions in the motorsports world.

RT :  For sure.  That’s the unique thing about motorsports.  If you’re passionate about this and want to be a part of this sport, you will find a role and way that fits you in good time.  Any additional thoughts that you wanted to share with your fans and our readers here on TPF?

With a weekend off from the action, Force looks forward to round eight at Heartland Park Topeka.

With a weekend off from the action, Force looks forward to round eight at Heartland Park Topeka.

CF :  We’re having a great start to the season with Advance Auto Parts and we’re looking forward to going to Topeka.  We’re currently in the points lead right now and we’re hoping to carry our momentum from our win at Atlanta.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Courtney and the John Force Racing team for their kindness with this interview, a first time look into the NHRA for TPF!  To learn more about Courtney and keep track with her racing efforts, “Follow” her on Twitter, “Like” her Facebook page, and “Follow” her on Instagram!  Be sure to head to an NHRA race near you to watch this sensational racer!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *