|CAR||#746 Ford Mustang|
|CREW CHIEF||Ron Douglas, Scott Wible|
|Team||John Force Racing|
|HOMETOWN||Yorba Linda, CA|
|BIRTHDAY||June 20, 1988|
In this age of uncertainty, when few people know what they want to do with their lives and fewer still seem happy with their choices, 24-year-old Courtney Force is a welcome anomaly.
When she first realized what she wanted to do for a living, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton couldn’t even spell “race car driver.” Now, 19 years later, she is one – and a very good one.
The 2012 recipient of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Road to the Future Award as the NHRA’s top rookie, the driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang approaches her second season with the same enthusiasm she did her first.
“I learned a lot in my rookie season and I know I have a strong team behind me especially with my crew chiefs Ron Douglas and Dan Hood. Plus, I have great teammates to lean on and provide insight so I’m just going to keep learning all I can and see where it takes me.”
A national spokesperson for Ford’s Driving Skills for Life initiative, the youngest of drag racing icon John Force’s four daughters wasted little time last year showing off her competitive skills.
“I always dreamed of racing against my dad,” she said, “and it’s just awesome to finally be out here and be part of the JFR team. I'm so thankful for the opportunity and the support of Ford, Traxxas and all my other sponsors.
A semifinalist in just her second race, the former high school cheerleader started from the front of the Funny Car field two times, took her black-and-red Mustang to four final rounds and claimed a breakthrough victory in the O’Reilly Northwest Nationals at Seattle, Wash., beating 2011 series champ Matt Hagan in the final.
Ultimately, she finished fifth in the driver standings, equaling the best ever showing for a Funny Car rookie.
Driving a Mustang capable of zero-to-320 mile per hour acceleration in little more than four seconds, she added a bit of surrealism to her season when she secured the Funny Car championship for Jack Beckman by beating Ron Capps in the semifinal round of the season finale at Pomona, Calif.
It was a nice payback to Beckman, the Dodge driver who, as an instructor at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, taught Courtney, her sisters and her mother Laurie the basics of drag racing while signing off on their Super Comp licenses.
Having earned the college degree upon which her mother’s blessing was contingent, Courtney now is making the most of her opportunity to compete at drag racing’s highest level.
Her preparation for a pro career included a six-year apprenticeship in Super Comp and Top Alcohol dragsters followed by private tutoring in sister Ashley Force Hood’s informal “Funny Car 101" class and a full season of testing.
Nevertheless, there never was a question in her mind that she eventually would be in her present this position.
“I grew up knowing I wanted to be a race car driver,” she said. “I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. I always loved traveling to the races to watch my dad. We have pictures of me at the races in the winner’s circle with a pacifier in my mouth.
“I’d draw pictures when I was a little girl of my dad, Don Prudhomme and their race cars,” she said. “I’d draw them with all the sponsors’ logos and make them look as real as possible. I’d always draw myself in the other lane racing my dad.
“It was probably when I was around five (that I knew what I wanted to do),” said the former high school cheerleader. “Ever since kindergarten, my dad would bring his Funny Car and trailer to my school and all the kids in my class would sit in his Castrol Funny Car and see what it was like. I knew I wanted to be just like my dad.”
Obviously, she is on her way.
“I was somewhat of a tomboy when I was young and my best friend was a guy who was always taking things apart and putting them back together,” Courtney said. “I hung around with him a lot because I thought that was really interesting. I actually wanted to race Jr. Dragsters, but my mom said she didn’t want me racing at the expense of paying attention to school.
“I grew up going out to the racetrack whenever I could,” she said. “I would help dad get into his driving suit and gloves and that helped me to learn what drag racing was all about.”
Her racing aspirations began to fast track when she attended Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School.
“What was funny is that I was driving 160 mile-per-hour Super Comp Dragsters, but back home my folks wouldn’t let me drive on the freeway,” she laughed.
Like Ashley, who first leapt to prominence outside the race car when she won AOL Sports’ inaugural “World’s Hottest Athlete” contest (2007), Courtney similarly sped into the spotlight after being named “Top Agent” in the Fiesta Movement, a 2010 Ford marketing program in which 100 “agents” drove Ford Fiestas and then shared their experiences on various national social media platforms.
On the track, she also mimicked her sister’s success by driving one of veteran Jerry Darien’s race cars to a Top Alcohol Dragster victory in 2009 at Seattle, Wash., the site, ironically, of her first pro win, as well.
The similarities between her career path and her sister’s are obvious, right down to top rookie status.
“I grew up watching my dad race and knew that I wanted to be out there driving a Funny Car with him. Then, seeing Ashley go into the ranks was inspiring and I couldn't wait to join them?”
Courtney was one of the stars of Driving Force, the real-life TV series that tracked Ashley’s development as a Funny Car driver and aired for two seasons on A&E Network.
“My first full pass in a fuel Funny Car was the best feeling ever,” Courtney enthused. “I knew at that point that I could do it. I felt the accomplishment of getting past the finish line. It didn’t matter what my reaction time was or my elapsed time or speed. I got to the other end and I knew, ‘I can build on that.’
“It’s been a little overwhelming,” she said of all the fan and media attention that began even before her debut. “I’m just excited to finally be able to race a Funny Car. I always dreamed of going 300 miles per hour and it’s just awesome to finally be out here racing.”
Like her dad, she has no interest in trying to master oval track or road racing.
“One cylinder on the BOSS 500 in my Traxxas Mustang equals the power in a whole NASCAR engine,” she said. “The fact that I’m racing one of the fastest cars on the planet is something I wouldn’t want to trade for another series.
“I don’t want to miss out on the power of these 8,000-horsepower race cars. They go straight, but don’t be fooled. Sometimes they do turn and my dad says that’s when you learn to drive.”